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Public Management Review
ISSN: 1471-9037 (Print) 1471-9045 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rpxm20
Collaborative administration: the management of
Daniela Cristofoli, Marco Meneguzzo & Norma Riccucci
To cite this article: Daniela Cristofoli, Marco Meneguzzo & Norma Riccucci (2017) Collaborative
administration: the management of successful networks, Public Management Review, 19:3,
275-283, DOI: 10.1080/14719037.2016.1209236
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/14719037.2016.1209236
Published online: 02 Aug 2016.
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Collaborative administration: the management of
*, Marco Meneguzzo
and Norma Riccucci
Faculty of Economics, Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, Switzerland;
School of Public
Affairs & Administration, Rutgers University, Newark, USA
Despite a general consensus on the importance of collaborative settings for the
solution of ‘wicked’problems, questions of how to successfully manage public net-
works remain without a clear answer. Some authors highlighted the importance of the
network structure and context; other authors shed light on network management and
coordination mechanisms. More recently, some scholars have stressed the criticality of
‘soft’factors, such as interorganizational trust. In this multifaceted landscape, the goal
of the special issue is to stimulate a dialogue on the functioning of public networks,
and contribute to the development of sound knowledge about how to make them
KEYWORDS Public network; collaboration; network success
Governments have long been involved in reform processes. Under the umbrella
concepts of the New Public Management, Public Governance and New Public
Governance, a new model of administration eventually emerged (Mandell 2001;
Agranoff and McGuire 2003). It is based on collaborative relationships among public
and private actors, non-profit organizations and social enterprises. Within this con-
text of connected and networked organizations, the current economic and social
crises have further enhanced the importance of ‘Collaborative Administration’as a
new way of involving public/private actors to manage administrative processes in a
cooperative manner (Agranoff 2006; Klijn 2008; Isett et al. 2011). Despite a general
consensus on the importance of such collaborative settings for the solution of
‘wicked’problems, questions of how to successfully manage and govern public net-
works remain without a clear answer (see, among the others, Turrini et al. 2010).
Some authors highlighted the importance of the network structure and context
(Provan and Milward 1995; Provan and Sebastian 1998; Huang and Provan 2007;
O’Toole and Meier 2004); other authors shed light on network management and
coordination tools and mechanisms (Klijn 1996; Kickert, Klijn, and Koppenjan 1997;
Kort and Klijn 2011). More recently, some scholars have stressed the criticality of certain
‘soft’factors, such as interorganizational trust (Klijn, Edelenbos, and Steijn 2010).
CONTACT Daniela Cristofoli email@example.com
*Present address: Daniela Cristofoli moved to Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy.
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW, 2017
VOL. 19, NO. 3, 275–283
In this multifaceted landscape, the goal of the special issue is to stimulate a
dialogue on the functioning of public networks, and contribute to the development
of sound knowledge about how to make them succeed. The papers emanate from the
10th Transatlantic Dialogue, ‘From Public Administration to XXI Century
Collaborative Administration,’held from 4 to 7 June 2014 at the University of
Lugano in Switzerland.
On the basis of these premises, the Koliba et al. paper shows the existence of a
relationship between the network structure, sub-network functions and the motiva-
tion to enter partnerships. In particular, it sheds light on the importance of the
position within the information-sharing sub-network (in terms of centrality and
betweenness) as driver of the decision to enter a partnership. In the same way, the
Markovic paper displays the importance of some structural characteristics such as
network centralization and integration in affecting network performance. Overall, it
shows how the organizing principles governing network functioning are different in
different collaborative settings.
All the papers included in the special issue stress the criticality of the network
manager, acting as pivot of the partner collaboration; Bartelings et al. explore the
competences and activities that the network manager must develop in his or her role
as network orchestrator.
The Vangen and Mandell et al. papers highlight the importance of soft factors
such as culture and collaborative language for collaborative behaviour.
Information sharing seems also to be critical for collaboration in the Koliba
et al. paper, and trust is important in the work by Markovic. Networking seems
also to take a good deal of time in the network manager’s daily activities as
Bartelings et al. show.
All these factors seem paramount for the success of collaboration. As Markovic
seems to suggests, it is in fact probably the right combination of tangible and
intangible factors that serve as the basis for successful collaboration.
How to make public networks succeed
The network success is an ageless theme in the public network literature. Since
Provan and Milward’s(1995) seminal piece, a multitude of studies have investigated
the determinants of network performance, with different and multiple results. They
have, in fact, shed light on different facets of the problem.
