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Public Management Review

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Public Management Review: New Public Governance - how much is it spreading, and what are its limits?

Manuscript deadline
31 October 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Professor Viola Burau, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Denmark
[email protected]

Professor Tim Tenbensel, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
[email protected]

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Public Management Review: New Public Governance - how much is it spreading, and what are its limits?

Since the mid-1990s, public management research and theory has emphasized the growing prevalence and importance of new institutional types of public management and governance that involve greater coordination between public and private organisations, network forms of social co-ordination and co-design of publicly funded services by community organisations and service users (for example, Brock 2019; Kekez and Howlett 2019; Klijn and Koppenjan 2016; Osborne 2010; Reiter and Klenk 2019; Torfing et al. 2020).

Stephen Osborne introduced the term New Public Governance in the 2000s (Osborne 2010). We use Osborne’s formulation and theorization of NPG to develop our conceptualisation of the spread of new forms of governance. NPG represents an ideal type of public management practice and following the literature on NPG (Dickinson 2016; Douglas et al. 2020; Koppenjan and Kilba 2013; Osborne 2010), NPG is concerned with co-governance of processes and co-production of services; and NPG involves multiple, interdependent actors, who negotiate power and accountability in interorganisational networks. Because NPG spans both policy formulation and implementation (including delivery of publicly funded services), this gives the concept a distinct policy focus and highlights the importance of processes and actors engaged in these overlapping aspects of policy processes. Osborne stresses that NPG is premised on both a pluralistic and a plural state (2010, 9). The formulation of policy occurs in a pluralist context in which a range of governmental and non-governmental policy actors have a role in shaping policy decisions. The delivery of public services includes more and more diverse (plural) actors.

However, there is considerable disagreement concerning the spread of NPG. Some suggest that new forms of coordination are spreading considerably as they can better respond to “wicked problems” (Head 2022; Klijn and Koppenjan 2016; Koppenjan and Koliba 2013). Others are more cautious and point to the many difficulties in implementing new forms of governance where pre-existing public management practices (including those shaped by NPM) are resistant to NPG-type change (cf. Ferlie et al 2013; French et al. 2022; Tenbensel, Silwal, and Walton 2021). Yet others argue that the spread of NPG is highly context dependent. These newer forms of governance rarely fully replace older forms of governance, but instead add further layers to governance arrangements (Brock 2019; Dickinson 2016; Nesti 2020; Reiter and Klenk 2019; Torfing and Triantafillou 2013; Torfing et al. 2020). What this hybridity looks like is likely to vary considerably across policy and governance contexts (McMullin 2021; Osborne 2010; Rhodes 2016; Wiesel 2014).

Conceptualising the spread of NPG

The first essential dimension of our approach is that coordination spans both policy formulation and policy implementation (Osborne 2010; Torfing and Triantifillou 2013). This contrasts strongly with the preferred practices associated with other ideal types of governance (Traditional Public Administration and New Public Management), where there is a sharp distinction between the domains of formulation and implementation. Such spanning of formulation and implementation can emerge from bottom-up processes of policy development and service innovation. However, NPG initiatives often have their point of departure in policy formulation processes, particularly when and where NPG practices are initiated or sponsored by public sector organisations.

The second dimension of our approach to assessing the spread of NPG is the inclusion of actors. To what extent is there conscious effort to expand the cast of policy actors involved in policy formulation and/or delivery in coordination initiatives? Attempts to support NPG-type initiatives often begin from the pretext that a larger range of actors needs to be incorporated into policy formulation and implementation to tackle complex and multi-dimensional problems and challenges. This applies particularly to non-profit organisations, as they represent the democratic and network ethos of NPG (Brock 2020;  Chandra et al. 2022).

To these two ‘dimensions’ outlined by Osborne a third dimension of scale can be added. The spread of NPG involves the crossing of scales in policy contexts in which local service design and delivery takes place within a larger national or regional system (Wang and Ran 2023). This vertical dimension is relevant to a broad range of policy sectors, including service-oriented policy areas such as education, health and social welfare; environmental governance and resource management, disaster management, transport policy and economic development. Here we treat the “macro” scale as pertaining to national policy initiatives and settings. The “micro” scale refers to frontline service delivery and decision-making. In between these two ends of the spectrum, “meso” refers to inter-agency and inter-organisational initiatives and practices at the sub-national level. There are also contexts in which NPG practices have been used in cross-jurisdictional policy and governance.

Call for Papers

In this special issue we seek submissions that will help build an understanding of wider patterns to the spread of NPG. Is it more likely in some policy sectors than others? Do some jurisdictions have more favourable conditions enabling the spread of NPG? Are the limits to NPG spread context-specific or are there more generalisable limits? Are there inherent trade-offs between different aspects of NPG?

We seek theoretical and empirical contributions that explore the extent to which specific NPG initiatives spread in terms of one or more of these dimensions, as well as the ways in which this spread encounters limits. NPG initiatives include those that aim to develop and expand processes of collaborative governance, co-design of public services, and cross-sectoral approaches to policy issues, and can originate inside or outside of government. Contributions could include in-depth case studies from specific settings, or comparative analyses of NPG initiatives across multiple jurisdictions and/or policy sectors. Papers would need to make a contribution to scholarship on NPG as a whole, rather than focusing solely on a particular element of NPG (eg co-production). We would also welcome theoretical contributions regarding the spread and the limits of NPG, and whether and how the spread of NPG contributes to better public governance. Systematic literature reviews are welcome if they contribute to an advance in the theory of NPG.

Illustrative list of topics

  • The relationship between NPG and pre-existing and/or competing governance modes such as New Public Management or Traditional Public Administration.
  • The role of central government in sponsoring and/or inhibiting the spread of NPG
  • The role of service providers and front-line implementers in sponsoring and/or inhibiting the spread of NPG
  • The role of meso-level organisations in sponsoring and/or inhibiting the spread of NPG
  • Tensions and trade-offs between dimensions of NPG spread, or between specific components of NPG.
  • How power dynamics pertinent to specific policy domains shape the reach and the limits of NPG
  • The degree to which the reach of NPG is supported by national / jurisdictional policy styles and/or administrative traditions.
  • Case studies outlining the processes that shape the spread of NPG and the limits to its spread

Submission Instructions

High-quality submissions are sought that offer theoretical and empirical contributions to the literature on New Public Governance, and address the issue of the spread of NPG.

Abstracts should be between 300 and 500 words and should include the main points that will be covered in the research paper. Theories/perspectives, research methods, results and findings should also be briefly described. The deadline for abstracts is 31 January 2024. The format of research papers should comply with the styles of Public Management Review.

Abstract proposals and the first paper draft should be in MS Word format and be submitted to Tim Tenbensel at [email protected] by email. Final submission of revised papers should be made directly to the online submission system.

The SI editors will as soon as possible then review all abstracts and contact authors with a decision on their proposal. At this point the authors of successful proposals shall be invited to submit full papers via the journal submission system, on or before 31 October 2024.

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