Professor John Alford

  • John Alford

Professorial Fellow, Melbourne School of Government | Level 9, Melbourne Law School


Areas of expertise

  • Co-production
  • Public budgeting
  • Wicked problems
  • Public value
  • Political astuteness of public managers

Professor John Alford is Honorary Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne School of Government. John retired from his role as Professor of Public Sector Management at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) and at the Melbourne Business School (MBS), University of Melbourne in 2017.

In his long career as Foundation Professor at ANZSOG from 2003, Professor Alford has been a key figure in building the School’s high teaching quality, its focus on practically relevant research and its collaborative relationships with partner government and universities. His leadership of teaching development was important because of the extensive collection of teaching cases he oversaw – now numbering around 200. In recognition of this contribution, ANZSOG has named its case library after him, as the John L Alford Case Library.

Professor Alford joined MBS as a lecturer in 1988, having previously been a manager in the Victorian Government and a lecturer at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. In 2007, he was made a National Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia, and in 2017 a Life Member.

As well as leading the ANZSOG Masters subject Delivering Public Value, Professor Alford taught in ANZSOG executive programs for public sector managers. From 2003 to 2010, he directed the Executive Fellows Program. He has taught courses and workshops at 28 universities in Australia, New Zealand, North America, the UK, Europe and Asia.

His contribution to research has also been just as noteworthy, with over 55 refereed publications in a wide range of international journals, focusing on strategic management in the public sector, wicked problems, public value and public managers’ political astuteness.

In particular, his work on client co-production of public services has received extensive recognition. The leading journal Public Administration Review described him as ‘arguably the most authoritative co-production scholar since Elinor Ostrom’ (2018). He won the Award in 2011 for Best Public Administration Book of the year from the American Society for Public Administration: Engaging Public Sector Clients: From Service Delivery to Co-production (Palgrave Macmillan). Seven other awards include his 2014 book, with Janine O’Flynn: Rethinking Public Service Delivery: Managing with External Providers, Palgrave Macmillan, which was judged Best Public Management book of the year by the Academy of Management. John was twice winner of the Richardson Award for the best article in the Australian Journal of Public Administration.

Professor Alford has been a Visiting Fellow in the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, and a Visiting Professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. He is a member of the editorial board of the American Review of Public Administration, Public Management Review, and the Journal of Strategic Contracting and Negotiation. He gained his MBA and PhD from the University of Melbourne.

Selected publications

  • Alford, J., Hartley, J., Yates, S. and Hughes, O., (2016), ‘Into the purple zone: Deconstructing the politics/administration dichotomy’, American Review of Public Administration. Published Early On-Line, February 2016. (DOI: 10.1177/0275074016638481)
  • Di Francesco, M. and Alford, J. (2016) Balancing Control and Flexibility in Public Budgeting: A New Role for Rule Variability. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Alford, J. (2015) Co-production, Interdependence and Publicness: Extending Public Service Dominant Logic. Public Management Review, doi 10.1080/14719037.2015.1111659.
  • Alford, J. (2015) Weighing up the public value of alternative methods of providing public services: Towards a contingency framework. In J. Bryson, B. Crosby and L. Bloomberg (eds), Valuing Public Value. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
  • Alford, J., Hartley, J. and Hughes, O. (2015) Political astuteness as a means of discerning and creating public value. In J. Bryson, B. Crosby and L. Bloomberg (eds), Valuing Public Value. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
  • Di Francesco, M and Alford, J. (2016), ‘Balancing budget control and flexibility: The central finance agency as “responsive regulator”,’ Public Management Review. (DOI 10.1080.14719037.2016.1243812)
  • Hartley, J., Alford, J., Hughes, O. and Yates, S. (2015) Public value and political astuteness in the work of public managers: The art of the possible. Public Administration, 93(1): 195-211.
  • Alford, J. (2014) The multiple facets of co-production: Building on the work of Elinor Ostrom. Public Management Review, 16(3): 299-316.
  • Alford, J. and Yates, S. (2014) Mapping Public Value Processes. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 27(4): 334-352.
  • Alford, J. and Brock, J. (2014) Interactive education in public administration (1): The role of teaching ‘objects’. Teaching Public Administration, 32(2): 144-157.
  • Head, B. and Alford, J. (2014) Wicked Problems: Implications for Public Policy and Management. Administration and Society, 47(6): 711-739.
  • Di Francesco, M and Alford, J. (2015), ‘Budget rules and flexibility in the public sector: Towards a basic taxonomy,’ Financial Accountability and Management, 32 (2): 232-256 (DOI: 10.1111/faam.12087).
  • Alford, J. and Yates, S (2016) ‘Co-production of public services in Australia: The roles of government organisations and co-producers,’ Australian Journal of Public Administration, 75(2): 159-175. (DOI: 10.1111/1467-8500/12157)
  • Alford, J. and Greve, C. (2017) ‘Strategy in the Public and Private Sectors: Similarities, Differences and Changes’, Administrative Sciences (doi:10.3390/admsci7040035).
  • Alford, J. and Head, B. (2017) ‘Wicked and Less Wicked Problems: A typology and a contingency framework,,’ Policy and Society. 36:3, 397-413 (doi: 10.1080/14494035.2017.1361634).
  • Alford, J., Douglas, S., Geuijen, K. and ‘t Hart, P. (2016), ‘Ventures in Public Value Management: Introduction to the Symposium’, Public Management Review (DOI: 10.1080/14719037.2016.1192160).

Hartley, J, Alford, J., Knies, J. and Douglas, S. (2016). Towards an Empirical Research Agenda for Public Value Theory, Public Management Review. (DOI: 10.1080/14719037.2016.1192166).