Paul Light

Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service

212.998.7454
The Puck Building
295 Lafayette Street
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012
By Appointment Only
Paul Light

Dr. Paul C. Light is NYU Wagner's Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service and founding principal investigator of the Global Center for Public Service, Before joining NYU, Dr. Light served as the Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, founding director of its Center for Public Service, and vice president and director of the Governmental Studies Program. He has served previously as director of the Public Policy Program at the Pew Charitable Trusts and associate dean and professor of public affairs at the University of Minnesota's Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.  

Light is the author of 25 books, including works on social entrepreneurship, the nonprofit sector, federal government reform, public service, and the baby boom. His most recent book is Government by Investigation: Presidents, Congress, and the Search for Answers, 1945-2012 (2014).  His award winning books include The President's Agenda: Domestic Policy Choice from Kennedy to Clinton (1998),  Thickening Government: Federal Hierarchy and the Diffusion of Accountability (1995), The Tides of Reform: Making Government Work, 1945-1995 (1997), and A Government Ill Executed: The Decline of the Federal Service and How to Reverse It  2008).  A Government Ill Executed received the American Political Science Association's Herbert Simon Award for the most important book on public administration in the preceding three-to-five years upon publication.  Light is also a co-author of a best-selling American government textbook, Government by the People. His research interests include: bureaucracy, civil service, Congress, entitlement programs, executive branch, government reform, nonprofit effectiveness, organizational change, and the political appointment process.

This course is designed to help students understand and make their own mark in today’s revolution in how to innovate.  Although the world still needs dedicated innovators of all kinds to create the new combinations of ideas for solving to difficult social problems, this course is based on the notion that durable social change depends on five tools for innovating in how to innovate: (1) innovative social exploring to call others to action and identify the root cause that needs to be addressed, (2) innovative social finance to leverage existing funding toward high-impact investment (and divestment) and create innovative ways to prospect for funding and impact, (3) innovative social design to collect ideas that might be pieced together to redress a seemingly intractable problem and combine, test, and launch those ideas, (4) innovative social advocacy to frame the debate in favor of the specific innovation and codify these ideas for sustainable implementation, and (5) innovative social delivery to scale new combinations of ideas to maximum effect, and operate at scale through strong organizations that change as needed to produce impact and defend it from inevitable opposition. 

Just because we need innovations in these tools does not mean that existing methods are no longer needed—the key is to find ways to fine-tune what we already have to make it work as effectively as possible in an ever-changing ecosystem. The course will ask students to explore these tools using their own experience and concerns as a frame for viewing innovations in how to innovate as essential to their own success in changing the world as it is today into the world as they think it should become. 

Download Syllabus

This course is designed to help students understand and make their own mark in today’s revolution in how to innovate.  Although the world still needs dedicated innovators of all kinds to create the new combinations of ideas for solving to difficult social problems, this course is based on the notion that durable social change depends on five tools for innovating in how to innovate: (1) innovative social exploring to call others to action and identify the root cause that needs to be addressed, (2) innovative social finance to leverage existing funding toward high-impact investment (and divestment) and create innovative ways to prospect for funding and impact, (3) innovative social design to collect ideas that might be pieced together to redress a seemingly intractable problem and combine, test, and launch those ideas, (4) innovative social advocacy to frame the debate in favor of the specific innovation and codify these ideas for sustainable implementation, and (5) innovative social delivery to scale new combinations of ideas to maximum effect, and operate at scale through strong organizations that change as needed to produce impact and defend it from inevitable opposition. 

Just because we need innovations in these tools does not mean that existing methods are no longer needed—the key is to find ways to fine-tune what we already have to make it work as effectively as possible in an ever-changing ecosystem. The course will ask students to explore these tools using their own experience and concerns as a frame for viewing innovations in how to innovate as essential to their own success in changing the world as it is today into the world as they think it should become. 

Download Syllabus

September 11 brought a dramatic surge in what Americans expected of themselves and their civic institutions. Americans reported increased interest in all aspects of public life, including voting, volunteering, and careers in government. Three years later, however, the interest has yet to produce a parallel increase in civic activity. This course will provide undergraduate students an opportunity to examine the promise of public service embedded in American history and contemporary events, while exploring the perils of participation that may explain the public's reluctance to actually engage. The course will also explore competing definitions of public service, as well as proposals for increasing civic engagement through various forms of national service, including the draft. The course will feature occasional guest lectures by leading public servants in New York City, as well as student research on just what public service means today.

