Journal articles

Hart, P. ’t, Binnema, H., Michels a., van der Torre, L. (2020) Democratic Innovations in Dutch Local Government: Experimentation in Search of Strategy.

Many attempts to innovate local democracy focus on enhancing dialogue and fostering collaboration between citizens, local politicians and local public servants. Their architects claim, as do many academics, that these innovations have positive effects on the quality of democratic governance. But what do they actually value when they do so? We distinguish three theoretical perspectives on the contribution of local democracy innovations: (1) a problem solving perspective: democratic innovation as a precondition for more effective public policy design and delivery; (2) a democratic quality perspective: democratic innovation as a contribution to embedding process values such as inclusion, participation and empowerment into local political processes; (3) an institutional capacity perspective: democratic innovation as a means to improve the capacity of the local government organization to connect with and process the needs, aspirations and concerns of local citizens of different stripes. We present evidence from case studies of four mid-sized municipalities in the Netherlands and show that the assessment of ‘democratic innovation’ varies among politicians, decision-makers and civil servants involved in local democracy innovations. Democratic innovations are neither designed nor assessed according to a single, coherent and widely shared innovation philosophy.

Compton, M. E., Luetjens, J. & Hart, P. 't (2019). Designing for Policy Success.

Amidst the general mood of skepticism about the problem-solving capacity of governments in the face of ‘wicked problems’, it is easy to overlook that at times governments do manage to design and implement public policies and programs quite successfully. In this paper, we build on an emerging area of ‘positive evaluation’ research into public policy successes (Bovens et al 2001; McConnell 2010; Nielsen et al 2015). Using the conceptual tools emanating from this research and drawing on a corpus of 33 such cases (Compton and ‘t Hart 2019; Luetjens et al, 2019), we draw inferences about the contexts, strategies, and practices that are conducive to policy success. We find compelling evidence that process inclusivity is a pivotal factor, but cer- tainly not the only one, on the path to policy success. Variation in the degree of innovation and the pace of change also emerge as interdependent and important factors. The article can be read online Here.

Douglas, S. & Hart, P. 't (2019) Wanneer worden gemeenten gezien als waardevol? Bestuurskunde.

SPG members Scott douglas and Paul 't Hart have written an article for the journal Bestuurskunde about the value of municipalities. The article is in Dutch.

Hart, P. t' & McConnell, A. (2019) Inaction and Public Policy Why policymakers 'Do Nothing'. Policy Sciences

In recent decades the policy sciences has struggled to come to terms with the significance of inaction in public policy. Inaction refers to instances when policymakers ‘do nothing’ about societal issues. This article aims to put the study of inaction on a new footing. It presents a five-part typology of forms of inaction before focusing on detail on core drivers of inaction found at four policy-making loci: individuals (coping behaviour), public organisations (information pathologies), governments (agenda control and protection) and networks (non-coordination and lack of feasibility). Acknowledging the conceptual and methodological challenges of researching inaction it concludes by identifying strategies for putting ‘doing nothing’ (back) on the research agenda of the policy sciences. You can find the article Here.

Compton, M. E. & Lipsmeyer, C.S. (2019). Everybody Hurts Sometimes: Pocketbook and Sociotropic Policy Preferences in Context. The Journal of Politics

Understanding when individuals support government action is central to government responsiveness and democratic policymaking. Research has shown that political behavior can be sensitive to collective circumstances and that pocketbook interests heavily sway individuals’ support for public policies. We bridge these two previously distinct literatures to articulate a theory of public policy preferences. We argue that the collective economic environment can influence how individuals translate their own insecurities into support for social insurance. However, how expansively social insurance policies buffer individuals from the labor market can condition the effects of both personal and collective insecurities, because they change the stakes, altering the relationships between economic insecurity and individuals’ policy preferences. Using a cross-national sample of developed democracies from 1996 and 2006, we conclude that while pocketbook uncertainty trumps other concerns, it is the more secure individuals who are most susceptible to the influence of the broader collective environment.

Douglas, S. C., Hood, C., Overmans, T., and Scheepers F. (2019). Gaming the system: building an online management game to spread and gather insights into the dynamics of performance management systems

SPG member Scott Douglas together with Christopher Hood, Tom Overmans & Floor Scheepers published an article about a management game they have developed to take a new look at perfomance managament.

