Nobody's Core Business: Confronting Cross-Cutting Problems in the Public Sector

Nobody's Core Business: Confronting Cross-Cutting Problems in the Public Sector Practitioner Guide


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  • Product Description


    This practitioner guide accompanies HKS Case 2200.0. A city librarian grappled with the question of what to do about opioid use and overdoses in her library. Changes over the past two decades had dramatically expanded the mission of the public library. What began as a repository of human knowledge, offering lending services and study space, had become a community and cultural center with programming and services for people of all ages, from all walks of life. As the library's mission expanded, its partnership with other municipal organizations, local businesses, and nonprofits multiplied. The librarian, who once advocated for expanding the mission to accommodate young people in need of a safe indoor place after school, faced a new set of library users with needs that seemed far outside her mandate. Should she have further expanded her mission to include providing lifesaving or other services for opioid users? If not, how should she have handled these new "customers"?

    This case explores tensions between working to achieve a prescribed mission and adapting missions and organizational capacities to changing social, political, and practical realities.

    Note: This case includes a slide deck that will download upon purchase of the case.

    Learning Objective:

    The aims of the case are to heal students and city leaders:

    • Identify and evaluate opportunities for making social contributions (creating public value) outside of traditional understandings of organizational missions.
    • Identify conditions unique to public-sector managers' environments, including complex lines of accountability, nuances of value, and the co-production of social outcomes.
    • Recognize possible avenues for collaboration across organizations and sectors to address social problems that cut across missions and organizational capacities.



  • Other Details

    Publication Date: February 9, 2021
    HKS Case Number: 2200.4
    Case Author(s): Gaylen Moore, Mark Moore, George Veth
    Faculty Leads: Jorrit de Jong
    Pages (incl. exhibits): 3
    Setting: North America
    Language: English
    Funding Source: Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative
    _year: 2020-2021
    _pages: 1-15
    _geography: North America
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