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Public Performance & Management Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, December 2012, pp. 340–365. © 2012 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved. Permissions: www.copyright.com ISSN 1530-9576 (print), ISSN 1557-9271 (online) DOI: 10.2753/PMR1530-9576360209 340 PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS AND NETWORK GOVERNANCE What Are the Challenges? LUCIA VELOTTI University of Delaware ANTONIO BOTTI MASSIMILIANO VESCI University of Salerno ABSTRACT: This article examines public-private partnership in light of the New Public Management and New Public Governance, showing the effect of the overlap and mix of elements generated by these paradigms. For purposes of the article, PPP is defined as a unit of analysis of a network, with particular reference to processes of coproduction and cocreation. The study explores these ideal types in the strategic planning of several Italian cities, differentiating PPPs on the basis of degree of participant involvement, a distinction based on such explanatory variables as the structure of the decision-making process, legitimacy, transparency, and accountability. Broadly speaking, the article seeks to understand how relationships among public and private partners affect partnership sustainability. The analysis highlights the prevalence of PPPs oriented toward coproduction. KEYWORDS: public management, public-private partnerships, strategic planning The complexity of defining public-private partnerships (PPPs) can be traced to the lack of agreement on the subject in the literature. The main point of contention concerns the question of whether a PPP should be considered a form of contract (Bovaird, 2004; Brinkerhoff & Brinkerhoff, 2011; Hodge & Greve, 2005; Klijn & Teisman, 2005). This issue arises, in part, from the fact that the paradigms, theories, and practices of PPP have evolved over time at different rates. Different conceptualizations of public-private partnership are set forth by the New Public Management (NPM) and New Public Governance (NPG) paradigms (Bovaird, 2004; Hood, 1991; Kooiman, 1993; Rhodes, 1997). The NPM was first formulated at a time when societies around the world were faced with resource scarcity, the growing pressures of globalization, large-scale governmental corrup- tion, and scandals that could only be addressed by a more efficient and transpar-

Velotti, L., Botti, A., & Vesci, M. (2012). Public-Private Partnerships and Network Governance. Public Performance & Management Review, 36(2), 340-365

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Public Performance & Management Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, December 2012, pp. 340–365.© 2012 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved. Permissions: www.copyright.com

ISSN 1530-9576 (print), ISSN 1557-9271 (online)DOI: 10.2753/PMR1530-9576360209340


what Are the challenges?

lucIA VElOttIUniversity of Delaware


University of Salerno

ABSTRACT: This article examines public-private partnership in light of the New Public Management and New Public Governance, showing the effect of the overlap and mix of elements generated by these paradigms. For purposes of the article, PPP is defined as a unit of analysis of a network, with particular reference to processes of coproduction and cocreation. The study explores these ideal types in the strategic planning of several Italian cities, differentiating PPPs on the basis of degree of participant involvement, a distinction based on such explanatory variables as the structure of the decision-making process, legitimacy, transparency, and accountability. Broadly speaking, the article seeks to understand how relationships among public and private partners affect partnership sustainability. The analysis highlights the prevalence of PPPs oriented toward coproduction.

KEYWORDS: public management, public-private partnerships, strategic planning

the complexity of defining public-private partnerships (PPPs) can be traced to the lack of agreement on the subject in the literature. the main point of contention concerns the question of whether a PPP should be considered a form of contract (bovaird, 2004; brinkerhoff & brinkerhoff, 2011; hodge & greve, 2005; klijn & teisman, 2005). this issue arises, in part, from the fact that the paradigms, theories, and practices of PPP have evolved over time at different rates.

Different conceptualizations of public-private partnership are set forth by the New Public Management (NPM) and New Public governance (NPg) paradigms (bovaird, 2004; hood, 1991; kooiman, 1993; Rhodes, 1997). the NPM was first formulated at a time when societies around the world were faced with resource scarcity, the growing pressures of globalization, large-scale governmental corrup-tion, and scandals that could only be addressed by a more efficient and transpar-

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ent form of governance. In an attempt to recover citizens’ trust, NPM focused on partnerships as a way to achieve greater efficiency in the public sector by adopting entrepreneurial modes of management (barberis, 1998; borgonovi, 2004; Ferlie, lynn, & Pollitt, 2005; hood, 1998; hood & Jackson, 1991; Mandell & keast, 2008; Vigoda-gadot & Meier, 2008). Efficiency, effectiveness, and equity became the parameters for assessing delivery of services and implementation of policy. Privatization and the externalization of services, under the claim of increasing efficiency, became the new meaning of partnership. Relationships between the public and private sectors were regulated by binding contracts and defined as principal-agent relationships (Jensen & Meckling, 1976).

