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Schema Emergence from Prototyping in a One-year National Citizen Engagement Initiative in Singapore Open Access

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Studies in public governance indicate the need for building capacities in collective learning as a key success factor in public sector reforms. This includes the capacity in learning-by-doing through prototyping or small-scale experimentation, and being prepared to challenge prevailing schemas and develop new ones. Schemas are knowledge structures that give meaning to environmental changes and stimulate action. In the current public sector transformation efforts in Singapore, public service leaders had been seeking to understand the enabling conditions that support prototyping and factors that facilitate the development of new schemas. Despite the plethora of studies on organizational learning, there is a dearth of such studies in the public sector. Despite the centrality of schema as a concept in organization cognition, little is known about how schemas emerge. This was a case study involving 23 participants from five public agencies, with the purpose of understanding how a new collective schema emerged through the experience of prototyping a new approach to citizen engagement during a one-year national initiative in Singapore. The research questions focused on understanding the process of schema emergence and the enabling conditions for prototyping. Data was collected through focus group sessions and semi-structured interviews. The study concluded that the formation of a path-finding team as forerunners in prototyping paved the way toward the emergence and enactment of the new schema. The new schema arose from both individual and collective experiences in implementing the new approach to citizen engagement. This research is significant for informing public sector organizations on the enabling conditions for prototyping radically new work processes, and the design of interventions to support the development of new schemas in large scale change efforts.

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