PSG XIX: Public Network Policy and Management


The Permanent Study Group (PSG) on “Public network policy and management” will provide a place for dialogue among academics, researchers and other specialists on specific current topics concerning public network policies and management.

In this perspective, the PSG aims to:

  • identify cut-edge themes, suitable to stimulate the interest of scholars, researchers and practitioners all around the world, in order to define a common research agenda for the next EGPA conferences;
  • identify cut-edge themes with potential for cross national research;
  • organize high quality publication outlets for papers (in the forms of special issues and/or edited books) and identify papers suitable for those special issues or edited books;
  • promote a dissemination strategy suitable to expand the network of public network scholars outside Europe (eg. TAD).


Since the early Nineties, public networks have been implemented in many countries to solve “wicked” public problems, addressing such issues as health, social care, local development and education (Provan and Milward 1995; Ferlie and Pettigrew 1996; O’Toole 1997; Agranoff and McGuire 1998; Provan and Sebastian 1998; Provan and Milward 2001; Howlett 2002; Hasnain-Wynia et al. 2003; Milward and Provan 2003). Then, with the diffusion of the Public Governance paradigm (Bekke et al. 1995; Minogue et al. 1998; Bovaird and Loffler 2003), providing public services through organizational networks has become more the rule than the exception, on both the sides of the Atlantic (Milward 1996; O’Toole 1997; Agranoff and McGuire 2001; 2003; Milward and Provan 2003; Ferlie and Andresani 2006; Pettigrew and Fenton 2006).

Despite that “universal” euphoria towards the network establishment, in one of the most famous article of the public network literature, Provan and Milward (1995) warned that the network success seems to be negatively influenced by the uncertainty and instability of the external environment.

In the light of the above considerations, what can we say about public networks in the current times? When the external environment is everything but certain? And what is the future of public networks in this turbulent and volatile environment? How can (and maybe should) public networks evolve in order to allow public and private organizations to survive and achieve their objectives (in the current tempestuous times)?

These are some of the questions on which the PSG will stimulate the discussion.

Three-year plan: Public networks in turbulent times


During the first year, the PSG will focus on exploring the development of public networks in the last times, as a consequence of the new economic (social and political) scenario and the changes in the role of the public sector, that mew scenario requires all around the world.

In particular, the PSG will propose a discussion on aspects such as the evolution of public networks (opened to no-profit organizations and social enterprises) when the (re)-configuration of the welfare systems involving, for instance, health and social services is considered. These aspects, very important in the UK (think at the development of the so called “big society”), are becoming more and more important in every other Country in the world.

Another aspect on which the PSG purports to focus the debate is represented by the changes in the intergovernmental cooperation that have been taking place in many Countries (think at what has been happening in France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain, for example), moving from the establishment of different forms of associations among municipalities to the development of horizontal public networks. The strengthening of the spending review logics, combined with actions to limit the public spending (cost cutting or cutback management), requires a redefinition of the governance and mission of public networks (and in some cases leads to the end of cooperative forms and the development of organizational mergers).

Last but not least, a further aspect on which the PSG will focus the debate about the evolution of public networks in turbulent times is represented by the evolution of PPP dealing with infrastructure projects. Due to the financial crisis of many municipalities and the difficulties of many enterprises to invest in such projects, during the last years, the PPP in Europe have undertaken a significant reduction.

In the light of the above considerations, the PSG activities will focus on exploring and explaining the consequences of the above-mentioned economic, social and political trends on the configuration, management, governance and performance of public networks. The tentative to understand their evolution in a dynamic perspective will also be encouraged.

For this purpose, in addition to stimulate the debate on the development of public networks in turbulent times through the paper presentation during the EGPA Annual Conferences, the PSG purports to create an international community of scholars sharing ideas and preliminary results of Country-specific research projects (as for example, the PRIN projects in Italy, the FNS projects in Switzerland, etc.), thus also facilitating and supporting the development of international research projects on the topic.

On top of it, the PSG will arrange and promote doctoral seminars on public networks, by taking advantages of the collaboration with the network of PhD programs in Switzerland (SPAN ProDoc in Public Administration) and the network of PhD students of the Italian Academy of Management (AIDEA).

Last but not least, a bibliometric analysis of the public network articles will be developed, starting from the results of [email protected], in order to shed light on the most recent current trends in the network literature.

The main objective of the second year PSG program will be to identify the specificities and peculiarities of the evolution of public networks in turbulent times in different Countries, according to the different ways they developed to address the economic (and social and political) crisis.

Drawing from the literature on comparative public administration (Pollitt & Bouckaert 2000) and the analysis developed within the EGPA framework on the differences among public management reforms in the Northern and Southern of Europe (Kickert 2008), the PSG will encourage papers and research projects dealing with:

  • comparisons on the specificities of public networks as far as co-design, co-management and co-financing policies are considered. In particular, the PSG will encourage comparisons on this topic among three clusters of Countries, involving Nord European Countries (The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Nordic Countries), Countries of the Continental Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria) and South European Countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece);
  • comparisons among the cases of public networks identified and awarded at national or international level (EPSA, quality in public sector).

For this purpose, in addition to stimulate the debate on the development of public networks in turbulent times in a comparative perspective through the paper presentation during the EGPA Annual Conferences, the PSG purports to favor the comparison, in a benchmarking perspective, during the most important EGPA dialogue supporting the exchange of knowledge and expertise, such as for example EGPA TED and EGPA TAD.

On top of it, during this second year, the PSG purports to promote a COST action, by taking advantages of the collaborative relations with some of the most important Universities and research centers in Europe and of the previous COST actions developed within the EGPA framework (eg. COBRA). The expertise developed by USI thanks to its engagement in a COST action[1] on the network to provide integrated social services will also be exploited.

In the light of the results of the previous two years (and on the basis of the bibliometric analysis of the articles on public networks), the aim of the third year PSG program is to identify the most important trends in the evolution of public networks in Europe, in comparison with the actual trends on the other side of the Atlantic (by maintaining an active role also within the ASPA and PMRA Conferences). A specific theme that shall be explored and analysed in this perspective is represented by the evolution of the role of the network manager towards those of social entrepreneur (typical of networks involving public and private organizations) and public entrepreneur (typical of intergovernmental networks).

In addition to stimulate the debate on the main trends of the development of public networks in Europe (in comparison with the US) through the paper presentation during the EGPA Annual Conferences, the PSG purports to act as promoter and coordinator of the paper presentation within the EGPA Trans-European and Mediterranean dialogues (TED and MED), and within other conferences providing significant opportunities of international comparison, as for example the Annual Conference IIAS IISA and CLAD.

On top of it, the European-American comparison in a perspective of benchmarking and benchlearning will be developed within the 2014 TAD for which the University of Lugano presented an application in 2010, supported by the Swiss Public Administration Network

On top of it, at the end of this three-year program, the PSG will arrange high quality publication outlets in the form of a special issue and /or an edited book to collect and disseminate the results and efforts of the program.

At the end of the whole program, the PSG will also present, according to a logic of accountability, an “intellectual capital report” on the results and performances of the three-year program.

Direct Links

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International Institute of Administrative Sciences
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E-Mail: [email protected]