NPM regarded relationships among societal components as highly competitive. transaction-cost analysis describes the conditions under which PPPs improve efficiency (Ouchi, 1980; williamson, 1975). this method of administering the public sector had repercussions for the relationships between public officials and citizens, who came to be considered customers and, therefore, buyers of public services. customer satisfaction, defined as quality, was the means by which the public sector responded to criticisms that its interests differed from those of the marketplace. In practice, PPPs are described in terms of production processes (input, output, and outcome) or as a tool to improve effectiveness and efficiency. the realization of major infrastructural projects and delivery of services are ex-amples of what in practice is often defined as public-private partnership.

changes in the competitive context and the waves of reforms compelled a number of cities to engage in future planning in order to fulfill their long-term needs. Strategic planning became the tool by which many cities addressed the regeneration needs they faced as a result of crises for their economic activities (hamburg, birmingham, liverpool, and Manchester) or strong international competition (lyons, barcelona, Amsterdam, and turin). In Italy, strategic plan-ning was implemented for the first time by the city of turin and then followed by other cities.

NPg aims to achieve common goals through collaborative efforts to tackle complex or “wicked” problems (Agranoff & Mcguire, 1998; Ferlie & Pettigrew, 1996; Ferlie, Fitzgerald, Mcgivern, Dopson, & bennett, 2011; Milward & Provan, 2003; O’toole, 1997; Provan & Milward, 1995, 2001; Provan & Sebastian, 1998; Rittel & weber, 1973). these goals are seen as not otherwise achievable without the support of the private and nonprofit sectors (bovaird, 2004; castells, 1996). NPg proffers collaborative relationships as a replacement for the principal-agent relationships proposed by NPM (brinkerhoff & brinkerhoff, 2011).

the idea of collaborative relationships differs from competition or coopera-

the authors thank the anonymous reviewers and the guest editor, Seth A. grossman, for valuable comments and helpful advice that have helped to shape this version of the article.

342 PPMR / December 2012

tion in that it assumes the enactment of relationships that, at least theoretically, are based on the assumption that equals working together produce equity. the idea of the equality of all of society’s components allows room for discussion of the democratic challenges that an excessive focus on the marketplace brought to the democratic content of government relationships that should be understood from a “social” rather than a “market” contract perspective. In this context, two main forces bear on the public sector: first, the demand for increased democratic procedures, and second, the need to ensure democracy and guarantee the achieve-ment of public interests in a context in which multiple individual interests might diverge from the common interest.

At present, there is still uncertainty about how to define PPPs and the criteria for assessing them. NPM and NPg, introduced one after the other, not only en-able different understanding of PPP but also generate confusion between old and new modes of public sector management. In turn, this affects how partnerships are defined and therefore understood and assessed.

this article represents an attempt to shed some light on these dimensions by providing a definition of public-private partnership in line with societal evolu-tion and needs. to this end, PPP is presented as a dyadic relationship of a wider network (Singh & Prakash, 2010), defined from both a structural and a relational perspective. Dyadic relationships between public and private actors in the strategic planning of Italian cities are then investigated. what matters in these relationships is not merely the realization of a document as an output but also the process of creating a new whole based on a multitude of PPPs. Network, and therefore partnership performance, is defined as a set of innovative ways of working that reinforce the process and sustainability of the relationship (Mandell & keast, 2007, 2008). Innovation and sustainability are suitable criteria for assessing PPPs and explaining how these elements can affect a entire network. Innovation and sustainability can be assessed as the creation of reciprocal legitimacy, transparency, and accountability between public and private actors (defined as responsibility and therefore commitment).

