HomeActing managers in public policy networks

Acting managers in public policy networks

Le manager dans les réseaux de l'action publique

New practices and solutions under the pressure of budget cuts and performance expectations

Entre coupes budgétaires et attentes de performance

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Published on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 by Rémi Boivin


Our Seminar renews its interest for the skills, practices and tools of the public manager, this time in the context of public policy networks. Public managers today invest in networked activities: they must show political and strategic acumen, balance responsibilities and performances, negotiate resources, modernize their work and coordination tools, and rationalize activities under budget constraints. The lasting economic and budget crises call us to enhance and renew our knowledge in these areas. This may be achieved through empirical studies and dialogue between public officials and researchers.



Acting managers in public policy networks: New practices and solutions under the pressure of budget cuts and performance expectations

EGPA French-Speaking Seminar, Annual Conference of the European Group for Public Administration, in Speyer (Germany), 10-12 Sept 2014.

With the support of the Institute for Public Management and Economic Development (IGPDE) of the French Ministry of the Economy and Finance.

The previous editions of the French-speaking seminar (F2S) underlined the multiplication of constraints in the work environment of public managers. Amongst these the surge of reporting and performance evaluations, pressures from public service users and the context of crisis, decreasing endowments, the pervasiveness of ICTs, social networks, participative and co-productive logics. The era invites to swift decision-making, constant change management, imagination, and innovation.

One of the reasons is the complex and fluid context of contemporary public affairs. Throughout Europe, most fields of public policy (health, urban planning, economic development, transport, social relief) are implemented through networks. The governance concept overshadows the government and administrative tasks (Frederikson 2005) and brings together State and local administrations, agencies, citizens, and businesses.

This topic is over familiar to public administrators. ‘Big problems are in need of big solutions’. Devolutions in Southern Europe and NPM in the Northern countries have left behind a fragmented landscape of authority, information, and resources. As a result, interdependence is organized under contractual forms (State-Region project agreements, urban development contracts) or institutionally (poles of competitiveness, regional clusters, groupings of territorial cooperation). The EU encouraged this approach through its management of structural funds (Jordana et al. 2012) and further formalized multi-level partnerships as principles of community action (Art. 11 of EU regulation No 1303/2013).

Of course, public network management is well documented by political and administrative sciences (Cleveland 1972, Scharpf 1978, Rhodes 1988, le Galès et Thatcher 1995). The field is now rife with new terminology: New public governance, joined-up government, whole of government, networked government, horizontal management, partnerships, collaborative public management (Koppenjan and Klijn 2004, Osborne 2009, Christensen et Laegreid 2011).

However, management practitioners confirm the need to revisit these concepts. The economic and debt crises changed the games throughout the EU. Public administrations clarify their missions, performance, and accountabilities, and redraw their budgets around core priorities. How does this impact collaborative work? How can the continuity of partnerships be maintained? And their goals? How can public managers bear out their own charges and objectives within these networks?

The answer to these questions is to be searched in the microdynamics of network participation and activities. Indeed, global analyses of administrative systems are progressively downplayed. Thus, the World Bank recently reviewed its doctrine (2012) and highlighted the risks of an excessive focus on structural reforms and universal solutions. This provides impetus to the idea that “good-enough governance” makes up a satisficing basis (Grindle 2013, 2007), and that researchers are to join the public actors in looking for targeted, flexible, and creative solutions to concrete issues of collaborative management. Therefore heed may be given to managerial discretion, the adaptation needs coming from the field, to the emergent and self-organizing features of network activities.

Hence we encourage the joint exploration by researchers and practitioners of the empirical, day-to-day tasks and challenges of network activities. We welcome grounded theorizing, case studies, accounts of practical experience, along with bold theorizations. The aim is to shed light on the micro- and meso-dynamics of partnership systems, to discuss the factors of political sociability, the networks’ outcomes and processes. Also, we need to explore how austerity affects these interactions and, eventually, gives rise to a new figure of the public network manager. We thus prolong the Seminar’s previous editions, whose focus on the manager, the skills, knowledge, and tools he needs in dealing with shared activities and aims, must provide administrators with useful hands-on information in dealing with current concerns. 

The list hereby provides an unexclusive collection of topics open to discussion:

1. Resource management and the rationalization of networked public actions. The austerity context induces two contrasting views of network costs. On one hand, joint action is seen as a means to contain the fragmentation of actors and resources. It reduces over- laps, encourages mutualizations, synergies, and economies of scale. On the other hand, partnerships generate excessive overhead, transaction and coordination costs, slow de- cision-making and implementation. Inclination to tests, self-organization, and unchecked innovations may also be viewed as inefficient. Can audit and management control account for these financial stakes? Which are the main paths for network rationalization? Does the cost-consciousness of network members endanger their existence, or can network legiti- macy be strengthened through economic calculus and perception management?

