Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Win-Win Agreements and Public Private Infrastructure Partnerships: Managerial and Governance Concerns

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Win-Win Agreements and Public Private Infrastructure Partnerships: Managerial and Governance Concerns

Article excerpt


This article examines the centrality of negotiating win-win agreements to constructing state and local sector public-private infrastructure partnerships (PPPs) that are both efficient and respectful of public values. Win-win negotiations are defined as ones in which every entity signing an agreement believes it comes out ahead on meeting its goals (Zaleznik 1992). The concept--which is validated by actor perceptions-accentuates the need for managers to move beyond win/lose or zero-sum postures and construct options for mutual gain where possible (Fisher, Ury, and Patton 1991).

We live in an era of multi-organizational governance with increased attention to involving private organizations in public service delivery (Grossman and Holzer 2016). This shift fosters collaboration, a process where independent entities negotiate multi-organizational arrangements including rules and structures to solve problems and decide issues (Thomson, Perry and Miller 2009; O'Leary, Choi, and Gerard 2012). Managerial abilities are one variable that may influence how collaborations develop. Among other resources, successful collaborators have boundary spanning communication facility and the ability to devise win-win solutions (Getha-Taylor 2008).

Partnerships are defined as a type of formalized collaboration (Grossman and Holzer 2016). They differ from other formal collaborative efforts in that both parties contribute to the service rather than having one organization simply buy goods or services produced by another (Hilvert and Swindell 2014).They occur when multiple organizations make a legally binding agreement to share resources to achieve mutually agreed on ends. The aim is collaborative advantage or achieving something that no one organization could produce alone (Vangen and Huxham 2003). A public-private partnership requires that at least one of the partners is a governmental entity and at least one is a private organization, whether from the business or nonprofit sectors.

For at least the past 30 years, jurisdictions have increased use of infrastructure partnerships as tax revenues and user fees have failed to keep pace with service needs (O'Toole 1997, Wang 2009). The ascendancy of new public management or reinventing government in the 1990s accelerated this trend by supporting an assumption that the private sector was more efficient and innovative than government (Osborne and Gaebler 1992). Such an assumption made administrators seek to lower costs and improve substantive quality by partnering with private sector resources even though the evidence that PPPs produce cost gains is limited. While some studies have found infrastructure PPPs financially advantageous for sponsoring governments (e.g., Domberger and Jensen 1997; Engel, Fischer, and Galetovic 2011; Corvino and Rigolini 2016), other studies concluded that various highway, transit and bridge PPPs did not lower costs (Hodge and Greve 2007; Shaoul, Stafford and Stapleton 2012; Vining and Boardman 2008).

Infrastructure PPPs can be analyzed through managerial and governance frames. The first frame evaluates projects based on least cost efficiency and the ability to offer a substantive service such as fast moving, uncongested roads. The second frame assesses whether a project preserves such values as political accountability, responsiveness, equity and transparency.

While many studies have evaluated projects based on cost savings (Little 2011), a PPP's success hinges on more than lowering costs and procuring high quality materials--important as these managerial goals are. Government agencies must also evaluate a project's governance implications including its likely impact on political accountability and responsiveness over time (Siemiatycki 2007). Administrators have to look at a project's equity impact on various constituencies. A comparative study of wastewater treatment PPPs found, for example, that they tended to skew their projects to more affluent communities rather than those with the greatest infrastructure needs (O'Toole 1996). …

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