A Definition

the definition of public-private partnership presented in this article takes into account both its structural and its relational content. In structural terms, a PPP can be considered a unit of analysis for the larger network in which it is embed-ded (Singh & Prakash, 2010). this means that a PPP is always made up of two organizations or individuals and therefore is a dyad.

bearing in mind their relational content, PPPs should not be considered principal-agent relationships enabled by contractual forms (brinkerhoff, 2002; brinkerhoff & brinkerhoff, 2011). Such relationships “are not actually

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PPP at all but a revamped form of tendering in which there is still a sharp risk division” (klijn & teisman, 2005, p. 103). the old meaning of PPP as a “revamped tendering form” is a well-established concept that still exists in managerial jargon.

considering the varieties of PPPs and the evolution and changing needs of society, a PPP can be distinguished from other kinds of relationships in light of two criteria, mutuality and organization identity (brinkerhoff & brinkerhoff, 2011). Mutuality results from the absence of hierarchical relationships, based on decision-making equity, reciprocal accountability, trust, and respect. As a consequence, all partners have the same responsibilities and rights, recognize their mutual importance, and aim to achieve shared objectives. Other researchers highlight that decisions are never purely democratic because they are affected by opinion leaders (Riker, 1986). thus in some cases the topic of the present research might coincide (dovetail) with the initiator of the network. Organizational identity refers to the perception of an organization by its members and external partners. In the specific case of a PPP, organizational identity is fundamental, given the aims of the public and private sectors. this dimension is also fundamental in determining a network’s success. Mandell and keast (2008) assert, in reference to networks, the importance assumed by legitimacy within an organization and from organizations external to the network.

As a relational form, partnerships are dynamic. thus assessments of partnerships must take account of their developmental stage. Formation, stability, routinization, and extension are established stages in a network’s development (kenis & Provan, 2009; Mandell & keast, 2008; Sydow, 2004). these stages can also be applied to partnerships as units of analysis of a wider network. In fact, what a partnership can achieve is strictly determined by its developmental stage.

the performance of a network in the formation stage has to be assessed on the ability of the network partners to generate innovative ways of working, changing their attitudes toward other members, and developing trust toward one another. In a few words, this stage may be heavily affected by the ability to create social capital (coleman, 1990; Putnam, 1993). According to keast, Mandell, brown, and wool-cock (2004, p. 366), even if a network’s members know each other from previous collaborative experiences, they still need to adapt themselves to the requirements of the changed conditions determined by joining a new project or partnership. the struggle for stability involves building external network legitimacy toward other public entities or citizens, understanding their needs and supporting staff in building innovative skills. commitment is also important in this stage. In the next stage, network routinization, network members internalize both formal and informal rules, and new members can join the network. As explained by Mandell and keast (2008), what is really important is working to reduce the costs of par-ticipation and getting participants to acknowledge the benefits of participation.

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In the last stage, extension, links to other networks can be created, and external and internal legitimacy consolidated.

thus, in a broad sense PPPs can be defined as

working arrangements based on a mutual commitment (over and above that implied in any contract) between a public sector organization and any organization outside of the public sector. consequently, they will embrace public sector partnerships with both business and organizations in civil society (including community organizations, voluntary organizations and NgOs). (bovaird, 2004, p. 200)

An important aspect of a PPP is represented by its system of governance. considering the actual system of governance, in which the interdependen-cies among actors are increasing, public-private partnerships are a reflection of a changed way to do strategic management. As bovaird (2004) observes, the main point in strategic management should be the shift in focus from at-tempting to impose strategic control on stakeholders toward the negotiation of metastrategy frameworks within which the decisions of partners will mutually influence each other. Rather than enforcing a fixed strategic vision, strategists must give strategic direction but then encourage strategic experimentation and diversity in pursuing this direction (bovaird & Sharifi, 1998, cited in bovaird, 2004, p. 209).

the PPP decision-making process is neither a top-down nor a bottom-up ap-proach but a synthetic one. the word “synthetic” is derived from synthesis, the ancient greek word sunqesis. Ancient greeks used this word to refer to the act of merging, of putting (qesis) together (suu). thus, the PPP decision-making process results from a combination or mix of top-down and bottom-up approaches. In contrast to older approaches, the synthetic approach seeks to achieve what Innes and booher (2004) define as a “multiway” approach. this has several implications for public management. First, it means that there is no longer “one best way” to be identified and then applied in different contexts. Second, it means that public managers are no longer simply mediators or facilitators of the interactions among different societal components, but now must be agents of empowerment and thus more resilient to change.

taking this into consideration, the contextual analysis in the initial phase will be better defined in situations where there is a hierarchical decision-making pro-cess (top-down), a participative process (bottom-up), or a balanced use of both in concrete partnership development. In other words, the synthetic approach allows for the dynamic assessment of results as the situation dictates. In addition, as a contingency, the use of a synthetic approach can reduce environmental ambiguity and uncertainty (Agranoff & Mcguire, 1998, p. 81). As further discussed below, synthesizing is one of the more important components of achieving a multiway dialogue (Agranoff & Mcguire, 2001). In order to have a multiway dialogue, all parties have to be empowered. Steering is no longer sufficient, for as Denhardt