Download Syllabus

This course is designed to help students understand and make their own mark in today’s revolution in how to innovate.  Although the world still needs dedicated innovators of all kinds to create the new combinations of ideas for solving to difficult social problems, this course is based on the notion that durable social change depends on five tools for innovating in how to innovate: (1) innovative social exploring to call others to action and identify the root cause that needs to be addressed, (2) innovative social finance to leverage existing funding toward high-impact investment (and divestment) and create innovative ways to prospect for funding and impact, (3) innovative social design to collect ideas that might be pieced together to redress a seemingly intractable problem and combine, test, and launch those ideas, (4) innovative social advocacy to frame the debate in favor of the specific innovation and codify these ideas for sustainable implementation, and (5) innovative social delivery to scale new combinations of ideas to maximum effect, and operate at scale through strong organizations that change as needed to produce impact and defend it from inevitable opposition. 

Just because we need innovations in these tools does not mean that existing methods are no longer needed—the key is to find ways to fine-tune what we already have to make it work as effectively as possible in an ever-changing ecosystem. The course will ask students to explore these tools using their own experience and concerns as a frame for viewing innovations in how to innovate as essential to their own success in changing the world as it is today into the world as they think it should become. 

Download Syllabus

This course is designed to help students understand and make their own mark in solving the social problems that plague today's world.  This course is based on the notion that durable social change depends on the five basic tools for social innovation: (1) social exploring to call others to action and identify the root cause that needs to be addressed, (2) social finance to leverage existing funding toward high-impact investment and fundraising, (3) social design to collect and combine ideas to redress a seemingly intractable problem, (4) social advocacy to frame the debate in favor of the specific innovation and codify these ideas for sustainable implementation, and (5) social delivery to scale new combinations of ideas to maximum effect, and operate at scale.  Students will be introduced to the five tools, examine their use in producing social impact, explore their own engagement in designing new combinations of ideas as social entrepreneurs, and develop their own ideas for addressing a social problem of concern to them.  Students will have the opportunity to examine real-world organizations that engage in social impact, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and develop their own understanding about which tools find what problems, and how they can exploit the power of social innovation to produce lasting effects in changing the world as it is today into the world that each student believe could and must be in the future.  

Download Syllabus

This course is designed to help students understand and make their own mark in today’s revolution in how to innovate.  Although the world still needs dedicated innovators of all kinds to create the new combinations of ideas for solving to difficult social problems, this course is based on the notion that durable social change depends on five tools for innovating in how to innovate: (1) innovative social exploring to call others to action and identify the root cause that needs to be addressed, (2) innovative social finance to leverage existing funding toward high-impact investment (and divestment) and create innovative ways to prospect for funding and impact, (3) innovative social design to collect ideas that might be pieced together to redress a seemingly intractable problem and combine, test, and launch those ideas, (4) innovative social advocacy to frame the debate in favor of the specific innovation and codify these ideas for sustainable implementation, and (5) innovative social delivery to scale new combinations of ideas to maximum effect, and operate at scale through strong organizations that change as needed to produce impact and defend it from inevitable opposition. 

Just because we need innovations in these tools does not mean that existing methods are no longer needed—the key is to find ways to fine-tune what we already have to make it work as effectively as possible in an ever-changing ecosystem. The course will ask students to explore these tools using their own experience and concerns as a frame for viewing innovations in how to innovate as essential to their own success in changing the world as it is today into the world as they think it should become. 

Download Syllabus

This course is designed to help students understand and make their own mark in solving the social problems that plague today's world.  This course is based on the notion that durable social change depends on the five basic tools for social innovation: (1) social exploring to call others to action and identify the root cause that needs to be addressed, (2) social finance to leverage existing funding toward high-impact investment and fundraising, (3) social design to collect and combine ideas to redress a seemingly intractable problem, (4) social advocacy to frame the debate in favor of the specific innovation and codify these ideas for sustainable implementation, and (5) social delivery to scale new combinations of ideas to maximum effect, and operate at scale.  Students will be introduced to the five tools, examine their use in producing social impact, explore their own engagement in designing new combinations of ideas as social entrepreneurs, and develop their own ideas for addressing a social problem of concern to them.  Students will have the opportunity to examine real-world organizations that engage in social impact, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and develop their own understanding about which tools find what problems, and how they can exploit the power of social innovation to produce lasting effects in changing the world as it is today into the world that each student believe could and must be in the future.  

