Academic journal article
By Isett, Kimberley R.; Mergel, Ines A.; LeRoux, Kelly; Mischen, Pamela A.; Rethemeyer, R. Karl
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory , Vol. 21, No. 1
Mergel, Ines A.
Mischen, Pamela A.
Rethemeyer, R. Karl
Nonprofit Organizations--Laws, Regulations and Rules
Nonprofit Organizations--Political Aspects
Nonprofit Organizations--Safety and Security Measures
Online Social Networks--Case Studies
Online Social Networks--Surveys
Online Social Networks--Laws, Regulations and Rules
Online Social Networks--Political Aspects
Online Social Networks--Safety and Security Measures
Government Contractors--Case Studies
Government Contractors--Laws, Regulations and Rules
Government Contractors--Political Aspects
Government Contractors--Safety and Security Measures
Political Parties--Case Studies
Political Parties--Laws, Regulations and Rules
Political Parties--Safety and Security Measures
Public Sector--Case Studies
Public Sector--Laws, Regulations and Rules
Public Sector--Political Aspects
Public Sector--Safety and Security Measures
Software--Laws, Regulations and Rules
Software--Safety and Security Measures
Child Welfare--Case Studies
Child Welfare--Laws, Regulations and Rules
Child Welfare--Political Aspects
Child Welfare--Safety and Security Measures
Decision Making--Case Studies
Decision Making--Laws, Regulations and Rules
Decision Making--Political Aspects
Decision Making--Safety and Security Measures
Watershed Management--Case Studies
Watershed Management--Laws, Regulations and Rules
Watershed Management--Political Aspects
Watershed Management--Safety and Security Measures
In recent years, there have been several "retrospective" articles about network scholarship in other disciplines that facilitate academic naval gazing at what has been accomplished, what still needs to be done, and the connections between disparate strains of the literature (e.g., Brass et al. 2004; Provan, Fish, and Sydow 2007). However, each of the different disciplines involved in network studies has its own foci and emphases that are important to their brand of work. As such, we take this opportunity to provide a commentary on the development of network studies in Public Administration and suggest the main challenges that we face as a community.
The focus on networks in Public Administration has grown rapidly in the past decade and a half. The use of networks by practitioners has exploded as well as the number of scholars of public organizations who study them or who find the conceptualization useful. At the last National Public Management Research Conference held in Tucson, AZ, organizers noted the upsurge of submissions dealing with this topic. So we ask: How did we get from little network scholarship 20 years ago to such a preoccupation with the topic today?
The answer is not entirely straightforward. We can identify three main streams of research on networks that appear in the current literature. The oldest effort focuses on policy networks. Policy networks are a set of public agencies, legislative offices, and private sector organizations (including interests groups, corporations, nonprofits, etc.) that have an interest in public decisions within a particular area of policy because they are interdependent and thus have a "shared fate" (Laumann and Knoke 1987). The original conceptualization of policy networks concerned decision making about public resource allocation.
Networks focusing on the provision and production of collaborative goods and services are the second important stream of literature. Collaborative networks are collections of government agencies, nonprofits, and for-profits that work together to provide a public good, service, or "value" when a single public agency is unable to create the good or service on its own and/or the private sector is unable or unwilling to provide the goods or services in the desired quantities (cf. Agranoff and McGuire 2001, 2003; Mandell 2001; Nelson 2001; O'Toole 1997a). Collaborative networks carry out activities on behalf of the public. They may be formal and orchestrated by a public manager or they may be emergent, self-organizing, and ad hoc, with many variants in between.
The third stream of literature is on governance networks. Governance networks are entities that fuse collaborative public goods and service provision with collective policymaking--for instance, business improvement districts or some environmental mitigation efforts (Bogason and Musso 2006; Klijn and Koppenjan 2000; Klijn and Skelcher 2007; Rhodes 1997; Sorensen and Torfing 2005). These networks focus on the coordination of organizations toward a common goal rather than the policies or products that the networks actually produce.
As Berry et al. (2004) note, each of these programs of research have their roots in other disciplines, though public administration scholars have written on all three (and sometimes have confused all three--see Borzel 1998). However, until the recent work on governance, scholars pursued programs of research that fell broadly into either the policy or collaborative literature. (1)
As Kettl (1996, 2000), Salamon (1981, 2002), and others have pointed out, government no longer directly creates public "value" (to use Moore's  phrase). Instead, nearly 19 of every 20 dollars of federal spending are fimneled through third parties (Salamon 2002, 4). This rather startling movement toward third-party public goods production occurred over 30 or 40 years as a set of social and economic changes took hold in the United States and across the world. …