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and Denhardt point out, “in our rush to steer, perhaps we are forgetting who owns the boat” (2007, p. 23). the impact of synthesizing on public management goes beyond the simple steering of relationships. PPP management highlights the differences between the old and new ways of management. If a PPP is, as here proposed, a dyad of a wider network, then empowerment is accomplished through information and by overcoming authoritative relationships. thus PPP management favors flexibility over bureaucracy (Agranoff & Mcguire, 2001).

thus, encouraging PPPs as well other forms of cross-sector collaborations is a way to cope with the increased complexity of the public sector (Agranoff & Mcguire, 2003; bryson, crosby, & Stone, 2006; goldsmith & Eggers, 2004; kickert, klijn, & koppenjan, 1997; Mandell, 2001; Rethemeyer, 2005). Further, in line with a contingent approach it is important to highlight the relationship between strategy and structure. the validity of this argument has been tested by kort and klijn (2011) in the Netherlands. they demonstrated that organizational form has no impact on outcomes. In fact, the determination of outcome is directly linked to network management strategies.

the purpose of partnerships is to respond to government’s coproduction or cocreation needs by sharing risks and responsibilities. this should lead to a com-monality of intents and shared goals. coproduction occurs when tasks or objec-tives are established ex ante by a public administrator.1 Private partners are less involved in this form, as their participation is constrained to predetermined tasks, and the public servant is assumed to have more control. In contrast, cocreation occurs when objectives/tasks are not set in advance but instead are established through negotiation and participation.

the need for public administration to engage with and involve the private sec-tor is satisfied by coproduction and cocreation, and met by increasing awareness of the use of participation, and therefore partnership, as a means to comply with legal requirements or to accomplish other ends.

More specifically, the present discussion answers the following questions:

• Whataretherelationaldifferencesbetweenpublicpartnershipsaimedatcopro-duction and those aimed at cocreation?

• Howdotheydifferintermsoflegitimacy,accountability,andtransparency?• Howdodifferentmodesofexternalstakeholderinvolvementaffectapartner-

ship’s sustainability?

to this end, public-private partnerships will be examined in the context of strategic planning in Italian cities. this study provides analysis aimed at deter-mining what strategic planning decisions are made and how they are related to the dynamic nature of the political environment. the contextual analysis will help practitioners to understand strategic planning decisions and processes in a real-world scenario.

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Strategic Planning by Italian Cities

Strategic planning is not a new tool in local governance, and at least three different approaches to it can be identified, ranging from “strategic-rational” or “systemic” to “strategic-communitarian” (cavenago & trivellato, 2010, pp. 169–170). Among these, the strategic-communitarian approach assumes a participatory approach at the core as a way to implement deliberative democracy (Perulli, 2004). the introduction of strategic planning in Italy dates back to the late 1990s, led by the municipality of turin and then followed by la Spezia, Pesaro, trento, Florence, Verona, and Venice. with the exception of trento, all these cities implemented a voluntary rather than mandatory process of strategic planning. the second wave of Italian strategic plans, although voluntary, was strongly encouraged by incen-tives provided by the national government (Pasqui, 2011). Some authors consider the implementation of these plans as aimed at pursuing hidden interests (cepiku, leonardi, & Meneguzzo, 2009; Pasqui, 2011).

A strategic plan “triggers models of governance that are different from the traditional oligarchic paradigm, requiring the definition of interventions according to a rigidly top-down scheme” (botti & Vesci, 2010, p. 52).

cocreation and coproduction can be defined as part of the participation pro-cess and therefore refer to the inclusion of subjects at different stages of strategic planning. For instance, in the initial stage: how were the participants selected? who decided on the direction of the strategic plan? who decided to reorganize the city in question from industrial to cultural? how were these decisions made? who was responsible for them?

Pasqui, Armondi, & Fedeli (2010), referring to Mintzberg (1994), state that the use of strategic planning by government is intended to achieve the following objectives: thinking about the future, integrating decision-making, and improving the coordination mechanisms. Thinking about the future refers to the implemen-tation of a shared common vision for the city. this need is generally assumed to serve political interests. Integrating decision-making refers to the solution of horizontal and vertical fragmentation of the governmental decision-making process. Improving coordination mechanisms is aimed at achieving coordination among sectoral policies.

