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Deadline: 14 June 2019

Implementing Collaborative Governance:

Models, Experiences, and Challenges

Collaborative Governance

Fragmentation in public policy design and implementation is often a main cause of inconsistency in the attempt to improve community outcomes. Discrepancies between short-term outputs and long-term outcomes, along with unintended side-effects of prior implemented policies, are often symptomatic from attempts by individual organizations to fix ‘wicked’ community problems. For example, a local government adopts a new policy to increase parking and transportation infrastructure capacity to alleviate urban traffic congestion. This policy may work in the short-term; however, traffic congestion may increase in the long-run as the improvement of urban infrastructure capacity may induce more drivers to use private transportation rather than the alternative – and more ecologically sustainable – public transportation. Another possible consequence is the increase of pollution in the long-run, which further reduces community attractiveness and quality of life. 

‘Wicked’ problems cannot be clustered within single organizational boundaries because they possess dynamic and complex characteristics, involving multi-level, multi-actor, and multi-sectoral challenges (Head and Alford, 2013; Laegreid and Rykkja, 2014). Through collaborative governance, a public-sector institution involves other community stakeholders in carrying out a strategic learning process aimed at framing public value, its drivers, and the strategic resources needed to affect community outcomes. This learning process supports the design of ‘robust’ policies, implying an outcome-based view. This entails a co-design, co-production, and co-assessment of policies from all community stakeholders, with the goal of pursuing community resilience and sustainable socio-economic development (Bovaird, 2007; Torfing and Ansell, 2016).


In spite of the substantial literature on collaborative governance, the maturation process of knowledge and practice of the field is still developing at a significant pace, both from a conceptual and an empirical standpoint. Such phenomenon also is witnessed by the variegated terminology contained in the literature around related concepts encompassing: public governance, networks, collaboration, and public value. Similar terms also have been used within the field, implying affinities, differences, and connections among them. Examples include collaborative governance (Ansell & Gash, 2007), new public governance (Osborne, 2010), governance networks (Klijn, 2008), policy networks (Klijn et al, 2000; Rhodes, 1990), network governance (Rhodes, 2017), cross sector collaboration (Bryson et al, 2006), public value governance (Bryson et al, 2014), participatory governance (Fung & Wright, 2001), and holistic governance (Perri et al, 2002). They all refer to multi-actor collaboration, usually led by a public sector organization aimed at building consensus among stakeholders on a formal set of policies designed and implemented to generate public value. This literature, as a result, provides the conceptual background for our symposium that aims to outline models, experiences, and challenges of implementing collaborative governance.

Klijn and Koppenjan (2000) suggested that the implementation of collaborative governance requires complex interactions between large numbers of interdependent actors. However, the scholars maintained that this interaction is not simple or spontaneous, requiring different types of game management and network constitution in order to achieve some level of success. Peters (2015) even suggested that a perspective of democracy and inclusion is even admirable, before concluding that openness, agreement, decision-making, and coordination within a collaborative model may be difficult to achieve. Therefore, collaboration is not an automatic effect from developing interdependent networks within a community, which may require the notion of craftsmanship to produce public value (Bardach, 1998 and Peters, 2015). Another layer of complexity when implementing collaborative governance is the pursuit of sustainable outcomes, which must be identified, agreed upon, and evaluated based consensus from community stakeholders.

The need to understand the collaborative process (Ansell & Gash, 2007) and how it affects and is affected by outcomes (Crosby and Bryson, 2010; Klijn et al, 2010) also is critically important to the implementation literature, explaining how and why the design of “formal” organizational factors (protocols, rules, structures and roles) to enable collaboration may or may not generate the intended outcomes. The literature includes the relevance of “informal factors” (e.g., facilitative leadership, trust, commitment, shared understanding, and values) to explain “how to” put collaborative governance into practice as to generate sustainable outcomes. Implementing collaborative governance is turning good intentions and the formal respect of protocols into real collaboration.

Even well-designed collaborative programs can result in failure. This is often due to the diversity of involved stakeholders and to lack of suitable models or methods to support leadership, so to enhance a strategic learning process among involved actors, to manage conflicts, to build trust, to pursue a commonly shared view, and to identify and evaluate outcomes. Consequently, different steering and management strategies are required (Klijn, 2008). A focus on implementation implies an attention on how to generate viable and sustainable outcomes from the design, implementation, management, and leadership of a governance network.

Research has emphasized how in today’s complex, plural, and fragmented governance settings (Osborne, 2010) a single organization is able to manage only a subset of the strategic resources affecting the wider system outcomes. In this context, innovative performance governance (Bouckaert & Hallighan 2008) methods can become a key to foster the implementation of a ‘whole of government’ approach (Christensen & Lægreid, 2007), and to support an inter-institutional perspective where policy coordination and collaborative governance foster better community outcomes.

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Guest Editors:

Carmine Bianchi is a Professor of Public Management in the Department of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Palermo. His research focuses on dynamic performance management and governance within the public sector.