Some authors highlighted the importance of the network structural and contextual
factors. Network centrality and integration have been proposed as determinants of
network success in the works of Provan and Milward (1995) and Provan and
Sebastian (1998). In particular, by investigating mental-care networks in four
American cities, Provan and Milward showed how networks integrated around a
central core-agency are more successful than networks with a scattered structure.
Further developing this notion, Provan and Sebastian (1998) showed how networks
characterized by strongly integrated and overlapping subgroups can achieve good
performance as well. The criticality of the core agency for network success is con-
firmed by subsequent studies by Huang and Provan (2007) and Raab, Mannak, and
Other authors focused on the importance of network managers and network
management for successful public networks (Kort and Klijn 2011; Mandell 2001;
276 D. CRISTOFOLI ET AL.
Koppenjan and Kljin 2004; Klijn, Steijn, and Edelenbos 2010; Steijn, Klijn, and
Edelenbos 2011). In particular, whereas the first studies stressed the criticality of a
network manager facilitating, mediating and leading the network (Agranoff and
McGuire 2001,2003), more recent studies focused on the importance of managerial
strategies and activities. The number of actions listed in the literature to manage
partner interaction is impressive. Steijn, Klijn, and Edelenbos (2011) categorized
them into four different groups: connecting actors, exploring content, arranging the
structure of the interaction and establishing process rules (Klijn, Steijn, and
Finally, a third group of authors focused on network functioning and shed light on
the importance of mechanisms supporting partner interaction. Formalized mechan-
isms such as information, coordination and control mechanisms have been variously
proposed as supporting partner collaboration (Klijn 1996; Kickert, Klijn, and
Koppenjan 1997). On the other hand, some authors have started to pay attention
to less formalized and ‘soft’mechanisms (Edelenbos and Klijn 2007; Provan and
Kenis 2008; Klijn, Edelenbos, and Steijn 2010; Nolte and Boenigk 2011). Klijn,
Edelenbos, and Steijn (2010), for example, shed light on the impact of trust on the
performance of governance networks: better outcomes can be achieved within net-
work settings characterized by goodwill, agreement, absence of opportunistic beha-
viour and trustworthiness (Sørensen and Torfing 2009).
With these as well as other studies, more recently a fourth group of authors have
started to take a contingent approach at collaboration success and have explored
whether structural, managerial and functional factors can differently combine and
equally lead to good performance. Verweij et al. (2013) compared decision-making
processes in 14 Dutch spatial planning processes and explored how the combination
of three conditions (i.e., network complexity, network management and stakeholder
involvement) can equally lead to stakeholder satisfaction. In their study, they showed
how stakeholder satisfaction can result in three different combinations: network
complexity and adaptive management; stakeholder involvement and adaptive man-
agement and low complexity combined with both limited stakeholder involvement
and closed network management.
In another study, Raab, Mannak, and Cambré (2015) explored how network
structure (in terms of network integration), network context (in terms of resource
munificence and stability) and network governance modes can combine to achieve
good performance. Through the analysis of 39 crime prevention networks, they
identified two different pathways for network success: the former is represented by
integrated networks in existence for at least 3 years, with a high degree of stability
and with a considerable amount of resources; the latter is made up of networks that
are again integrated, at least 3 year old, with a high degree of stability, but are also
characterized by the presence of a network administrative organization (NAO).
In the same perspective, Wang (2016) explored the determinants of network
effectiveness in 22 neighbourhood governance networks in Beijing. He investigated
which combinations of network integration, resource munificence, network stability
and neighbourhood socioeconomic status (SES) can equally lead to good perfor-
mance. His analysis concluded that there were two different pathways: the former is
composed of networks that have sufficient resources, high SES, and low centraliza-
tion, the latter is made up of networks with sufficient resources, high SES and high
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW 277
density. The combination of resource munificence and network stability seems also to
lead to network success, while the other conditions are not significant.
Similarly, Cristofoli and Markovic (2016) conducted a study of 12 home-care
assistance networks in Switzerland, and explored which combination of contextual
(resource munificence), structural (network centralization), functional (formalization
of network mechanisms) and managerial (presence of a network manager) character-
istics can equally lead to the network success. The study results shed light on two
different combinations of the above-mentioned factors, thus suggesting that in highly
integrated networks network success can be achieved by the presence of an active
network manager, whereas in decentralized networks it is the presence of formalized
mechanisms that lead to good network performance.
A dialogue on the functioning of successful public networks
Within this multifaceted landscape, the aim of our special issue is to stimulate a
dialogue on the functioning of public networks, and contribute to the development of
sound knowledge on the factors that lead to their success.