According to bryson (2004), strategic planning is made up of several stages and activities. For the sake of simplicity, these be categorized in two main stages, formulation and implementation, preceded by the selection or engagement of the plan’s participants. the selection stage is fundamental in order to achieve the first step of strategic planning, which is to “initiate and agree on a strategic planning process” (bryson, 2004, p. 32). Although participation costs, such as information retrieval and time, may compromise the planning process by excluding the under-represented interests of the great mass of citizens (Olson, 1965; tullock, 1967),

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this problem can be overcome by introducing economic incentives and training for the unskilled. having full representation of citizens at all the meetings pertain-ing to the plan is a utopian ideal. however, it may be possible to involve at least some citizens in general meetings by means of the like (Innes & booher, 2004). the role of the promoter is fundamental in strategic planning. In fact, without an “entrepreneur” (Downs, 1967), whether a mayor, a business firm, or an NgO, it would be impossible to initiate a network (Mcguire & Agranoff, 2007). Strong leadership is required to initiate a network. the selection stage refers to what has been defined as network activation (Agranoff & Mcguire, 2001). Member selection is vital to the sustainability of the entire network, because members bring their resources and interests to the network. At the same time, selection is troublesome, because democracy can be diminished by homogeneity or a lack of heterogeneity. thus, what is meaningful is the involvement and integration of multiple interests and perspectives.

this aspect determines the existence of different kinds of roles and therefore relationships. For instance, the public administration can assume the role of pro-moter, facilitator, and coordinator of the process. As promoter, it involves network participants and starts the planning process. As facilitator, it identifies “the vari-ous institutional bodies and the competencies that are required for analysis and design [and] it also relies on negotiation techniques to facilitate adjustment of local expectations and interests” (cavenago & trivellato, 2010, p. 172). Finally, the public administration can also act as network coordinator and as a financial supporter of the network.

the formulation stage includes the following activities:

• diagnosis (an understanding of system strengths and weaknesses, usually obtained through SwOt analysis)

• creationofavisionstatement• settingstrategicobjectives• settingprojectsandoperativeobjectives

A strategic plan is a shared, signed document resulting from the interaction of all the participants in the above-mentioned activities. the facilitator and promoter are indispensable in reaching a blend of different interests in this phase. Agranoff & Mcguire (2001) highlight the importance of synthesizing (klijn & teisman 1997). Synthesizing here is different from synthesis in that the latter refers to the decision-making process, while synthesizing together with activating comprises “management tasks often used in conjunction” (Agranoff & Mcguire 2001, p. 301). Implementation is the last and more operative part of the process of strategic planning. Implementation refers to the passage from discussion of visions, strategic objectives, and so on, to practical realization.

In contrast to the foregoing, the management process is not specifically related

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to any single action because it spans them all. Management and performance are inextricably linked. In fact, it is undeniable that the success or failure of an under-taking is largely determined by the (use) choice of strategies. At the same time, it is also true that strategies need to meet relational needs, and not vice versa.

Different kinds of relationships can be considered ideal, varying in range be-tween coproduction and cocreation. PPP can be enabled at both the formulation and implementation stages of strategic planning. In the strategic planning process of a city, a PPP generally comes into being in the formulation stage. At this stage a PPP might be aimed both at coproduction and at cocreation. In the implementation stage, a PPP is usually aimed at coproduction whereby the new partner complies with pre-established tasks set up by the old partners. this is the case for a PPP in which a new partner is involved in project implementation and does not merely participate at an operative level.

What Are the Challenges?

As a unit of analysis in a wider net of relationships, such as those implemented in a strategic plan, a PPP can be analyzed with reference to the literature on network performance. It can be assessed using the network performance theo-retical framework, which is aimed at understanding problems resulting from the achievement of joint production (kenis & Provan, 2009; Provan & Milward, 2001) and attempts to solve “wicked problems” (Agranoff & Mcguire, 1998; Ferlie & Pettigrew, 1996; Ferlie et al., 2011; Mandell & keast, 2008; Milward & Provan, 2003; O’toole, 1997; Provan & Milward, 1995, 2001; Provan & Sebastian, 1998; Rittel & weber, 1973).

