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Article

The term “networks” is a broad concept that encompasses many streams of research in the public administration literature. This article focuses on organizational networks as systems in order to bring to light the challenges in researching organizational networks that result from the obscure nature of networks. Three challenges are highlighted: nomenclature, dynamism, and effectiveness. Given how little discernible there is to networks, naming networks often relies on normative assumptions (i.e., collaborative governance) or the outcome of the network (coordination network). With the dynamic nature of networks, it is difficult to study networks because ties are temporally dependent, and latent ties may not be captured. Networks are also fluid, and participants come and go. Finally, networks work in the shadows of agencies and produce intangible and often indirect effects, so assessing effectiveness is difficult. In view of these challenges, the research focuses on topics that render the network visible, like structure, governance, and tasks. Structure illuminates the invisible connections; governance provides a tangible representation for the network; and tasks elucidate what the network does. However, all three of these research foci are plagued with issues, and the focus on these topics may further obscure the less discernible elements of networks. Recognizing the challenges involved in studying the complex, obscure phenomena of networks is warranted; otherwise, the network literature will continue to be confused and lack consensus.

Article

Ryan Scott and Branda Nowell

Managing complexity requires appropriate governance structures and effective coordination, communication, and action within the incident response network. Governance structures serve as a framework to understand the interrelated relationships that exist during a crisis. Governance structures can be classified as either hierarchical and managed, autonomous and networked, or a hybrid of hierarchies and networks, and represent a continuum of crisis response systems. As such, effective crisis management is first a function of a leader’s ability to leverage hierarchical, hybrid, and network forms of crisis management governance to manage complex disasters. Second, it hinges on the proficiency of the disaster response network in managing distributed information, coordinating operations, and collaborating among jurisdictions. Combining these two points results in high-performing disaster response networks that operate fluidly between governing structures and across jurisdictions, thus increasing our national capacity to manage complex disasters.

Article

Governments operate more and more in networks and collaborative settings that require more horizontal forms of steering. This mostly is called network management and refers to all deliberative attempts to guide processes in collaborative and network settings. Empirical research has shown that network management is crucial for the performance of network and collaborative processes. But the importance of network management also means that the accountability of network managers must be organized properly.

Article

The structure of government is fundamentally a matter of multiple alignments of organizations and power involving politics, policy, administration, management, governance, and law. The alignments vary significantly, with numerous conflations of form and function. At the center of power, under immediate executive control and legislative oversight, policy and administration occurs in ministries and departments for which members of the executive are directly responsible. Beyond the center of power, with varying degrees of distance from executive control and legislative oversight, the interplay of policy, administration and management happens in an array of organizations as executive agencies and corporate entities with diffuse executive responsibility. In all alignments, the synthesis of networks and undertaking of reviews are essential, encompassing politics, policy, administration, management, governance, law, and judicial intervention of varying nature and consequence. The situation overall is one of complexity and diversity, requiring acute understanding and strategic action in response to the demands of continuity and change in the conduct of public affairs.

Article

The accountability of governments to their citizens is usually framed within a relationship of principal and agent in which the government, as agent, is obliged to answer to the citizens as agents. It is also commonly located within a structure of representative democracy where political leaders are elected by, and answerable to, the voters. However, these two theoretical frames do not adequately capture the relations of government to their citizens or the parameters of government accountability. Governments increasingly operate through non-hierarchical networks that are not subject to the vertical accountability assumed in principal-agent theory. Instead, networks offer alternative, informal accountability mechanisms based on horizontal relationships. These are evident, for example, in the responsiveness of professionals to their clients and the mutual accountability of network members to one another. These mechanisms have a sufficient share in the characteristics normally associated with accountability, including the obligations to inform, discuss, and accept consequences, for them to count as mechanisms of accountability in the usual sense. Redefinition of accountability, for instance to exclude the requirement of answering to another person or body, while understandable, is not essential. Accountability mechanisms also function without the support of effective democratic elections. For instance, formal institutions of horizontal accountability, such as courts and anti-corruption agencies, can operate in non-democratic regimes and are better seen as conditions of representative democracy rather than as consequences. Partially democratic or authoritarian regimes also exhibit various forms of social accountability in which civil society organizations call governments directly to account without recourse to state-based agencies of accountability. Large authoritarian regimes can encourage limited accountability processes as a means of bringing public pressure to bear on recalcitrant cadres. To be effective, however, all such measures require at least some legally robust support from government institutions.

Article

Transnational administration is the routinization and bureaucratization of global governance. Concepts of transnational administration move beyond methodological nationalism and absolutist understandings of administrative sovereignty vested solely with nation-state authorities to articulate various administrative arenas of global policy. Transnational administration is a new “third scale” of public administration. The first two scales of public administration are national administration, and its internationalization due to globalization, and the international public administration located in the secretariats of international organizations. Transnational administration incorporates nonstate actors in decentralized, devolved, or delegated interactions within and between policy communities operating in global and regional spheres. Organizations such as the Bank of International Settlements, the Kimberley Process, the Global Health and Partnership Model, and Transparency International highlight the actions of transnational administrative actors. Critiques of these and other organizations have raised new concerns about accountability, representation, and transparency.