Greta Nasi is an Associate Professor of Public Management in the Department of Social and Political Sciences at Bocconi University. Her field of study includes innovation, digital transformation, and public services.

William C. Rivenbark is a Professor of Public Management in the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He specializes in local government administration, focusing primarily on performance and financial management. 

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The purpose of our symposium is to advance our understanding of the cross-cutting and complex issues of collaborative governance implementation, which include: a) supporting the collaborative process with the use of models and methods to improve a shared understanding of community problems and outcomes, b) enhancing the interplay between service policy and service delivery within a collaborative governance environment to specifically address these problems and outcomes, and c) combining a public service view with an institutional view to overcome the traditional myopic and bounded perspectives of public organizations.

This type of research would include collaborative governance models used in practice, experiences from community leaders that have served as community stakeholders within these models, and the successes and failures of overcoming the inertia of a community perspective bounded by a single institutional view. It also would include more in-depth analysis on the implementation of the various components of cross-sector collaboration (Bryson and Crosby, 2006). They include initial conditions for collaborative governance, process, structure and governance, contingencies and constraints, and accountabilities, and outcomes. The scope of this call, as a result, includes the following within the context of theoretical and empirical manuscripts:

  • The development of governance networks
    • How to foster the development of governance networks of public sector organizations that may lead to sustainable community outcomes?
    • How to model such sustainability?
    • What are its key-components and drivers?
    • How to model, benchmark and assess the effects on social and financial outcomes of alternative organizational designs of networks and of other hybrid formulas for providing community support and generating public value?
  • Measuring and managing the performance of governance networks
    • How to measure network performance?
    • What are its main outcomes and drivers?
    • How to assess the outcomes of collaborative governance?
    • How to model relational and social capital?
    •  What are their drivers?
    • What is the role that Information and Communication Technology may play to enhance collaborative governance?
    • How to model the processes through which trust is built or eroded in a community area?
    • What role may system modeling methods play to boost the capability of a leading public sector organization to map stakeholders and to involve them to pursue a common shared view of the hidden feedback structure underlying the behavior of desired policy outcomes over time?
  • (Re)designing performance management systems to foster collaborative governance
    • How to measure and affect community outcomes?
    • How to set agency outcomes which are consistent with community outcomes?
    • What are the drivers and the behavioral implications associated with this process?
    • How to extend the focus of performance management from the perspective of agency efficiency and effectiveness to an assessment of the quality and sustainability of the designed policies – shared by different stakeholders – and of their aptitude to have an impact on the quality of life of a community?
    • How to model the drivers impacting on the quality and sustainability of adopted policies?
    • Among such drivers, what is the role played by culture, trust, legislation and rules, stakeholders’ identification and selection, financial and non-financial incentives towards collaboration in affecting the aptitude of designed policies to pursue the sustainability and resilience of a community?
    • How to model, to measure, and to affect the drivers of information sharing among stakeholders? How to model their effects on network performance?
    • How to embody public values into performance evaluation, so to consider not only efficiency and effectiveness in policy implementation, but also equity, social justice and quality of life?
    • What is the role of education in developing such a shift of mind in performance evaluation? What kind of skills, attitudes and values should be fostered?
    • What kind of changes should be fostered to enable this shift in performance management? More specifically, what are the implications of such shift for cultural, institutional/legislative, and organizational systems? How to pursue such changes?
  • Implementing collaborative governance
    • What are the drivers of integrative leadership to foster collaborative governance?
    • How to model the effects of leadership on cross-sector collaboration, and on the generation of community public value?
    • How to foster outcome-based accountability (at both a political and a managerial level) if a single agency can directly affect only a fraction of community outcomes?
    • How to foster an interdisciplinary approach in designing and implementing sustainable governmental reforms aimed at generating community outcomes and public value?

Submission Guidelines

Authors should submit their proposals of no more than 1,000 words, including references, to Carmine Bianchi no later than June 14, 2019. If accepted for development after a desk review by the guest editors, full papers are due by December 20, 2019 and will be subject to a blind review process as required by Public Management Review. Therefore, acceptance of a proposal is a commitment to review rather than acceptance for publication.

  • June 14, 2019: Proposals to guest editors
  • July 15, 2019: Proposal decisions to authors to proceed to submission
  • December 20, 2019: Deadline for full papers to guest editors
  • March 27, 2020: 1st round blind review process completed
  • June 24, 2020: Revised papers due deadline
  • September 24, 2020: Second round blind review process completed and decision on which submitted papers to accept
  • November 5, 2020: Submission of manuscripts to Routledge
  • February 1, 2021: Online publication of special issue, with hard copy publication following in approximately 1 month.

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Bouckaert, G., & Halligan, J. (2008). Managing performance: International comparisons. New York: Routledge.
Bovaird, T. (2007). Beyond Engagement and Participation: User and Community Coproduction of Public Services. Public Administration Review 67, no. 5: 846-860. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6210.2007.00773.x.
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