Download Syllabus

2017

Paul Light. The True Size of Government: Tracking Washington's Blended Workforce, 1984-2015.
Abstract

Government by the People provides a thorough, Constitution-based introduction to the foundational principles, processes, and institutions of American government. Throughout, authors David Magleby, Paul Light, and Christine Nemacheck highlight the central role that people play in a constitutional democracy, inspiring students to see how similarities and differences in political beliefs continue to shape government to this day. The 2014 Elections and Updates Edition includes coverage of the major issues in today’s headlines to engage students in learning, as well as to boost the relevance of course material to students’ lives.

Abstract

The 2016 presidential election will likely feature two tough questions about government reform, writes Paul C. Light. First, should the next president cut federal programs to reduce the power of government, or maintain existing programs to deal with important problems? Second, should the next president winnow the federal agenda to a smaller set of priorities, or accept the current priorities and focus on reducing federal inefficiency?

2014

Abstract

In this research paper, Paul C. Light writes that the “first step in preventing future failures is to find a reasonable set of past failures that might yield lessons for repair.” To meet this goal, Light asks four key questions about past federal government failures: (1) where did government fail, (2) why did government fail, (3) who caused the failures, and (4) what can be done to fix the underlying problems?

2013

Abstract

Presidential and congressional investigations are particularly powerful tools for asking tough questions about highly visible, often complex government breakdowns, including: communist infiltration of government 1950s, the Vietnam War during the 1960s, Watergate and Central Intelligence Agency abuses during the 1970s, among 96 others covered in Government by Investigation, by Paul Light. Light, one of America’s premier authorities on public service and management, provides a deep assessment of what he has identified as the federal government’s one hundred most significant investigations since World War II.

 

Abstract

Surveying the 100 most significant Congressional and presidential investigations of executive branch breakdowns between 1945 and 2012, Paul Light offers insight into those qualities that compose an “investigation done right.” Light’s research provides data into the quantity and quality of investigatory efforts in the modern era, as well as what these patterns reveal about what investigators can do to increase the odds that their work will pay off in improved government performance and more effective public policy.

 

2012

Abstract

"These 10 articles from leading scholars address federal government activism in such areas as health, education, transportation, and the arts. In some areas, federal involvement has been direct; for example, while school public systems are governed locally, Washington provides about 10% of k–12 funding. Similarly, antipoverty programs, such as the New Deal’s Social Security Act and Aid for Dependent Children, have played a major role in reducing the poverty rate from around 40% in 1900 to 11.2% in 1974. At other times, Washington has exerted influence more subtly, through regulations and research. Examples include the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which mandated the separation of investment and commercial banking and the WWII-era research that yielded compounds to prevent and cure malaria, syphilis, and tuberculosis. Further, as public policy scholar Paul C. Light points out in a fascinating concluding piece, more than two-thirds of leading governmental initiatives have been supported by both Democratic and Republican administrations. However, Light adds, the massive tax cut in 2001 “continue[s] to constrain federal investment in problem solving.” The scholars brought together by Ohio State historian Conn (History’s Shadow) persuasively demonstrate how the growth of “big government” throughout the 20th century has benefited ordinary Americans so comprehensively and unobtrusively that they have often taken it for granted."

Publishers Weekly

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-19-985855-2

2011

Abstract

Federalist No. 85 offers a synopsis of the overall case for the Constitution. Describing the dangers of a nation without a national government as an "awful spectacle," the paper provides a rebuttal to the active opposition to ratification. Focusing entirely on the operations of government, this essay examines contemporary challenges to faithfully executing the laws and offers an analysis of comprehensive reforms for creating greater accountability, efficiency, and productivity.

Abstract

Public administration scholars answer the question: What might Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison, who between October 1787 and August 1788 penned the Federalist Papers promoting ratification of the U.S. Constitution, add now to the pamphlets, in view of changes in the administration of our government over the past two and a quarter centuries? Are these foundational essays still relevant? How might key pamphlets be updated to reflect new realities?

