Article / Policy Innovation
Published: 11.04.2023

There is one fact that we know like the back of our hand: in the unitary state of Thailand, only one government can direct the country at a time. But that is not the case for the principles of governance, which always come with plurality. In the long history of ever-evolving policymaking, models of public administration are in constant development. Some lean into a rigid system, with a clear-cut hierarchy. Some are in favour of a more efficiency-based and “business-like” approach. Each contains their own purpose as well as their notion of the public interest. To give you an idea of how different models work, we hereby present you five scenarios, in which five imaginary houses are run by five principles of public policy and administration. And what you will be reading next, is honest reviews from people belonging to each house.

The House of the Ancient Autocrat (aka ancient public policy and administration)

In this house, an autocrat is seated at the head of the table. They have been there for a long time, even before the house was built. The power to govern is solely invested in this ruling autocrat. They alone oversee all matters of the house.

Here, the role of leadership is to simply maintain order and secure their authority until the next successor is selected. To tighten their hold over the reign of power, the autocrat feeds the people with fear and nationalism, which naturally lead to obedience and loyalty to the house. As the rules of the house are specifically designed to reflect the power of the autocrat, the needs of the people in the house are only considered at the surface level. At the mercy of the autocrat, you will get water, electricity, a roof over your head – things to survive day by day – but nothing else besides these essentials. 

The House of the Bureaux (aka traditional public policy and administration)

Here is the house of bureaucracy, powered by the complex hierarchical system.

Unlike those under the House of the Ancient Autocrat, the residents of the House of the Traditions do have the right to vote and the right to basic needs (e.g. accommodation, food, and medical services). Their household rules are governed by the rule of law, which asserts that every individual and institution is equal before the law. 

People here believe that the best way to run the house is to find a universal panacea for all troubles that arise, no matter how complicated they are. Play by the rules, and all that is bad shall end well.

The House of New Management (aka new public policy and management)

Gird your loins, because this house is all about efficiency and competition! With neoliberalism as its underlying philosophy, the house is transformed into a corporate that constantly thinks about a lean workforce. “The complex and humongous network of hierarchy is out, autonomous and self-directed units are in,” say the executives. When in the house, you will not see many people around, and those who greet you are under the pressure to do their absolute best, because their performance is being tracked and assessed down to the last detail. The next time you visit the house, some familiar faces might not be seen, that is because most people here are just temporary contractors. 

Upon arrival, you will be immediately treated as a customer. Ask for services, and they will reply to you with “your wish is my command.” As you venture deep into the house, you will notice that, in each room, public-private partnership is being materialised. Also, things that once belonged to the house, are now owned by someone else. The electricity, the waterwork? They are now operated by private entities. You could say this is a sharehouse, where the public cohabits with the private. 

The House of New Governance (aka new public policy and governance)

Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of collaboration? In this house, you will not meet a power-crazed leader, a senior officer at the top of a hierarchical ladder, nor a manager. Your presence will be welcomed by a team of facilitators, whose job is to encourage participation and mutual trust across different sectors. (This time, the private sector steps back, and the civil society takes the lead.) Yes, these folks sure love to talk, and, no, they are not mere extroverts. Their enthusiasm is actually driven by democratic values, notably the principle of civic engagement. You can also hear the facilitators talking about good governance, or how to maximise extant resources to respond to everyone’s needs. When visiting the house, they will expect you to pick up some pens and papers, and write as many ideas as you can. Who knows, what you jot down might actually end up on the house’s agenda! 

The House of the SDGs (aka just-smart sustainable policy and government)

This house has no walls, and its entrance is always left open. In a true Greta Thunberg’s influence, single-use plastics are forbidden in the house. It is purposefully built this way to create a climate of sustainability and inclusiveness. A brief sojourn in this house will show you that no one takes a seat at the head of the table. The members of this house want you to feel equal and heard, so you are encouraged to share your needs, telling them which kind of support is best for you. 

You will notice that the people of this house work as a team. One holds a space for you, making sure that no one will interrupt you midway through the conversation, another is ready to pull some strings to connect you with those who can assist you. Some are thinking of the best way to design solutions for you.

Dear reader, what do you think about these reviews? Do you see the present in any of these? Which house resonates with your vision of the future the most, and what do you think you can do to project your ideal into reality? We humbly leave these questions to your consideration.

This content is developed based on the policy innovation guidebook co-developed by the School of Public Policy Chiang Mai University. Download the full report here.

Our Works
Explore our people-centered approach for policy design
Learn more about public policy
Design Policies for The People
Back to Top