In city strategic plans, the achievement of a common vision and joint purpose should be accomplished through participatory processes. the simple involve-ment of entities other than public ones is not, however, sufficient to guarantee the achievement of democratic goals. At the same time, writing a strategic plan can also be described as part of a coordinative process through time, resulting in cooperative or collaborative (complex) decision-making processes.

before evaluating a strategic plan it is important to understand its underlying objectives (thinking about the future, integrating decision-making, improving coordination mechanisms). Distinguishing the objectives is at the core of PPP performance evaluation. In fact, the accomplishment of different objectives could lead to a strategic plan’s having different organizational structures. For instance, the fulfillment of certain objectives could affect the kind of participatory approach and structure adopted in a strategic plan. As is well known, strategy affects structure. this leads to a paradox. If it is true that a strategic plan has to fulfill a common vision, the structure through which this participatory process is set up is decided a priori. this may be related to the so-called impossibility theorem (Arrow, 1951).

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the theorem states that an initiator (i.e., a mayor, a government, a private organiza-tion) may implement deliberative democratic process, not to enhance democracy, but in order to raise a consensus for a specific objective.

Recognizing a strategic plan as more oriented toward coproduction or cocre-ation is only a first descriptive step toward an understanding of sustainability. Sustainability can be affected by different applications and combinations of the implementation of legitimacy, accountability, and transparency that could under-mine partner commitment toward the whole network and the partnership. One might argue that partners do not have to leave the partnership, but can stay on as free riders (Olson, 1965).

A sustainable process may rely on transparency, as it is assumed to be both the first step toward the building of accountable governmental relationships and an enabling factor of trust (Piotrowski & Van Ryzin, 2007). In a governmental setting, transparency can refer to such aspects as information, participation, and accountability (balkin, 1999; Rawlins, 2008). Information is the ability of govern-ment to inform stakeholders about its activities in a clear way and in real time. the more informed stakeholders are, the greater their potential for participation. In turn, this reflects on governmental accountability. thus, information empowers the actors in a network.

the impact of legitimacy on sustainability is related to the survival of partner-ship in the absence of a free-rider mechanism. In an earlier study, botti and Vesci (2010) noted a high rate of drop-off on the part of actors, both public and private, that were initially involved in the strategic planning process. the reasons for this include poor partnership legitimization, accountability, or transparency, or aban-donment by a key player. Abstention is the natural choice when citizens compare the costs of participation with the potential benefits (Downs, 1957).

In light of this, the positional roles of actors could affect the sustainability of both the partnership and the network due to a lack of internal or external legitimacy (Mandell & keast, 2007, 2008). Internal legitimacy is the absence or management of internal conflict between the subject that represents an organization and the organization itself. this is very important, because very often such conflicts can disrupt the partnership. External legitimacy is the effect of the absence or pres-ence of legitimacy from organizations external to the network but relevant to the network or the partnership.

For instance, when a mayor’s activities as promoter are not fully supported by the whole municipal council, this could affect the future sustainability of a city’s strategic plan, for it might lead people to feel that the plan is aimed at achieving personal rather than public interests. the underlying objectives of a strategic plan formulated by key players and the methods of partner selection and engagement, therefore, determine the beginning of a strategic plan and may affect the sustain-ability of both the partnerships and the network.

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Sustainability is generally defined as the ability of an organization to sustain itself over time. In thinking about an organization, an important concern is its ability to acquire the economic, relational, and other resources that will enable it to survive. Resource munificence is are known to have an impact on network sustainability (Provan & Milward, 1995).

Accountability as a responsibility and therefore a commitment is tacit in the level of PPP formalization. A relationship can be both informal and formal (in-stitutionalized). Personal relationships among members of an organization may intensify commitment but cannot guarantee it (Provan, Veazie, Staten, & teufel-Shone, 2005).

the importance of this in terms of the sustainability of the relationship is that very often a relationship fails because of tensions between the individuals joining the relationship and their parent organizations (Mandell & keast, 2008). Memo-randums of intent and agreements are innovative ways to get partners to work well together (Mandell & keast, 2007). Innovation can be described as the set of tools used to engage people (forums, working groups, etc.) in achieving a joint purpose. Although the importance of innovation is recognized, it must be noted that there are different kinds of innovations in the public sector (see Damanpour & Schneider, 2006).


the study described in this article utilized a comparative case study approach based on secondary data (Agranoff & Radin, 1991). the choice of the case study method was justified by its flexibility in grasping contextual elements or exogenous dimensions not accessible to qualitative or quantitative analysis. In addition, the how and why are essential to an understanding of the PPP processes of a strategic plans (Yin, 2003). the approach used in the case study was qualitative. A qualita-tive approach is helpful in understanding meanings that cannot be separated from the context in which they originate. In turn, this also affects the procedures of data collection and analysis (hollstein, 2011). given the nature of the study, the criterion of openness led the authors to rely particularly on documentary data and in-depth interviews.2