2010

Abstract

Has the role of the social entrepreneur been glorified as the primary driver of social breakthrough? Have we neglected the important role that all change agents play? What must be done to create the networks that create so many breakthroughs? How does the breakthrough cycle actually work? How do we strengthen the infrastructure that supports social change organizations in their quest? Driving Social Change is the ultimate introduction to the many steps needed to challenge and replace the prevailing wisdom.

Based on the latest research from author, professor, and Washington Post online columnist Paul C. Light, Driving Social Change confronts head-on the seemingly eternal questions of solving tough, even intractable, social problems. Starting with the definition of social entrepreneurship as a powerful driver of social change, it goes well beyond the concept to a more detailed assessment of the "breakthrough" cycle with several other drivers. Along the way, the book focuses on the need to protect past social breakthroughs from complacency and counterattack.

If our purpose is to change the world, writes Light, we must concentrate on every driver possible, not just the ones we can see. To that end, the book highlights alternative paths to creating social breakthrough and provides actionable advice, exploring:

-Strategies to broaden the definition of social entrepreneurship

-Tactics to build strong social organizations and networks

-Dynamic methods to respond to constant economic and social change

-The journey from initial commitment to a world of justice and opportunity

As much as social entrepreneurship is a wondrous, inspirational act, even more extraordinary is the creation of durable social impact through whatever means necessary. Driving Social Change tells us that we should be less concerned about the tools of agitation and more concerned about the disruption and replacement of the status quo.

Holding old mindsets up to the light of day, this timely book unflinchingly addresses the change process and challenges us to question our beliefs about how it really works.

 

2009

Paul C. Light. "Legislating for The Future". Editor, RAND, 2009
Abstract

In March 2009, the RAND Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition hosted a workshop called “Shaping Tomorrow Today: Near-Term Steps Towards Long-Term Goals.” The workshop gave policymakers and analysts an opportunity to explore new methods and tools that can help improve long-term decisionmaking. The intent was to conduct this exploration collaboratively, drawing from many countries a mixed group of tool builders, analysts, planners, decisionmakers and interested lay observers. Their task was to consider how analysts and policymakers can determine when it is important to make long-term (as opposed to short-term) decisions, how to make better long-term decisions, and how best to support policymakers in thinking long term, using as case studies the areas of education, international policy, and climate change. These conference proceedings summarize the main discussions and presentations that took place during the two days of the workshop and include the papers written for workshop participants. They will be of interest to anyone engaged in the study and practice of thinking and acting meaningfully over the long term, with particular reference to problems faced by planners and policymakers in public institutions of governance.

2008

Abstract

Building on decades of authoritative scholarship, this completely updated text continues to offer accessible, carefully crafted, and straightforward coverage of the foundations of American politics, as well consistent focus on the achievements of a government by the people

 

In an increasingly cynical world, GBTP emphasizes that politics matters and encourages, motivates, and even inspires students–with accounts of individual and collective acts of courageousness, intellect, and integrity in the political arena–to be effective and informed citizens.  

 

With each chapter now framed by nationally-selected learning objectives and chapter mastery self-tests, several compelling new features, and an all new contemporary design, this thoroughly updated Twenty-Third Edition continues in the book’s long tradition for excellence.  As we enter this very complex political era, there is no more reliable or more relevant text to help you advance your students from being simple onlookers to knowledgeable participants in the American political experience.

Abstract

The federal government is having increasing difficulty faithfully executing the laws, which is what Alexander Hamilton called "the true test" of a good government. This book diagnoses the symptoms, explains their general causes, and proposes ways to improve the effectiveness of the federal government. Employing Hamilton's seven measures of an energetic federal service, Paul Light shows how the government is wanting in each measure.

After assessing the federal report card, Light offers a comprehensive agenda for reform, including new laws limiting the number of political appointees, reducing the layers of government management, reducing the size of government as its baby-boom employees retire, revitalizing the federal career, and reducing the heavy outsourcing of federal work. Although there are many ways to fix each of the seven problems with government, only a comprehensive agenda will bring the kind of reform needed to reverse the overall erosion of the capacity to faithfully execute all the laws.