Article

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the role of civil society in public governance, defined as the process of steering society and the economy through collective action and in accordance with some common objectives. Civil society holds valuable experiences, resources and ideas that may be mobilized in support of public governance processes. The heightened interest in civil society has stimulated scholarly debates about the conceptualization of civil society that tends to be defined as an institutional realm of private associations, voluntarism, and active citizens. The theoretical perception on the role of civil society vis-à-vis public governance seems to have moved from mainly considering the governance of civil society and governance in civil society to focusing on governance with civil society through various forms of collaborative network governance and co‑creation processes. In other words, civil society is no longer perceived merely as a target for public governance initiatives promoted by state agencies, nor is it solely praised for its capacity for self-governance. Civil society has been re-casted as a competent and resourceful partner in processes of co-governance in which public and private actors create a common ground for joint problemsolving. The new research on co-governance prompts analysis of the conditions for engaging civil society actors in public governance, the potential benefits and problems of governance based on interaction with civil society, and the need for meta-governance of cross-boundary collaboration. Civil society is often associated with local, place-bound groups and associations, but it is equally important to consider the prospects for global governance to involve the emerging global civil society. The interest in how civil society can play a role in and contribute to public governance has come to stay and prompts us to reflect on future research avenues, including the key question of how we can create platforms for cross-boundary collaboration between public and private for-profit and non-profit actors. As such, the re-casting of civil society as a partner in the co-governance of society also seems to transform the state from an authority standing above society to an opportunity structure that promotes cross-boundary collaboration and co-creation of public value outcomes.

Article

“Evidence-based policy making” (EBPM) has become a popular term to describe the need for more scientific and less ideological policy making. Some compare it to “evidence-based medicine,” which describes moves to produce evidence, using commonly-held scientific principles regarding a hierarchy of evidence, which can directly inform practice. Policy making is different: there is less agreement on what counts as good evidence, and more things to consider when responding to evidence. Our awareness of these differences between science and policy are not new. Current debates resemble a postwar policy science agenda, to produce more scientific and “rational” policy analysis, which faced major empirical and normative obstacles: the world is not that simple, and an overly technocratic approach to policy undermines much-needed political debate. To understand modern discussions of EBPM, key insights from previous discussions must be considered: policy making is both “rational” and “irrational”; it takes place in complex policy environments or systems, whose properties should be understood in some depth; and it can and should not be driven by “the evidence” alone.

Article

An improved understanding of foreign policy learning necessitates a clarification of what foreign policy learning is, who learns, and how such learning occurs. Cognitive and social psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists situated in a variety of subfields have contributed to the understanding of foreign policy learning, a multidisciplinary area of inquiry. Learning theorists seek to show how a change in an actor’s beliefs due to experience or observation can lead to changes at other units, such as organizations and within the government. This cognitive dimension is important because actors may pursue a new course of action for politically expedient reasons rather than having genuinely “learned”—a distinction referred to as “complex” vs. “simple” learning. Foreign policy learning can be internal or external. The former type of learning entails what individuals, governments, or organizations learn from their prior experience. Learning theorists who focus on the individual level of analysis borrow insights from political psychology in an effort to shed light on the personal characteristics, the belief structures, and the cognitive psychological mechanisms of political actors that can better inform policymaking. Leaders whose cognitive structures are described as relatively open and complex—like Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose learning brought about the dramatic changes that ultimately led to the demise of the Soviet Union—are more likely to alter their beliefs than their cognitively closed and simple counterparts. Yet external learning occurs as well. Policy diffusion studies show that learning can result from demonstration effects. Foreign policy learning via diffusion is not instrumental, but instead occurs through osmosis. Privatization in the former communist states, China’s Foreign Direct Investment liberalization, and the diffusion of environmental norms in the European Union are examples of learning that is contagious, not chosen. A more conscious mode of learning than diffusion is policy transfer, which entails policymakers’ transferring ideas from one country and implementing them in another. Technological innovations, unlike lessons that involve political ideology, are generally easier lessons to transfer—for example, Japan’s success in applying lessons from the West to modernize its army in the second half of the 19th century. The constraints to foreign policy learning are formidable. Decision makers are not always open to reconsidering views that challenge their beliefs. Leaders tend to resort to, and misuse, analogies that prevent learning. Even a change in a decision maker’s beliefs may not lead to foreign policy change, given the myriad political pressures, bureaucratic hurdles, and economic realities that often get in the way of implementing new ideas. Indeed, foreign policy learning and foreign policy change are not synonymous. Scholars face significant obstacles in studying foreign policy learning. There is no consensus on the definition of learning, on what constitutes learning, on how actors learn, when they learn, or on how to assess whether learning has taken place. Despite attempts to make sense of the confusion, scholars face the daunting challenge of improving understanding of how learning is shaped and funneled through the interaction of agents and the structures in which they are situated, as well as the relationship between learning and foreign policy change.