Risikoledelse i en offentlig kontekst: En risikabel affære?

Andreas Godfrey

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis treats the subject of risk management within the public sector. The overall purpose of this is, first of all, to shed light on the question of how the concept of risk can be understood. Secondly, to analyze the question of how risk management as a management discipline can function in a public sector context. And thirdly, to discuss the question of what the consequences can be for a public organization practicing risk management activities. The first question is investigated through a theoretical outline of different perceptions of risk as both a subjective and an objective concept, being individualizing and collectivizing at the same time. This involves three theories on how risk can be perceived as in fact risk. In order to understand risk as a concept in relation to knowledge and technology, Ulrich Beck’s theory on the risk society is used. For defining risk as a distinction, that is risk as danger and risk as opportunity, the theory of Niclas Luhmann on risk as a decision is investigated in depth. To be able to touch upon the relationship between risk and the responsibility of the individual, Michel Foucault and his theory on knowledge, power and subject is applied in relation to risk. The second question is examined through a presentation of the public sector in Denmark, focusing on the ambiguous and paradoxical structures in which the public sector has to carry out its operations. That is balancing structural requirements between centralized and decentralized responsibility and decision-making as well as between efficiency/quality and standardization/innovation. The thesis goes on analyzing how risk management on a strategic level can be applied in a public sector context. This analysis is based on two publications dealing with risk management activities within the public sector. Concretely, three aspects of practicing strategic risk management are analyzed; the risk management process, the risk universe, and the ethical aspects of risk management. The third question is dealt with through a discussion of the above mentioned points, claiming that it matters, which understanding and distinction that is employed when managing risks; the actual observation, that is risk/danger or risk/opportunity, can produce different scopes of organizational action and decision-making. In addition, the discussion goes on addressing the fact that risk management can be a paradoxical management tool, concluding that risk management activities can be a risk in itself for a given organization. This means that risk management activities has the potential to make the decisionmaker and the risk-affected parties visual – a visibility that both can be seen as a dangerous consequence of risk management and also as creating more positive opportunities. But, nevertheless, this visibility has to be seen as a risk, which an organization practicing risk management has to deal with, keeping in mind that risk management can be a risk in itself, including both dangers but also (risky) opportunities to be explored.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2009
Number of pages91