 

Abstract

The federal government's "quiet crisis" of the 1980s has become the "deafening crisis" of the early twenty-first century. Virtually every measure of the state of the public service as envisioned by Alexander Hamilton has worsened over the past two decades. This lecture outlines Hamilton's seven characteristics of an energetic federal service and examines recent trends in its decline. Although the federal service still executes an enormous agenda of important missions, it is increasingly frustrated in its work.

Abstract

Public confidence in charities is key in guaranteeing a vibrant future for treating and solving the world's most important problems. Public confidence affects charitable giving and volunteering, employee recruitment, and gives charities the freedom to dedicate resources toward their most important programs and capacity-building priorities. Unfortunately, public confidence in charities remains at contemporary lows.

A March 2008 survey conducted on behalf of the Organizational Performance Initiative at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service shows four patterns that should  worry charitable organizations and sector leaders.

Abstract

The past two years have been unsettled at best for Congress. Public approval toward Congress remains low, legislative debates have been contentious, polarization remains high, and Congress has a mixed record in dealing with major long-term issues such as Social Security and Medicare. The State Children's Health Insurance program has been delayed awaiting a compromise that might expand coverage, immigration reform has been waylaid by the intensity of opposition across the party lines, energy reform was diluted by ongoing disputes about how to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, and the war in Iraq continues to dictate the pace of major legislative debates.

2007

Abstract

Social entrepreneurship has come to be synonymous with the individual visionary - the risk taker who goes against the
tide to start a new organization to create dramatic social change. The problem with focusing so much attention
on the individual entrepreneur is that it neglects to recognize and support thousands of other individuals, groups, and organizations that are crafting solutions to troubles around the globe.

2006

Abstract

The past six decades have witnessed acceleration in both the number and variety of major administrative reform statutes enacted by Congress. This increase can be explained partly by the increased involvement of Congress, a parallel decrease in activity and resistance by the presidency, and heightened public distrust toward government. At least part of the variation in the tides or philosophies of reform involves a "field of dreams" effect in which the creation of new governmental structure during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s generated increased interest in process reforms. However, part of the acceleration and variety of reform appears to be related to the lack of hard evidence of what actually works in improving government performance. Measured by federal employees' perceptions of organizational performance, what matters most is not whether organizations were reformed in the past, but whether organizations need reform in the future and can provide essential resources for achieving their mission.

2005

Abstract

Senator Bill First, the majority leader, has often invoked the founding fathers to make his case against delaying tactics like the filibuster, especially when such tactics allow a small number of senators to create what he calls "a tyranny of the minority." But he has shown almost no interest in the founders' similar concerns about tactics that accelerate Senate action, even when those tactics enable a handful of senators to effectively deny the chamber the possibility of reading a bill, let alone debate it. There is plenty of minority tyranny, for example, in the conference committees that Congress uses to spur legislative agreement between the two chambers. Such committees clearly bypass the founders' inefficient back-and-forth in which the House and Senate are supposed to trade versions of legislation until they finally reach agreement. These committees have become more powerful over the years, in no small part because Congress stopped instructing them to stay within the four corners of the versions of legislation at issue. In the 2003 conference over President Bush's energy bill, which eventually failed, conferees added $277 million in subsidies for environmentally friendly shopping malls, including one in Shreveport, La., that would have included a Hooters restaurant. As President Ronald Reagan once said, an apple and an orange could go into a conference committee and come out a pear. There is also enormous opportunity for minority tyranny in the writing of omnibus bills, another legislative accelerant the founders might view as a violation of their constitutional design. Employed after the Civil War to handle the onslaught of private pension bills for disabled veterans, omnibus bills were not used for appropriations until 1950. Since then, they have become a commonplace vehicle for packaging everything from spending bills to highway projects. Last year's $388 billion omnibus bill not only ran more than 1,600 double-sided pages and weighed 14 pounds, it arrived on the House and Senate floor only hours ahead of passage. No wonder members missed the provision that allowed Congressional staff members to review the tax returns of individual taxpayers. Although Mr. Frist promised that Congress would work on reforming the use of omnibus bills, filibuster reform has taken precedence.

