80 | 30, pp. 79-106 | doxa.comunicación

January-June of 2020

Analysis of the components of the intangible asset known as Citizen Engagement in the public sector

ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978

1. Introduction: intangible assets in the public sector

The increase in social unrest following the economic crisis of 2008 has contributed to weakening the link between citizens and political leaders and has demonstrated the need for Administration to pay greater attention to the intangible assets that define its relationship with citizens. With the aim of verifying whether the management of such assets is the key to accurately addressing the problem of the current mistrust by the public sector, the focus of this study is to consider whether Citizen Engagement is one of the main intangible assets that requires reflection.

Kaplan and Norton (2004: 10-14) defined an intangible asset as the “knowledge that exists in an organization to create a distinct advantage”, as well as the “capability of a company’s employees to satisfy customer needs”. According to their research, “an organization’s intangible assets can easily represent more than 75 percent of its value”, hence the importance for entities to differentiate themselves from competitors through strategies that create “value from both tangible as well as intangible assets”.

Despite the fact that “the management of intangible assets is the foundation of growth among organizations (including those that are public)” (Sztompka, 1999 quoted in Canel and Luoma-aho, 2017: 29), it is the corporate sector that has devoted more attention and resources to its identification and care. Companies have recognized their intangible assets, differentiating between those that are generative (human capital, structural capital and relational capital) and those that are commercially exploitable (production costs, intangible property rights, client capital, demand, and management) (Torres, 1991; Bontis, Dragoneti, Jacobsen and Roos, 1999; Bossi, Fuertes and Serrano, 2001; Kernagham, 2003; García de Castro, Merino, Plaz and Villar, 2004; Kaplan and Norton, 2004; Ramírez, 2010). From that moment on, they have established strategies to align their intangible assets with their mission and vision, and to measure them as well (Kaplan and Norton, 2004).

Although reforms in the public sector have included the implementation of different management tools used in the business sector, it is complicated to apply certain corporate features, one of which concerns us, because of the differences between the two contexts. Among these differences is the difficulty on the part of Administration in defining outputs and measuring inputs. Moreover, the efficiency of the public sector is more complicated to assess, as its productive resources are mostly intangible (human resources and knowledge), its objectives are different, and the public it addresses is not the same (Ramírez, 2010).To these unique features, De Escalada (2007) adds another one of equal importance: “public

from European surveys of 2013 and refer to 27 countries on the continent. Finally, the article provides suggestions to institutions in order for them to establish relationships with their audiences.


Citizen engagement; intangible assets; public administration; pu-blic relations; communication; components.

tinuación, se ha desarrollado un análisis factorial. Los datos han sido obtenidos de encuestas europeas del año 2013 y se refieren a 27 países del continente. Finalmente, el artículo aporta sugerencias para que las instituciones establezcan relaciones con sus públicos.

Palabras clave:

Compromiso ciudadano, bienes intangibles, administración públi-ca, relaciones públicas, comunicación, componentes.