From this perspective, the papers included in the special issue exhibit common-
alities and differences, which offer food for thought and provide future avenues for
First, they shed light on the importance of non-formalized, intangible, ‘soft’
factors for collaboration success. Koliba et al. highlight the importance of infor-
mation sharing. The access to information flow seems to be the primary driver of
the initial decision by an organization to participate in the network, and a gate-
way into deeper levels of collaboration. The info-sharing seems in fact to
strengthen the partner relationships and sustain network development. Mandell
et al. show the criticality of another ‘soft’factor: the language of the collaboration.
The existence of a separate and distinct language for collaboration seems in fact to
be a powerful mechanism to support the communication of shared information,
the diffusion of common values and agreedactions.Itseemstobeacrucialfactor
in the development of social identity, which is paramount for the success of
collaborative networks. In this same vein, Vangen highlights the need to nurture
culturally diverse collaboration in order to enhance communication and shared
understanding. Collaboration is characterized by different professional, organiza-
tional and sometimes national cultures. These differences need to be managed in
order to achieve collaborative advantage and avoid situations of collaborative
inertia. Last but not least, Markovic shows the importance of trust among net-
work partners as a predictor of network performance both in centrally integrated
and in decentrally integrated network settings. On the basis of these considera-
tions, future studies might further explore the role and importance of ‘soft’factors
to govern the partner interaction and influence collaboration success. In addition,
an important, but still underinvestigated factor is represented in the role of
personal relationships among people working for the organizations involved in
networks. How do the personal relationships among people working for partner
organizations interact and influence the relationships among their respective
partner organizations (and in this way, the collaboration results)? Despite the
importance of this issue, it remains an unanswered question.
278 D. CRISTOFOLI ET AL.
Second, the papers involved in the special issue agree on the criticality of network
manager activities for collaboration success. Koliba et al. portray the network man-
ager as the pivot of sustainable collaboration and shed light on the criticality of its
brokering function. They argue that ‘brokerage needs to be understood not only as a
function of introducing network actors, but of sustaining core operational functions,
beginning with information sharing.’It is in fact a responsibility of the network
manager to build the network capacity to share information freely and effectively in
such a way to induce new partners to join the network. In the same way, it is
a priority of the network manager to provide and maintain a reliable communication
network, including effective communication protocols. For Mandell et al., the devel-
opment of a new collaborative language is related to the way management and
leadership are practiced. From the same perspective, Vangen sheds light on the
importance of managing communication and shared understanding in the increas-
ingly culturally diverse landscape of public sector collaboration. Markovic also shows
the importance of management for collaboration success, at least in decentrally
integrated network settings. An overarching overview of the managerial tasks is
provided in the Bartelings et al. paper. Moving from the Mintzberg studies
(Mintzberg 1973) on the nature of managerial work, they focus on network manage-
ment and add a new role to the ten roles proposed by Mintzberg: the role of the
network orchestrator as one focused on the management of inter-organizational
relationships. In particular, Bartelings et al. explore the activities the network orches-
trator performs during her/his working day, thus allowing us to better understand the
content of the network manager’s work. The network orchestrator is normally
engaged in work-floor activities, in preparing documents, transferring knowledge
and stabilizing the network, but is above all involved in the networking, bridging
and travelling activities. The work of Bartelings et al. helps us to better understand
the nature of the network manager’s work and responsibilities, but it should repre-
sent only a starting point. Further studies might be developed to investigate, for
example, the importance of different activities in different collaborative settings, or
whether it is more or less convenient for network managers to focus on different
activities depending on the characteristics of their networks.
Third, the special issue papers generally focus on a different category of predictors
of network performance. Koliba et al. focus on the relationships between network
structural characteristics and the decision to enter a partnership; Vangen and
Mandell et al. concentrate on mechanisms for network functioning in terms of
culture and language for collaboration. Markovic works on the relationships and
joint effects of network structural, functional and managerial mechanisms. As we
saw, this is quite common in public network research, but we believe that a sig-
nificant contribution to the understanding of network functioning and success can be
made by additional studies investigating the combination of factors leading to net-
work success. From this perspective, the development of a configurational theory of
public networks would be useful.
