On 6 and 7 July 2009, a group of 35-40 Public Administration scholars from Western, Central and Eastern Europe – and beyond – met in the building of the University of Helsinki in Finland.
They discussed the ongoing challenges of delivering public services to both citizens and customers. This second Trans-European Dialogue (TED) is an annual scholarly conference organized jointly by the two key professional associations of Public Administration in Europe, the European Group of Public Administration (EGPA) and the Network of Institutes and Schools of Public Administration in Central and Eastern Europe (NISPAcee).
Unlike traditional academic conferences, the TED does not have a large number of papers. Instead, experts discuss a small number of papers and controversial statements.
Following the successful first Trans-European Dialogue in Tallinn in 2008 where the features and challenges of the neo-Weberian administrative model were discussed, the TED2 looked at the differences between citizens and customers in public services. Treating citizens as customers has been one of the key elements in transforming public services in Europe. Many public sector innovations have focused on giving citizens more voice and more choice, and on giving them the service quality they deserve. But are we right to reduce the citizen’s role to that of a customer? What have been the implications of these changes in the public sector? Is the difference between citizens and customers a mere conceptual one, or do the differences run deeper?