#5Papers – Politicians & collaborative goverance

by Nivek K Thompson

1. Citation

Torfing J. And Ansell C. (2017) ‘Strengthening political leadership and policy innovation through the expansion of collaborative forms of governance’ in Public Management Review Vol.19, No.1 pp37-54

2. What attracted me to this Article?

I am currently doing research into the role of political elites in different forms of democratic innovation and this article appears to be about political elites and collaborative governance which is one of the forms of democratic innovation I will be writing about.

3. What is it about (Problem / Purpose / Research Questions)?

The authors believe that policy innovation is necessary to address the pressing problems we face and argue that politicians should engage in collaborative governance to support policy innovation.  

4. Where does this come from (Literature / Theoretical Framework)?

Their paper is based primarily on a review of a range of literature both theoretical and empirical and in particular, using three case studies of different approaches to engaging beyond government to identify different models and assess their impact.

5. What did they do (Methodology & Method)?

The authors address four broad areas:

1. What are the constraints on political leaders identifying policy innovations and

2. What is the relationship between political leadership and policy innovation

3. Considers the benefits of engagement beyond the usual players in collaborative policy innovation

4. Identifies drivers and barriers to collaborative policy innovation

6. What did they learn (Results / Discussion)?

The authors provide a nice overview of the literature as set out above as well as including three case studies where they demonstrate different approaches to collaborative governance in action.

They argue that collaborative governance can provide elected representatives with a central role in policy innovations, which perhaps they don’t currently have, for a range of reasons, in particular, the prominent role of public servants in developing and implementing policy solutions.

They note that involving citizens can be more difficult at the national level and may be dependent on the nature of the political system e.g. corporatist vs unitary state [this is similar to something of Dryzek’s that I read recently, but I can’t immediately recall which paper it was in].

They identify the need for more empirical work looking not only for examples of politicians engaged in collaborative governance to deliver policy innovations but also to identify the factors affecting success or failure. They also suggest that for this research to be effective there needs to be cross-disciplinary efforts (albeit within the broad field of political science).

7. What did I learn?

I liked the approach the authors took in identifying key features relevant to the three case studies they describe and using those features to compare and contrast in a table. The example they provide from Denmark is likely to be a useful example for the chapter I’m writing. And it was a nice surprise to see an Australian case amongst the three. This approach has given me some ideas about how to bring together my analysis of the role of elected representatives across a number of different types of democratic innovations.

There identification of “one fundamental barrier in terms of the classical democratic self-perception of politicians as the ‘elected representatives of the people’ who are expected to use their skills and power to govern and provide solutions for the people rather than involving the electorate in complex decision-making processes that ordinary people can neither be expected to understand nor take responsibility for.” (P.49) resonates with my work from both the elected representatives’ perspective and in some cases the citizens’ too.