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The Inter-University Case Program: Challenging Orthodoxy, Training Public Servants, Creating Knowledge
Journal of Public Affairs Education (2008)
  • Ryan Yeung

The list of individuals who participated in the Inter-University Case Program (ICP) reads like a who’s who list of public administration titans. In one form or another, scholar-practitioners like Dwight Waldo, Paul Appleby, Harold Stein, and Frederick C. Mosher played a part in the success of the program. This article examines the ICP with an epistemological eye. The era of the ICP was a period when scholars thought that the complexity of government prevented the development of general administrative principles and also prevented the use of conventional scientific methods to generate knowledge in the field. They believed instead that the strength of the ICP case studies was in their detail. Instead of presenting an idealized world of public organizations, the cases left the blemishes intact and presented a more realistic view of government: a government that was heavily political and, at times, even irrational. The goal of the cases was to teach decision-making skills, though generalization and theory development were important but subordinate objectives. Generalization of knowledge from the case studies was a difficult, but not impossible, task. The development of general principles was not possible, but, without disregarding context, the case studies allowed scholars to observe general tendencies at work in public organizations. Today, as public administration has once again found its theories to be challenged by a changing world, the case study remains an important tool for linking theory in the sphere of academia and practice in the real world of administration.

  • Case Study,
  • Public Administration Theory,
  • Public Affairs Education
Publication Date
Citation Information
Ryan Yeung. "The Inter-University Case Program: Challenging Orthodoxy, Training Public Servants, Creating Knowledge" Journal of Public Affairs Education Vol. 13 Iss. 3/4 (2008)
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