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An organizational approach to public governance: Towards a design approach

Tuesday, February 26, 2019, 5:20 pm – 7:00 pm


An organizational approach to public governance: Towards a design approach 

Lead presentation: Jarle Trondal, University of Agder and University of Oslo

Chair: Uwe Puetter, Professor, SPP and CEUR Director

Political science is often criticized for being insufficiently relevant for coping with governance challenges of our time. This book aims to fill this void by systematically theorizing and empirically mapping the organizational dimension to public governance. Factors like organization structure, organization demography, and organization locus represent classical dimensions in the organization literature that are generic in character. This allows for generalizations across time and space. Our approach is deductive in the sense that we derive particular behavioural consequences from particular organizational configurations. The volume addresses how organizational characteristics of the governmental apparatus (within international organizations, the European Union, national governments, and sub-governments) systematically enable, constrain, and shape public governance processes, thus making some policy choices more likely than others. Organizational factors mobilize attention and action capacity around certain problems and solutions while ignoring others, focus attention along particular lines of conflict and cooperation, assign problem-solving capacity to supranational, national, or subnational authorities, and create conditions for actual coordination (or organizational autonomy) horizontally and vertically. While some observers ascribe lack of government action to political leaders’ lack of will, this book advocates and documents that political will is profoundly shaped endogenously by organizational positions which also enable (and constrain) action. The usefulness of focusing on the impact of organizational variables is that it does not only offer lessons about why public governance happens the way it does; it also contributes with a valuable toolkit for how public governance processes may be deliberately shaped through organizational design, labelled ‘meta-governance’. The second aim of the volume is thus to study (organizational) design implications: by building systematic knowledge on how organizational factors shape governance processes on the one hand, and how organizational factors themselves might be deliberately changed on the other, the book offers a knowledge base for organizational design. 

Jarle Trondal is Professor in Political Science at University of Agder, Department of Political Science and Management, and at University of Oslo, ARENA Centre for European Studies, Norway. During 2018-2019 he is Visiting Scholar at University of California, Berkeley, the Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science, and at University of Canberra, Institute of Governance and Policy Analysis. His main fields of work is in public administration, governance, and organization theory.