2. Measures of network performance, expectations and accountability in a crisis context. The establishment of performance measurements for networked activities gives rise to complex and reciprocated accountabilities. Collective and political responsibilities are balanced with the expectations of partner institutions (Hondeghem & Stee 2013). Then again, growing financial pressures set forth requests of efficacy and efficiency. Can contem- porary evaluation tools and practices provide satisfactory answers? Does the crisis context induce specific trends? Simplification? Greater elaboration? Are shared, multidimensional, and ambiguous accountabilities (Laegreid & Mattei 2013) functional or dysfunctional? Does perceptions management overcome effective measures?

3. Tools and practices of public network members. Within networks, the horizontality of interactions, the plurality of actors, the diversity of goals, interests, and strategies explain the salience of negotiation as practice (Jordana et al. 2012). The participants’ first duty is to establish a favorable framework for interaction and collective decisions. Hence, suggestions are made to trade planning for goal finding and perception accommodation, organizing for the choice of flexible arrangements, leading for the arts of communication and coordination (Klijn 2005). Nonetheless, planning and future studies are thoroughly maintained. Are they effective, or mere facades for legitimacy and control? When is it reasonable to cut down or enforce the tools of monitoring and activity control? Are ICTs and shared norms helpful to establish dialogue and mutual understanding? Does Europeanization support these trends?

4. Networks as politics. Although institutions leave a heavy imprint on the emergence and activity of partnerships (Ysa & Esteve 2013), personal relations, initiative, and character are tantamount for organizing and deploying negotiation processes. Networks are arenas (Klijn 2005) whose creation, rule setting, and stability depend on personal capacities to pool common interests, generate trust, establish and confirm memberships, exclusion, and legi- timacy. Social network methods have long contributed to the identification of critical roles and the explanation of network integration or dissolution. They may shed further light on the identity and roles of initiators, leaders, and referees. But what lessons can provide fur- ther qualitative, bourdieusian approaches (Georgakakis et Weisbein 2010, Arnholtz 2012)? Can the crisis transform the participants’ resources and symbolic capital? Have networks become more conflict-prone? How big are the risks to see the networks’ politics drive out production functions? Can and should this be avoided?

5. Distributed leadership and decision behaviors in network management. The ma- nagers’ decisions in this context raise many questions. Uncertainties influence the choice of solutions, but also their timing, and problem definition (Klijn 2005). The margins and rules of decision-making are open to innovation, and some individual ore collective leadership is indeed requested. How are these constructed? Are the managers’ or the politicians’ roles 

favored by the crisis, and is this a positive or negative influence on network functions? How do members mix their leadership, co-leadership, and follower roles? How difficult will that be and to what effects?

6. Competence and strategies in networks. The choice of network representatives in originating institutions is governed by complex criteria. Capacities to influence a social group are frequently cited, but ‘followership’ strategies may be equally effective. Recruit- ments must take into account a qualifying resource basis: authority, negotiating talents, social attachment, trust, and acquaintance capital (Jordana et al. 2012), as well as technical and institutional skills (Georgakakis et de Lassalle 2007). Will the crisis impose also a return of ethical values and a culture of cohesiveness (Christensen et Laegreid 2011)? Or does it favor pragmatism, creative, flexible, but also less controllable profiles (Grindle 2013)?

Deadlines and submission

We invite researchers and practitioners to submit a two-page abstract with the following format:

  • Communication title

  • Topics or keywords

  • Main issues or research questions

  • Brief outline of research methods or empirical approaches

  • First results

  • Selective bibliography

  • Name of the authors, organizational membership, coordinates (address, email, telephone number)

Proposals should be uploaded through the submission website www.egpa-conference2014.org until May 31rst 2014

Deadline for decision and selection by the co-chairs: 1 June 2014
Deadline for submitting the complete papers: 5 August 2014

For more information, please contact the Seminar’s coordinator:

Dr. Emil TURC

CERGAM /Institut de Management Public et Gouvernance Territoriale

Université d’Aix-Marseille

Further information is available on the conference website:


Scientific Committee :

  • Annie BARTOLI, professeur, Université de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France.
  • Véronique CHANUT, professeur, Université Panthéon-Assas, Paris, France.
  • Yves EMERY, professeur, IDHEAP, Lausanne, Suisse.
  • Jan MATTIJS, professeur, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgique.
  • Nicolas MATYJASIK, PhD, chercheur, Institut de la Gestion Publique et du Développement Economique, Paris, France.
  • Bachir MAZOUZ, professeur, ENAP, Québec, Canada.
  • Marius PROFIROIU, professeur, Académie des Etudes Economiques, Bucarest, Roumanie.
  • Benoît RIGAUD, PhD, chargé de recherche, ENAP, Québec, Canada.
  • Coordinators :
  • Robert FOUCHET, professeur, Université d’Aix-Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, France.
  • Emil TURC, Maître de Conférences, Université d’Aix-Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, France.