Compton, M. E. (2018). Less Bang for Your Buck? How Social Capital Constrains the Effectiveness of Social Welfare Spending. State Politics & Policy Quarterly

Rising economic insecurity in recent decades has focused attention on the importance of social welfare programs in managing household financial stability. Some governments are more effective than others in managing this outcome, and informal social institutions help explain why. Social capital is expected to shape economic security through multiple mechanisms, but whether the effect is to magnify or mitigate volatility is an open question. Part of the answer has to do with how social capital interacts with policy implementation, and whether it conditions the effectiveness of government spending. Evidence from the U.S. states from 1986 to 2010 fails to support a benevolent social capital thesis—not only is social capital associated with greater economic insecurity, there is no evidence that it improves social welfare effectiveness. However, greater spending on some social programs can mitigate the adverse impact of  social capital on economic security

Hart, P., Meijer, A., & Worthy B. (2018). Assessing Government Transparency: An Interpretive Framework

How can we evaluate government transparency arrangements? While the complexity and contextuality of the values at stake defy straightforward measurement, this article provides an interpretative framework to guide and structure assessments of government transparency. In this framework, we discern criteria clusters for political transparency—democracy, the constitutional state, and social learning capacity—and for administrative transparency—economy/efficiency, integrity, and resilience. The framework provides a structured “helicopter view” of the dimensions that are relevant for a contextual assessment of transparency. An illustrative case discussion of the introduction of Freedom of Information (FOI) in the United Kingdom demonstrates its utility. Read the article online Here.

van Erp, J., Wallenburg, I., & Bal, R. (2018). Performance regulation in a networked healthcare system: From cosmetic to institutionalized compliance. Public Administration.

This article studies the role of a public regulator in managing the performance of healthcare professionals. It combines a networked governance perspective with responsive regulation theory to show the mechanisms that have added to significant changes in medical cost management in the Netherlands. In a five-year period, hospital practices transitioned from cosmetic compliance with performance regulation and strategic upcoding to institutionalized compliance more in line with regulatory goals. The article demonstrates how policy changes transformed incentive structures, introduced new forms of accountability, and added actors to the network with technocratic disciplining tasks. The networked character of performance regulation offered opportunities for a responsive, non-coercive regulatory strategy that engaged various actors in a regulatory conversation about strategic coding. Responsive regulation can reduce strategic responses to performance regulation and manage the gap between administrative and clinical logics. The case study contributes to our understanding of the effectiveness of responsive, non-punitive regulation in networked settings. 

Verschuren, O., & Beyens, S. (2018) Aangescherpt bestuursgericht toezicht in de corporatiesector

Een reeks ontsporingen in de corporatiesector zorgt in 2015 voor een koerswijziging richting aangescherpt ‘bestuursgericht’ toezicht. Een onafhankelijke Autoriteit woningcorporaties (Aw) houdt daarom zowel de bestuurders en commissarissen als de organisatiebesturing en de interne checks-and-balances scherp(er) in beeld. Drie jaar na de koerswijziging blijkt dat de Aw’s bestuursgerichte toezichtstrategie naast gewenste ook ongewenste effecten kent, zoals onduidelijkheid, overlap, overlast en ontwijkgedrag. Veel van het ongemak blijkt tijdelijk. Dit zijn ‘overgangsjaren’, waarbij de Autoriteit – met sectorpartijen – zoekt naar een passende invulling van haar toezicht. Zorgelijk blijft echter de uitwerking van de Aw’s toezichtstrategie in de meervoudige uitvoeringspraktijk. De instrumenten die de Autoriteit inzet voor bestuursgericht toezicht halen bijvoorbeeld onvoldoende beeld op van het daadwerkelijke functioneren van corporaties en perken dat functioneren bovendien teveel in. Daarnaast interfereert Aw’s handelen met dat van andere ‘kwaliteitsbewakers’ in het corporatieveld. Om het welbekende risico van ‘hitting the target, but missing the goal’ te verminderen, dient de Aw meer oog te hebben voor (1) de complexiteit en maatschappelijkheid van de volkshuisvestelijke opgave en (2) de verlammende impact van het meervoudige arrangement van toezicht en verantwoording op de corporatie(sector). Zoals het verleden al uitwees, blijkt het samenspel tussen – alle – checks-and-balances in de corporatiepraktijk bepalend. Bouw dus samen aan ver‐ trouwen, via bestuursgericht toezicht, vanuit kritische reflectie en met ruimte voor meervoudigheid. Lees het artikel Hier online. 

Beyens, S. & 't Hart, P. (2018) Leren van lerende organisaties

Learning from learning organisations (work-in-progress): Stefanie Beyens and Paul ‘t Hart reflect on how public organisations learn from each other’s successes. In the fall of 2017, SPG organised a workshop with past winners and finalists of the (Dutch) Best Public Organisation of 2017 Election. Connecting the outcomes of that workshop with literature on success in government led to this text. An updated version will appear as soon as it is published. The text is in Dutch.

Compton, M. E., & Meier, K. J. (2017). Bureaucracy to Postbureaucracy: The consequences of political failures. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Business and Management.

Pathologies inherent in democratic political systems have consequences for bureaucracy, and they need to be examined. Limited in time, resources, and expertise, elected officials turn to bureaucratic institutions to carry out policy goals but all too often give public agencies too little support or too few resources to implement them effectively. In response to the challenges imposed by politics, public agencies have sought organizational solutions. Bureaucracies facing shortages of material resources, clear goals, representation of minority interests, or public trust have in recent decades adopted less hierarchical structures, exploited networks and privatization, and taken a representative role. In other words, the evolution of postbureaucratic governance institutions is in part a consequence of political incentives. Efforts to diagnose and resolve many of the shortcomings attributed to bureaucracy therefore require an accounting of the political processes shaping the context in which public managers and bureaucrats operate.

