Public administration and governance seem like two virtually identical things to the untrained eye, as both deal with governmental matters and relate to dealing with the public in civic matters. They are not as similar as they seem, however. Public administration and governance can both be very different ways of administering governmental principles. Understand the differences when dealing with either, or when implementing one or the other.
Governance is the act of governing. It is the creation of laws, policies that shape a country, state or province through debate and discussion. Governance is the brain that creates the various aspects of society. Public administration, on the other hand, the act of implementing the results of governance, ensuring that a work force of enforcers can carry out the will of governance.
Governance and public administration are similar to the body and head of a person. The governing body is the head: it issues commands to the rest of the body, which the body -- the public administration -- then carries out. Without the governing body, the public administration would not have any regulations and would be rendered useless, and without public administration governance would be impotent. You can't have one without the other.
A governing body is one that's highly recognizable, though it can range from a large organization to a single person. Traditionally speaking, especially when related to public administration, a governing body is a parliament or senate that identifies and manages societal issues. Public administration -- the tax collectors, the police officers, the mail clerks and their associated teacher and governing bodies -- then carry out what is decided on in the governing body.
Governance and public administration are somewhat amorphous terms. They can apply to more than just a government and its limbs. For example, a company can also have both aspects. The CEOs and members of the board who decide company policy serve as a governing board. The human resource departments and managers ensure that employees stick to the decisions made by the governors.
- Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images