Magleby, D.B., O'Brien, D., Peltason, J.W., Burns, J.M., Light, P.C. & Cronin, T.E.. Government By the People. Prentice Hall
Abstract

The question for this paper is not whether social entrepreneurs exist, however, but whether the field of social entrepreneurship is too exclusive for its own good. The field has mostly defined social entrepreneurs as individuals who launch entirely new social-purpose nonprofit ventures. In doing so, the field may have excluded large numbers of individuals and entities that are equally deserving of the support, networking, and training now reserved for individuals who meet both the current definitional tests of a social entrepreneur and the ever-growing list of exemplars.
Not only does this definition deny the possibility that the intensity and quantity of social entrepreneurship might vary over time and across individuals and entities, it also substantially reduces the population of entrepreneurs who might form the basis for the kind of evidence-based, large-sample, control-group research needed to determine what truly matters to successful social entrepreneurship.

Abstract

Four years after September 11th, public confidence in charitable organizations remains stuck at a contemporary low. According to a telephone survey of 1,820 randomly-selected Americans interviewed on behalf of NYU Wagner's Organizational Performance Initiative during the summer of 2005, confidence has held virtually constant since it bottomed out after months of controversy
surrounding disbursement of the September 11th relief funds. As of last summer, 15 percent of Americans said they had a great deal of confidence in charitable organizations, 49 percent said a fair amount, 24 percent said not too much, and 7 percent said none at all. Public views of how charitable organizations operate also remain unchanged. Only 19 percent of Americans said charitable organizations do a very good job running their programs and services, while just 11 percent said the same about spending money wisely. In addition, 66 percent of Americans said that charitable organizations waste a great deal or fair amount of money, while almost half said the leaders of charitable organizations are paid too much. If the past is prologue, these views will continue to drive higher levels of legislative and media scrutiny, which in turn, may further erode public confidence. The survey also suggests that rebuilding confidence must involve sustained investment in strengthening the capacity of charitable organizations to achieve measurable impacts toward their missions.

Light, P.C.. The State of American Preparedness. Policy Brief, Policy Report, report for the Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response, New York University September,

2004

Abstract

The past half century has witnessed a slow, but steady thickening of the federal bureaucracy as Congress and presidents have added layer upon layer of political and career management to the hierarchy. The past six years have been no different. Despite the president's promise to bring business-like thinking to the federal government, the Bush administration has overseen, or at the very least permitted, a significant expansion in both the height and width of the federal hierarchy. There have never been more layers at the top of government, nor more occupants at each layer.

Light, P.C.. Outsourcing the True Size of Government. Public Contract Law Journal, Winter
Abstract

"The nonprofit sector survives because it has a self-exploiting work force: wind it up and it will do more with less until it just runs out. But at some point, the spring must break."

America’s nonprofit organizations face a difficult present and an uncertain future. Money is tight. Workloads are heavy, employee turnover is high, and charitable donations have not fully rebounded from the recent economic downturn. Media and political scrutiny remains high, and public confidence in nonprofits has yet to recover from its sharp decline in the wake of well-publicized scandals.

In a recent survey, only 14 percent of respondents believed that nonprofits did a very good job of spending money wisely; nearly half said that nonprofit leaders were paid too much, compared to 8 percent who said they earned too little. Yet the nonprofit sector has never played a more important role in American life. As a generation of nonprofit executives and board members approaches retirement, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that their organizations are prepared to continue their missions—that they are built to last in a supremely challenging environment.

Paul Light, renowned expert on public service and nonprofit management, strongly argues for capacity-building measures as a way to sustain and improve the efforts of the nonprofit sector. With innovative data and insightful analysis, he demonstrates how nonprofits that invest in technology, training, and strategic planning can successfully advance their goals and restore public faith in their mission and capabilities. He explains the ways in which restoration of that faith is critical to the survival of nonprofits—another important reason for improving and then sustaining performance. Organizations that invest adequately in their infrastructure and long-term planning are the ones that will survive and continue to serve. The New York Times, Monday September 13, 2004

Abstract

This article is adapted from a new book by Paul Light entitled Sustaining Nonprofit Performance: The Case for Capacity Building and the Evidence to Support It, published in 2004 by the Brookings Institution Press.

Imagine a nonprofit's life as a journey up and down a development spiral. All organizations would start with a simple idea for some new program or service and then move up the spiral toward greater and greater impact, progressing through five landings, or stops, along the climb: (1) the organic phase of life, in which they struggle to create a presence in their environment; (2) the enterprising phase, in which they seek to expand their size and scope; (3) the intentional phase, in which they become focused more tightly on what they do best; (4) the robust phase, in which they strengthen their organizational infrastructure to hedge against the unexpected; and (5) the reflective phase, in which they address longer-term issues of succession and legacy.