In evaluating network effectiveness, no one criterion is better than another, as there are exogenous conditions that might affect network effectiveness, such as the inception and developmental stages of the network and the form of the network (kenis & Provan, 2009). In assessing these partnerships, it is necessary to use an approach capable of simultaneously understanding units, activities, and links (through a longitudinal study).

case studies were chosen on the basis of these exogenous dimensions, with context treated as the broader category under which exogenous dimensions fall

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(Aristigueta & Van Dooren, 2007; Provan & Milward, 1995, 2001). contextual factors affecting the effectiveness of network performance were considered at the macro, meso, and micro levels because of the fact that networks are embedded in a wide net of relationships.

An important distinction was made between mandate networks and voluntary networks (Addicot & Ferlie, 2006; kenis & Provan, 2009; lauman, galaskiewicz, & Marsden, 1978; Mandell, 1990; Selsky & Parker, 2005; Van Raaij, 2006). Mandate networks are those in which the joint production of policies, programs, and services does not occur spontaneously, but is mandatory. this can generate challenges, because network members, unlike those in voluntary networks, may not perceive the need to act jointly. this, in turn, can affect the internal legitimacy of mandate networks when compared to voluntary networks (Van Raaij, 2006).

the developmental stage is important in two ways (Mandell & keast, 2008; Sydow, 2004). First, if performance is considered a relational result, then time is also very important in allowing network members to formulate judgments both on network participants and on the network itself. A member’s judgments may affect the member’s participation in the network. Second, the importance of the network’s developmental stage is an expression of the dynamic characteristic of networks.

the exogenous factors that can affect network performance include the network’s mode of governance—whether self-governance, lead governance, or Network Ad-ministrative Organization (NAO) governance—and its mode of management. lead governance generally occurs in networks of “funders and recipient organizations” (kenis & Provan, 2009, p. 447). the strong points of lead organization forms are efficiency and legitimacy, because the organization leader is principally responsible for results. however, lead governance is sometimes susceptible to attempts by leaders and members to pursue private rather than common interests. this model can be activated in both mandate and bottom-up networks.

the cases selected for this study fall entirely within the lead governance form of network in order to provide homogeneity and obtain a better basis for comparison. Only one case, the city of trento, had a mandate network inception, in the form of a strategic plan enacted by its municipal statutes. the characteristics of each form of network are shown in table l.

the unit of analysis in the study was the partnership within a strategic plan. this consideration fits the dynamic nature of the partnership (brinkerhoff, 2002; Mandell & keast, 2007, 2008).


Data were collected by the authors in a previous study (botti & Vesci, 2010) analyz-ing governance issues arising in the formulation and implementation of strategic plans. Data collection was carried out from January through July of 2008 and a

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total of 18 strategic plans were examined. In addition, to ensure data reliability, all the data were compared with subsequent studies and reports.

Data from documents were analyzed through content analysis (krippendorf 1980; Stempel 2003), taking into account two main categories: the selection and the formulation stage. In particular, subcategories were identified for each of these elements (see table 2).

this allowed for a more in-depth study of the whole process of governance from a longitudinal perspective. the use of a longitudinal approach helps to overcome one-time, “snapshot” assessments of topics in which anomalies related to one year might be considered the norm rather than the exception. In addition, since it is helpful in highlighting the relations and dynamics enacted in the construction and implementation phases of a strategic plan, as well as the operative mechanisms activated, it captures the dynamic nature of relationships.

the analysis in this study allowed for a reconstruction of the relational processes in the management of the planning process, including the criteria for including stakeholders and for developing interactions. In order to control and limit the errors in the process of assessment, the authors worked independently. Any discrepancies between their assessments were reviewed, discussed, and then agreed upon.

An open-ended questionnaire was administered by telephone to persons re-sponsible for strategic plans, followed by a documentary analysis. Questions were designed to assess the extent of implementation, the degree to which objectives singled out and set by the plan had been achieved, and the problems that arose in the course of implementation or were perceived by the subject managing the process.

Interviews were used as a tool for examining in-depth some of the deductions that emerged from the documentary analysis. Following weiss (1994), they also enabled the reconstruction of a more complete framework of the phenomenon, accounting for relational aspects and mechanisms that could not be uncovered by a study of the documentation alone.

