Public Value Account

… a core concept in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

Concept description

In his book, Recognizing Public Value, Mark Moore (reference below) develops the idea of an account to help define a comprehensive and accurate picture of a given public agency’s performance.

Using the example of a police department in a large city, he writes:

“Getting that picture means taking into account not only the satisfaction of individual clients of the police department (both those who call for services and those who are the objects of enforcement action) but also the capacity of the police department to achieve the outcomes that citizens desire at a cost that is tolerable to taxpayers. It means taking into account that the police department uses the authority of the state as well as tax dollars to serve its mission, and that, all other things being equal, citizens would like the police department to be able to achieve its goals with less rather than more use of authority. It means accounting for the fact that citizens and those who represent their interests are interested in the fairness of police action, and the degree to which police are effective in maintaining sociable and just relationships in their communities. And it means recognizing that while the most important job of the police might be to catch offenders and reduce criminal victimization, the police can produce many other valuable results for society, and that doing these other things well might actually help rather than hurt their crime control efforts. The goal of this chapter is to establish the core idea that public agencies should be called to account for producing value by developing a clear, explicit, and measurable public value account that names the important dimensions of public value to be pursued by and reflected in the operations of a government organization and enumerates the social and financial costs incurred along the way. That public value account emerges as a concept much larger than a dollars-and-cents “bottom line” or “customer satisfaction.”” (p. 11, illustration below is Figure A.1. in Appendix)


In his 2014 review of the book (reference below), Shayne Kavanagh writes:

“At the center of Moore’s approach is what he calls the “public value account,” which [the figure above] illustrates in its generic form. Use of collectively owned assets and financial costs are shown on the left. Financial costs obviously fall on this side of the ledger, but in addition to costs, Moore believes it is important to account for two other categories. The first is unintended negative consequences – for example, an aggressive policing strategy might reduce the level of trust between the government and its citizens. The second is the social costs of using authority – in short, citizens do not like to be compelled to do certain activities or otherwise have government interfere in their lives. Hence, any government activity that imposes obligations on citizens or otherwise impinges on personal freedom should be considered a cost.

“On the right side of the ledger, we have items that go toward achieving valuable outcomes, including things that go toward achieving the organization’s stated mission. Unintended positive consequences that fall outside of achieving the mission also go in this column. For example, greater achievement of the organization’s mission would tend to foster greater job satisfaction for public employees. The righthand side of the ledger also includes client satisfaction, distinct from mission achievement; this is because a public entity’s mission is often defined in terms of creating benefit for the greater public, which is often not the same thing as satisfying individual members of the public. Here, Moore differentiates between “service recipients” (who are like traditional “customers”) and obligatees, or individuals the government compels to perform certain actions. Finally, there is justice and fairness, which Moore applies to individuals, as they experience government processes, and the whole society, as it experiences the segments of society that benefit from government action.

“Moore invites public mangers to complete the public value account in order to more clearly define what “public value” means for their programs. … The completed accounts rarely exceed a page in length, and the entries consist of short sentences. So, while the technical form is not overly difficult, agreeing on content that has democratic legitimacy and the support of the authorizing environment could be more challenging. However, going through that exercise helps mobilize and build legitimacy and support.”

See also: Public Value Scorecard and Moore’s Strategic Triangle.


Mark H. Moore (2013), Recognizing Public Value, Harvard University Press.

Shayne Kavanagh (2014), Defining and Creating Value for the Public, Government Finance Review, October, pp. 57-60, at, accessed 12 September 2017.

Atlas topic and subject

Strategic Management in the Public Sector (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 10 October 2017.

Image: Mark H. Moore (2013), Recognizing Public Value, Harvard University Press., Figure A.1. in Appendix, accessed 12 September 2017.