[The content of this article has been produced by our advertising partner.] A glance at Dr Bert GEORGE’s academic qualifications and you would half expect to meet an economist-cum-business entrepreneur, yet the moment he walks into a room to talk about his research into public administration, his passion and enthusiasm light up the place. “It doesn’t seem obvious when you look at my background in business administration and economics and now in public administration,” says the Associate Professor at the Department of Public and International Affairs of CityU. “It’s not a usual route, but it was a question of my own purpose and what I wanted to achieve in life.” George received a BSc in Business Administration, then an MSc in Strategic Management, and finally did his PhD in Applied Economics at the Ghent University in Belgium. And it was during his earlier BA studies that he was drawn to the social side of his studies, taking a keen interest in public economics, the business of government and international organisations. Finally, it was during his first public administration conference when the penny dropped and he realised what he wanted to do, which was to effect change and make his mark in the field of public administration. “They were talking about public value, being more responsive and collaborative as public organisations and being more equitable, and this was inspiring and pushed me into this field—I was just so inspired by the purpose of making society better and helping public organisations tackle big challenges and create value for their service users,” he beams. George has travelled the world, advising public organisations and international bodies. His research interests can be structured into two areas: the processes and behaviour underlying public sector strategy, and the drivers and characteristics of public sector performance. Good Timing to Rebuild the City Having only recently moved to Hong Kong, George is visibly impressed and passionate about the city he now calls home. From the MTR system, the strong sense of community, and the world-class museums, to the efficiency of tax services, he continuously praises what Hong Kong has to offer its residents and the world. For this reason, he wants to contribute and help the city hit a reset button following more than three tumultuous years. “Since coming here, there has been a restart, and we can see a lot of people becoming excited again, so we see a lot of opportunities and this is crucial. We need to put the past behind us and rebuild Hong Kong to be the Pearl of the Orient and Asia’s Global City,” he says. He adds that he spends much of his time focused on thinking about how his research could help Hong Kong move forward. “That’s a great deal of my ambition and one of my main focus points has always been strategy, which centres on establishing a shared and inclusive vision for the future, forming goals and priorities to help achieve that vision, and developing concrete and implementable strategies aimed at realising those goals.” Indeed, George is no stranger when it comes to advising public organisations and international bodies. He has worked with organisations like the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and advised public organisations on implementing strategic planning and management practices, as well as taught public managers in countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Suriname, the UAE, Georgia, Vietnam and the UK. As if that is not impressive enough, his work is regularly published in top ranking journals including the Public Administration Review and the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. In fact, his works have also been cited in high profile policy-relevant reports and plans such as the 2022 US Budget Guidance for US Federal Agencies, as well as received recognition and awards from professional organisations including the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and the European Group for Public Administration (EGPA). With such a volume of experience, George feels that he is able to bring in international examples and add value to public managers, as well as students—the future public managers—to plan and manage more strategically. “Public administration in practice tends to have an operational focus on procedures and daily routines, but we are trying to encourage a strategic approach. You need to have operational capacity in place, but what we also need to think about is where we want to go with our organisation, why we want to go there and how we get there.” With most of his research focused on outcomes, he studies how public organisations can perform better and what “better” performance means in the public sector. “It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day nitty gritty operational stuff, and so the challenge for public managers is how to get off that bicycle and get on a helicopter to see that broader view and take a holistic approach, to understand whether they are still on the path to achieving a shared and inclusive vision,” he says. In fact, as part of his research into these areas, a key factor that drew George to CityU is the University’s entrepreneurial and innovative mindset which has resulted in the development of one of the very first laboratories to use rigorous research to enhance the performance of public organisations. Applying Neuroscience in Public Administration As a member of the Laboratory for Public Management and Policy, George is part of a handful of researchers who study policy and organisational design, management practices and interactions between citizens, interest groups and public organisations. The lab focuses on experimental designs, systematic research synthesis and analysis of observational data to make best practice recommendations and suggestions. Riding on this, George wants to inspire his students while getting on his own helicopter to think about how to create purpose and reinvent himself. “I’m keen on developing new approaches through my research by using neuroscience, it’s been at the top of my mind, no pun intended,” he says with a smile. With CityU’s capabilities and its focus on the brain as one of its key strategic pillars, George hopes to further understand neurological responses to public administration phenomenon both in citizen-state interactions but also in managerial decision-making. “That’s really been a black box in our field and I want to see how public administration and neuroscience can be blended and advanced in our field, that’s something I hope to develop by coming here, a neuro public administration,” he says.