Assessing public networks: Proposal for a new unit of analysis: New steering concepts in public management

Research output: Book chapterChapter

Abstract

The increase in the variety and complexity of forms of collaboration between public-public, public-private, and public-non-profit actors (OCDE, 2005; Skelcher et al., 2005) is laying the groundwork for a future scenario in which governments must effectively manage all the necessary networks to develop the relational state (Mendoza and Vernis, 2008). When we analyse the specific intergovernmental issues leading to this future scenario, one of the most important is the issue of effective management. This is true for the networks in which the government participates or leads, and also true in terms of 'network portfolio', a concept we introduce in this chapter. Our study is based on an analysis of 44 local intergovernmental networks. It serves as the basis to illustrate different ways in which the network portfolio concept can contribute to improving our understanding of network management within public management. In other words, the question we aim to answer is: how can a 'network portfolio' focus help to improve our understanding of network management within public management? Actively incorporating this perspective will help public decision-makers strategically manage the global set of networks in which they participate; and help these decision-makers make better decisions about collaborative public networks. At a broader level, the evidence produced by this study connects with emerging literature and recent attempts to examine networks from a more holistic point of view (Klijn et al., 1995; Addicott et al. 2006; Agranoff, 2006; Agranoff, 2007; Provan and Kenis, 2008; Rainey, 2008; Weber and Khademian, 2008). The object of analysis is not the internal organisations or the relationships within the network; neither is it the networks as instrumental units of governance in opposition to hierarchical or market instruments ('whole networks'). The object of analysis is the integral governance models that characterise different networks (Provan and Kenis, 2008; Kenis and Provan, 2009; Lemaire and Provan, 2009). The primary contribution of our research is the link established between this integral network governance analysis in public management and the knowledge generated from an alliance portfolio view. This perspective has recently appeared in private management literature (Parise and Casher, 2003; Hoffmann, 2005; Reuer and Ragozzino, 2006; Heimeriks et al. 2009; Lavie, 2009; Ozcan and Eisenhardt, 2009; Sarkar et al., 2009; Wassmer, 2010). According to research by Wassmer (2010), the reasons why organisations create network portfolios include: (1) an increase in productivity due to the tendency to do away with overlapping tasks between organisations; (2) the possibility of managing risks and doubt; (3) greater and better access to information and knowledge; (4) the possibility of filling structural gaps that networks cannot fill on their own and the possibility of identifying shared opportunities; and (5) the ability to shape the nature of competition by being in contact with other organisations in the same industry. The findings of this chapter focus on three areas. Firstly, using the network portfolio as the unit of analysis enables us to identify the determining factors of public network governance beyond the network borders. Secondly, this new unit of analysis incorporates the 'holistic' network view and, as such, improves the conceptualisation of the various taxonomies by enabling a comparative analysis (Agranoff, 2006; Provan and Kenis, 2008). Identifying a given player as the network portfolio's focal organisation enables us to establish distinctions between all the networks it manages, both in terms of objectives, as well as in the types of governance models used (with different levels of authority and power). Lastly, the network portfolio perspective helps us delimit the six key aspects that public managers will have to pay attention to in order to successfully lead their networks: (1) authority; (2) power; (3) communi
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew steering concepts in public management
Pages41-56
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2011

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