Nohrstedt, D., Bynander, F., Parker, C & ‘t Hart, P. (2017). Managing Crises Collaboratively. Forthcoming in Perspectives on Public Management and Governance.

Effective interorganizational collaboration is a pivotal ingredient of any community or nation’s capacity to prepare for and bounce back from disruptive crisis events. The booming research field of collaborative public management (CPM) has been yielding important insights into such collaboration that as yet await transfer to the study of crisis management (CM). Also, we argue that the general CPM literature has not sufficiently addressed the distinctive collaboration challenges involved in coping with crises. This paper bridges this twofold gap. Based on a systematic review of prior research in collaborative crisis management, this study identifies dominant areas of theoretical emphasis, methodological practices, and patterns of empirical enquiry. The paper highlights areas where CPM research has potential to further inform the understanding of collaborative crisis management, including performance, success factors, managerial skills, and learning. The paper then identifies five properties associated with CM – uncertainty, leadership, magnitude, costs, and urgency – which deserve further analysis to advance the understanding of the application of CPM principles and strategies. We conclude with outlining a research agenda and offering a set of testable propositions aimed at investigating the likelihood of effective collaboration in different types of crises and as expected in different crisis management paradigms.

Mintrom, M., & Luetjens, J. (2017). Creating Public Value: Tightening connections between policy design and public management. Policy Studies Journal, 45(1), 170-190. ​

Policy design and public management should be tightly connected, so implemented public policies achieve intended outcomes. Yet policy designers often pursue their activities with limited awareness of how citizens and service managers experience current public programs. A focus on creating public value offers a way to tighten the connection between policy design and public management. Recent discussions of public value have emphasized three aspects of public management: delivering services, achieving social outcomes, and maintaining trust and legitimacy. Within those discussions, the efforts of policy designers have been underplayed. We explore the implications of the public value approach for policy design. Pursuit of public value calls for policy designers to listen closely to stakeholders, engage them in creative conversations, and draw on their situated expertise to guide policy development. We consider how explicit treatment of public value creation as a policy goal can improve the fit between original policy intentions and the delivery of public services. Our augmented model of public value creation offers both a new direction for empirical studies of the nexus between public policy and public management and a new perspective on what it means to be an effective policy designer

Mintrom, M., & Luetjens, J. (2017). The Investment Approach to Public Service Provision. Australian Journal of Public Administration.

The investment approach to public service provision is now receiving considerable attention worldwide. By promoting data-intensive assessments of baseline conditions and how government action can improve on them, the approach holds the potential to transform policy development, service implementation, and program evaluation. Recently, variations on the investment approach have been applied in Australia to explore the effectiveness of specific programs in employment training, criminal justice, and infrastructure development. This article reviews the investment approach, presents a Public Investment Checklist to guide such work, and discusses three examples. It concludes by considering the implications of investment thinking for the work of policy designers and public managers.

Mintrom, M., & Luetjens, J. (2017). Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.

In recent years, significant effort has been applied to understanding and empirically testing the concept of policy entrepreneurship in a range of different settings. Despite these efforts, studies to date have tended to focus on policy entrepreneurs in domestic policy settings. Few have articulated the potential role that policy entrepreneurs play in understanding foreign policy decision-making. Coupled with theories and evidence from the field of foreign policy analysis, the concept of policy entrepreneurship lends itself to analyzing how actors in the foreign policy space draw attention to problems, advance workable proposals, and link outcomes to symbolic values. This article introduces and applies a framework for the analysis of policy entrepreneurs seeking to influence foreign policy decision-making. This framework is then used to underpin illustrative case studies of foreign policy entrepreneurs. The variety of recent scholarly contributions regarding policy entrepreneurs and foreign policy suggests that many more opportunities exist for such work to be conducted in the future. This is an exciting prospect. Valuable, generalizable insights are more likely to emerge from such a collective research enterprise if the various individual contributions are informed by greater conceptual coherence.

Van de Noort, M., Douglas, S., Van der Torre, L. (2017). Belofte, pijn en medicijn: Het verantwoorden van publieke waardecreatie aan lokale politici en maatschappelijke partners. Bestuurswetenschappen, (71) 2, 5-21.

Public value management encourages public organizations to move beyond existing frameworks and create value in flexible collaboration with societal partners. However, this approach creates problems for the accountability processes, because reports to politicians are often still directed at quantitative goals and rigid frameworks. This creates uncertainty and disagreement around the definition of value, the legitimacy of the new governance styles and the complexity of the new collaborations. This article describes the experiences of a large Dutch municipality where we conducted an experiment with an innovative accountability process for public value creation in the public health domain. Political administrators, council members, civil servants and societal partners have jointly assessed, through an interactive Public Value Table meeting format, what value their combined efforts in complex societal challenges have created. This experiment gives insight in the growing pains of public value creation, but also shows some possible solutions to address these tensions.

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This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No694266)