 

2003

Light, P.C.. Government by the People. with James MacGregor Burns, Jack Peltason, Thomas Cronin, David Magleby, and David Obrien, Prentice Hall,
Light, P.C. & Buhler, P., Charhon, F.. L’E’conomie du don et La Philanthropie aux E’tats-Unis et en France: Analyses Compare’e. Institute Francais des Relations Internationale,
Light, P.C.. Measuring the Health of the Public Service. in Roger Davidson, ed., Workways of Governance, Brookings,
Light, P.C.. The Health of the Human Services Workforce. Center for Public Service Report, March,
Light, P.C.. The Search for Public Service. Center for Public Service Report, June,

2002

Light, P.C.. Presidential Calls for Volunteerism. Brookings Review, Fall,
Abstract

It is no longer clear that the federal government work force can pass the following five tests of a healthy public service, which are that it should be:
-Motivated by the public good, not security or a stable paycheck.
-Recruited from the top of the labor market, not the bottom.
-Given the tools to do its job well.
-Rewarded for a job well done, not just showing up day after day.
-Trusted by the people and leaders it serves.

Abstract

The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11 reminded the nation just how important the federal public service is in times of crisis. The night after the attacks, President Bush said, "the functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington . . . will be open for business tomorrow." In the days and weeks following the attacks, it became clear that not only would government be open, it would take on a greatly expanded role.

2000

Abstract

Focuses on the problems of the United States government in competing for public service workforce and the changes in the federal public service. Two features of the federal government's problem in recruiting talents for public service; Characteristics of public service measured by students at top schools of public policy and administration; Ways for the government to regain its edge in recruiting public service employees.

1999

Abstract

Without discounting the significant downsizing that has occurred, only one of the two ingredients for a leaner, more efficient government is in place. The girth of government-measured by the total number of federal employees-may be shrinking, but its height-measured by the management tiers between the top and bottom-continues to climb. Every year fewer front-line employees are reporting upward through what appears to be an ever-lengthening chain of command.

1998

Abstract

Any organization can innovate once. The challenge is to innovate twice, thrice, and more?to make innovation a part of daily good practice. This book shows how nonprofit and government organizations can transform the single, occasional act of innovating into an everyday occurrence by forging a culture of natural innovation.

Filled with real success stories and practical lessons learned, Sustaining Innovation offers examples of how organizations can take the first step toward innovativeness, advice on how to survive the inevitable mistakes along the way, and tools for keeping the edge once the journey is complete.

Light also provides a set of simple suggestions for fitting the lessons to the different management pressures facing the government and nonprofit sector. Unlike the private sector, where innovation needs only to be profitable to be worth doing, government and nonprofit innovation must be about doing something worthwhile. It must challenge the prevailing wisdom and advance the public good. Sustaining Innovation gives nonprofit and government managers a coherent, easily understood model for making this kind of innovation a natural reality.

 

1997

Light, P.C.. A Delicate Balance: An Essential Introduction to American Government. Bedford/St. Martins, second edition published .
Light, P.C.. The Quiet Crisis Continues: The State of the Public Service, 1997. paper prepared for presentation at the working colloquium of the Governance Institute's Quality of Worklife in the Public Service project, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, October.
Abstract

The past six decades have witnessed acceleration in both the number and variety of major administrative reform statutes enacted by Congress. This increase can be explained partly by the increased involvement of Congress, a parallel decrease in activity and resistance by the presidency, and heightened public distrust toward government. At least part of the variation in the tides or philosophies of reform involves a "field of dreams" effect in which the creation of new governmental structure during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s generated increased interest in process reforms. However, part of the acceleration and variety of reform appears to be related to the lack of hard evidence of what actually works in improving government performance. Measured by federal employees' perceptions of organizational performance, what matters most is not whether organizations were reformed in the past, but whether organizations need reform in the future and can provide essential resources for achieving their mission.

1996

Light, P.C.. Surviving Innovation: An Overview of the Minnesota Innovation Project. paper prepared for the annual meeting of the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management, October 31.

1994

1993