What is Rational Design in Public Administration?

What comes to mind when someone talks about rationality? Fairly justifying something, right? But then how to do it? The answer is through objective evaluation of certain causes. This is what rational design model is all about. At least once in our lives, we all have used it. Just think about what you did in the chemistry lab back in high school. You measured and mixed chemicals to get some kind of reaction out of them. Your every step was depended on a scientific method. That is how rational design works. It does not wait for the problem to occur. Instead, it demands analysis to search for it in the normal environment. The tradition of the rational design is coated with the notion that only by the use of science, the best solution of a problem can be derived. Now this best is rooted in objectivity. This should be taken as a sign that emotions of humans have no room in rational design. It demands data measurement followed by facts derived from it.

Typically, a public administrator who uses rational design is already a technical expert. In other words, he knows how to gather and read data. He is convinced that anything can be measured and that quantitative data can truly predict all kinds of outcomes. His analysis gives birth to facts. He does not care if there is anything beyond them. To stay fair, however, he may go with the idea that there were some limitations in his study. After that, he would let his conclusion or decision out. Even in this step, he does not let his mind succumb to emotions. For the sake of fairness, he allows his analysis to speak for itself.

Rational design model works best in learning about things that can be measured. In all other areas, it is a challenging tool. The problem is that the model assumes predictability and objectivity, which unfortunately is inconsistent with the realities of social environments. For instance, there is no way to measure behavior of humans. Secondly, in rational design, decisions are made according to the expert's perspective. The problem is that data can be misleading and thus, may not describe what actually takes place. Also because of the technical knowledge of the expert, his explanation is taken as far superior than what the citizens have to say.

Summary of Characteristics of Rational Design
  • It is proactive 
  • It approaches a problem scientifically with the aim to maintain impartiality
  • Questions and categories are used to help observation
  • Measurement maybe based on cause-benefit or analysis of the system
  • The one doing it is a technical expert
  • The problem is seen through his analytical eyes
  • Decision is based on facts
  • There is no involvement of citizens or other significant actors
Identifying Rational Design in the Real World
  • Analyzing how much is needed to run a government program: Budget is the keyword. Before it can be designed for a specific program, the public administrator must know the cost associated with it. Sometimes this can help him extract any problem that in the future may form.
  • Calculating how many would be affected by a given policy: Think about the time when government decided to give a decreased amount of money to defense department. Numerous studies coming from military and those sponsored by them suggested that it was going to leave many without jobs. Such conclusion was derived through the use of rational design model.
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