Public sector institutional reform

The public sector is the single most important investment instrument for the state, and improving the way it is managed is critical for development outcomes including service delivery, social protection and private sector regulation. Public sector governance reform involves institutional reform – that is, changing the rules and norms that govern public sector activity. How can policymakers and practitioners support institutional reform to improve the performance of the state? What do we know about what has – or hasn’t – worked, and where? This Topic Guide synthesises the evidence, debates and lessons that emerge from the literature.

About this Topic Guide

This Topic Guide summarises the best available evidence on the key debates and challenges of public sector institutional reform. It considers institutional reform activities that address the rules and norms that shape the public sector.

It complements GSDRC Topic Guides on Inclusive Institutions, Institutional Development, Civil Service Reform, and Sequencing Reforms in Fragile States.

It was written by Anuradha Joshi and Becky Carter (GSDRC, Institute of Development Studies). GSDRC appreciates the contributions of Derick Brinkerhoff (RTI International); Alta Fölscher (Mokoro Ltd.); Harry Jones (Centre for Inclusive Growth); Katie Wiseman, Sarah Barnett, William Evans, Tessa Mattholie, Laure-Hélène Piron and John Primrose (DFID); David Wilson; and Elaine Zuckerman (Gender Action). The production of this Guide was supported by the UK Government.

Suggested citation

Joshi, A. & Carter, B. (2015). Public sector institutional reform: Topic guide. Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.