  • Arnholz, J. (2012), “Elites in the European Field of Power - Reproduction, Transformation and Matters of Content”, Praktiske Grunde, N° 2-3.
  • Banque Mondiale(2012) Approach to public sector management 2011-2020 : Better results from public sector institutions. Washington DC : World Bank.
  • Brunsson, N. (1982), “The irrationality of action and action rationality: decisions, ideologies and organizational actions”, Journal of Management Studies, 19:1.
  • Christensen, T., Laegreid, P. (2011), “Post-NPM Reforms: Whole of Government Approaches as a New Trend”, in Groeneveld, S. et S. Van de Walle (Eds.) New Steering Concepts in Public Management, Series Research in Public Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 21, Bingley: Emerald.
  • Cleveland, H. (1972), The Future Executive: A Guide for Tomorrow’s Managers, New York: Harper & Row.
  • Frederickson, H. G. (2005), “Whatever Happened to Public Administration? Governance, Governance Everywhere”, in Ferlie, E., L.E. Lynn Jr. et C. Pollitt (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Public Management, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Georgakakis, D., de Lassalle, M. (2007), « Genèse et structure d'un capital institutionnel européen : Les très hauts fonctionnaires de la Commission européenne », Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 2007/1 n° 166-167
  • Georgakakis, D., Weisbein, J. (2010), “From above and from below: A political sociology of European actors”, Comparative European Politics 8.
  • Grindle, M.S. (2007), Going Local: Decentralization, Democratization, and the Promise of Good Governance, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Grindle, M.S. (2013), “La réforme du secteur public - une solution aux problèmes ? Commentaires sur la stratégie de gestion du secteur public de la Banque mondiale pour 2011 à 2020 », Revue Internationale des Sciences Administratives, 2013/3 Vol. 79
  • Groen, C., Houlberg Salomonsen, H. (2013), “Who’s at the table? An analysis of participants in EU Council of Ministers meetings”, European Group of Public Administration (EGPA) Annual Conference, 11-13 Sept. 2013, Edinburgh.
  • Hondeghem, A., Steen, T. (2013), “Haute fonction publique : quelques comparaisons internationales », Revue Internationale des Sciences Administratives, 2013/1 - Vol. 79
  • Jordana, J., Mota, F., Noferini, A. (2012), “Le rôle du capital social dans les réseaux politiques. Constatations émanant de la politique de cohésion européenne en Espagne”, Revue Internationale des Sciences Administratives, 2012/4 - Vol. 78
  • Klijn, E.-H. (2005), « Networks and Inter-organizational Management: Challenging, Steering, Evaluation, and the Role of Public Actors in Public Management”, in Ferlie, E., L.E. Lynn Jr. et C. Pollitt (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Public Management, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Koppenjan, J., Klijn, E.-H. (2004) Managing Uncertainties in Networks: A NetworkApproach to Problem Solving and Decision Making, London: Routledge.
  • Laegreid, P., Mattei, P. (2013), « Introduction : la réforme de l'état-providence et les implications pour l'imputabilité dans une perspective comparative », Revue Internationale des Sciences Administratives, 2013/2 - Vol. 79
  • Osborne, S.P. (2009), The New Public Governance? Emerging Perspectives on the Theory and Practice of Public Governance, London: Routledge.
  • Rhodes, R.A.W. (1988), Beyond Westminster and Whitehall: The Sub-central Governments of Britain, London: Unwin Hyman.
  • Scharpf, F.W. (1978), “Interorganizational Policy Studies: Issues, Concepts and Perspectives”, in Hanf, K. et F.W. Scharpf Interorganizational policy making: Limits to coordination and central control, London: Sage.
  • Smith, A. (2003), « Multi-Level Governence : What It Is and How It Can Be Studied”, in Peters, B.G. & J. Pierre (Eds.) Handbook of Public Administration, London: Sage.
  • Ysa, T., Esteve, M. (2013), « Assessing Public Networks: Proposal for a New Unit of Analysis”, in Groeneveld, S. et S. Van de Walle (Eds.) New Steering Concepts in Public Management, Series Research in Public Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 21, Bingley: Emerald.


  • Speyer, Federal Republic of Germany


  • Saturday, May 31, 2014


  • Administration, network, performance, gouvernance


  • Emil Turc
    courriel : emil [dot] turc [at] univ-amu [dot] fr

Information source

  • Jan Mattijs
    courriel : jan [dot] mattijs [at] ulb [dot] ac [dot] be

To cite this announcement

« Acting managers in public policy networks », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, https://calenda.org/289522

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