Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Professional Capital: Standards of Performance That Underlie Interlocal Cooperation

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Professional Capital: Standards of Performance That Underlie Interlocal Cooperation

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Within an organization, a person often must interact with other personnel to get something done. Interlocal cooperation is no different; however, personnel must cross jurisdictional boundaries to do so. The problem is that personnel may not have the familiarity, incentives, or accountability regimes in place to justify the assumption of risk and the commitment of their time and resources. This article proposes that the evaluation of competence is one method by which organizations choose to accept or reject those transaction costs. In practice, personnel measure competence by evaluating specific skills and organizational capacities. Some of those standards of performance become recognized within professional communities and are cultivated by organizations that wish to create and maintain interlocal relationships. This article labels those standards as professional capital.

Professional capital represents the standards of performance that demonstrate an organization's competence to others via key skills and other capacities. The recognition of those skills and capacities by personnel from other organizations justifies their decision on whether to enter into cooperative activities. This paper essentially examines how personnel perceive the competence of other organizations and how that perception either alleviates or fails to alleviate the problems associated with interlocal cooperation.

Scholars, especially those who have studied interlocal cooperation (Andrew 2009; Feiock 2007), have done very little research on how personnel judge competence and how those judgments influence cooperation. However, several scholars who study epistemic communities reported on how shared norms and values flow through those social networks to influence that type of behavior (Carr, LeRoux, & Shrestha, 2009; Frederickson, 1999; Karuppusamy, 2012; LeRoux, Brandenberger, & Pandey, 2010). Two shared norms that are recognized as positively influencing whether cooperation occurs are trust and reciprocity (Thurmaier & Wood, 2002). Trust can be established over time or through reputation (Feiock, Tao, & Johnson, 2004). However, researchers studying interlocal cooperation do not specifically address how and why trust is developed or how specific standards of performance might engender trust and collective action. The research of Romzek, LeRoux, Johnston, Kempf, and Piatak (2013) on accountability regimes within multiagency networks indicates that these types of informal mechanisms (e.g. trust, trustworthiness, and other facilitative behaviors) play critical roles in the formation and maintenance of interorganizational relationships.

Understanding these phenomena is relevant to public administration as the field continues to move toward theories of cooperation and governance, as Frederickson (1999) observed. Professional capital contributes to research on interlocal cooperation by offering insights on how organizations achieve collective action in the absence of hierarchy. This article examines professional capital within the policy domains of the emergency services. Common professional standards demonstrated in the field included response times, staffing levels, the aptitude to perform specific tasks relevant to the police, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) disciplines, the demonstration of effective leadership and good judgment, and the appearance and working order of relevant equipment, among others.

PERSPECTIVES ON WHY PERSONNEL MAKE DECISIONS REGARDING INTERLOCAL COOPERATION

There are various approaches to explain how managers and other personnel make decisions regarding interlocal cooperation. Several perspectives inform this article's approach, including research on network management, institutional collective action (ICA), and, epistemic communities. In addition, research on trust suggests that elements of dyadic relationships offer a possible direction in examining key antecedents of interlocal cooperation. …

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