Finally, as is common in public network research, the special issue papers gen-
erally refer to network performance, network success, network effectiveness, but they
operationalize these variables in different ways. If we take the Provan and Milward
(2001) model as a framework, Koliba et al. seem to take the partner organization
perspective and focus on the structural components of network performance. The
aim of their paper is to explore the relationships between network structure,
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW 279
subnetwork functions and the value the partners bring to the partnership. The
Vangen and Mandell et al. papers take the network-level perspective and assume a
process-based approach to network performance. The aim of their papers is to
explore the impact of culture and common language on the collaborative process.
In the same way, Markovic takes the network-level perspective and focuses on the
structure-related component of network performance. His goal is to explore the
impact of structural, managerial and functional factors on the network’s ability to
develop and survive. This multiplicity of concepts and measures of network perfor-
mance is not new in the field. In 2009, Kenis and Provan argued that it is difficult to
answer the questions ‘what is performance?’in public networks and ‘how should
performance be measured?’(Kenis and Provan 2009, 442). Accordingly, more studies
seeking to offer working models and tools from which to empirically analyse network
performance would be valuable.
Outline of the volume
The papers included in this special issue take a variety of perspectives on the
management of successful networks, as we discussed earlier. In this sense, they
allow us to initiate a dialogue on how public networks function in different colla-
borative settings, which we hope will stimulate scholars to develop future studies
In the opening article, Koliba et al. explore the relationships between network
structure, sub-network function and the motivation to enter partnership. The empiri-
cal setting is represented by a food system network in the State of Vermont and data
are collected through a survey. Social network analysis and correlation tests are used
to analyse data. Results show the importance of the information-flow as both driver
of the initial decision to enter a partnership and gateway to partnership durability
and development. The implication for network managers is quite clear: they are
encouraged to promote the sharing of information among the partner networks.
The two subsequent articles, the Vangen and the Mandell et al. contributions,
focus on the collaborative process and take a qualitative approach. More specifically,
Vangen explores communication and shared understanding in culturally diverse
collaborations. She focuses on a large UK organization collaborating with public,
private and not-for-profit organizations located in many different countries across
Africa, Asia and Europe and within the USA. Her aim is to answer the following
questions: ‘How do managers perceive cultural diversity in the cross national colla-
borations that they manage?’and ‘How do these perceptions inform the management
of communication and shared understanding in collaborations?’Data are collected
and analysed through ‘research-oriented action research’(RO-AR) (Eden and
The Mandell et al. article highlights the need for a separate and distinct language
to practice collaborative networks. This is vital for the communication of shared
information, values and agreed action, providing the foundation for social identity
and cohesion. The analysis is based on two case studies.
The Bartelings et al paper is focused on the nature of network manager’s work.
Through participatory observations of nine network managers in the fields of public
safety and health care in the Netherlands, the authors show how, on the one hand, a
large part of the daily activities of network managers still falls within the traditional
280 D. CRISTOFOLI ET AL.
managerial roles as identified by Mintzberg (1973); on the other hand, however, a
new role can be identified, labelled as orchestrational work. Seven activities are
performed by network orchestration, such as work-floor activities, preparing docu-
ments, transferring information, stabilizing the network, networking, bridging and
The last contribution is by Markovic who investigates the impact of network
characteristics such as network management, formalization, network centralization,
integration and trust on network performance. Based on exploratory factor analysis
and OLS regression on 265 surveys from members of health and social care networks
in Switzerland, the results confirm hypotheses from previously conducted studies:
there are multiple, logically coherent organizing principles within successful inter-
organizational service delivery networks. However, only a meaningful combination of
structure and practices has positive effects on public network performance.
We would like to thank all the scholars who participated at the EGPA-ASPA 10TAD ‘From public
administration to the XXI century collaborative administration. The role of public networks’, where
this dialogue on the functioning of public networks started. We would also like to thank all the
reviewers who contribute to the special issue. A special and warm ‘thank you’to Myrna Mandell.
The paper included in the special issue represents her last publication. Thanks Myrna for the
contribution you gave to the network management field.
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Notes on Contributors
Daniela Cristofoli was Assistant Professor in Public Management at the Università della Svizzera
Italiana. She recently moved to Università degli Studi di Milano –Bicocca. Her research interests
include public network management and governance and public management reforms.
Marco Meneguzzo is Professor of Public administration and management at the Department of
Business, Government and Philosophy at the University of Rome Tor Vergata and professor of
Public and non-profit management at the Universita` della Svizzera Italiana. His research interests
focus on the public sector and include new public management and governance, and public–private
Norma M. Riccucci is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor at the School of Public Affairs
and Administration, Rutgers University, Newark. She has published extensively in the area of public
management and is the recipient of a number of national awards. She is a fellow of NAPA.
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