Table 1. Case Study Characteristics

CityNetwork inception

Network form

Beginning of strategic planning process (year)

Network development


Status of strategic planning process

copparo Voluntarylead governance 2001

Struggle for stabilization unfinished

la Spezia Voluntarylead governance 1999 Extension unfinished

trento Mandatedlead governance 2000 Extension concluded

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the generalization of results was analytic rather than statistical, as empirical observations lead to theory (Yin, 1994, 1999). case studies facilitate this process and thus represent a starting point for theory development (Eisenhardt, 1989). In this stage, the development of a clear rationale for the case study selection and a detailed description of the case study’s context are elements capable of meeting the requirements of external validity.

Case Studies

to understand how municipalities operate, it is useful to provide a brief description of the relationships among actors that will be further referenced in this article. the bassanini reform in Italy started a process of empowerment whereby citizens came to see themselves as customers rather than users of public administration. During this reformist wave, transparency was conceptualized as a right and formulated as the right of citizens to access official administrative records (law 241/1990). In addition, legislative Decree 150/2009, also known as the brunetta reform, introduced the logic of management by objectives and required government to be accountable for results by publishing performance evaluations on its website. this was conceived as a means to improve transparency toward citizens. legisla-tive Decree 150/2009 also regulates the entire cycle of programming and control, based on two main documents, the piano della performance (performance plan) and the relazione sulla performance (report on performance). the former docu-ment reports on programming, and the latter, on control.

Table 2. Documentary Analysis Categories and Subitems

Stage of strategic planning Item

Selection stage Promoter (mayor, public agency, enterprise, citizens)Individuation of participants/stakeholders Involvement of other public entitiesPresence/absence of agreement (preliminary protocol, agreement, contract)

Formulation Organization/subject governing strategic planning process Stakeholder listened to/how they have been heard /what they have been heard onParticipants’ role (passive or active)

Strategic plan elaboration team members (professors, consultants, enterprises, citizens, other organizations)length of planning processcreation of vision statementDiagnosis (SwOt)Setting strategic guidelinesSetting strategic objectivesSetting projects and operative objectives

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Strategic planning by the association of six copparese municipalities began in 2002. the creator and promoter of the strategic plan was the municipality of copparo, led by its mayor. Strategic plan approvals date back to 2004, and duration was fixed at five years. the strategic plan was written with the support of external consultants. It outlined six strategic guidelines, 26 objectives, and 100 actions.

In the design stage, a large number of partners were involved in the attempt to formulate a shared vision, strategic guidelines, and operational objectives. the strategic plan is made up of three main documents that correspond to different inclusive methods: Verso il piano (toward the [Strategic] Plan), a diagnostic docu-ment presenting the proposed strategic guidelines; the plan itself; and finally Patto per lo sviluppo del territorio Copparese (Agreement for the Development of the copparese territory). the process of inclusion was achieved by activating work groups and conducting polls from which the diagnosis later derived. the content and organization of the work groups were established by the mayors of the six municipalities on the basis of the results of the diagnosis. In addition, citizens were sent a letter containing both a preliminary version of the strategic guidelines (Verso il piano—Prime linee strategiche a cura del Comitato Tecnico-Scientifico) and a questionnaire. they were given two months to return their own suggestions related to the strategic guidelines. Special collection centers were designated in each city to collect the responses. A total of 32 suggestions were received, some of which were very detailed and contained the contact information of the respon-dents for future reference.

An innovative element was the implementation of a workshop in an attempt to overcome traditional methods of public sector management. the so-called laboratory was a meeting place for all those who felt they had opinions, ideas, or suggestions related to territorial animation (promotion), realization of the urban plan, or the elaboration of strategic plan contents.

In 2004, the mayor of copparo, the leader of the strategic plan, was implicated in a local scandal that ultimately resulted in his resignation. he was later found not guilty of all charges, but in the aftermath the process of strategic planning failed.

At present the association of six municipalities is trying to restart the strategic planning process by reopening the laboratory.


In la Spezia, the process of strategic planning was carried out over five years from 1999 to 2004. A diagnostic (SwOt analysis), a vision statement, and set-ting of strategic and operative objectives were completed between 1999 and 2001. Detailed strategic guidelines were developed from 2001 to 2004. the approved strategic plan comprised nine strategic guidelines and 52 projects.

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Initially the strategic plan was promoted solely by the la Spezia municipal-ity, and it was not until later, in the objective-setting stage, that leadership of the strategic plan was shared with the province. thus, until 2001, the mayor of la Spezia was the gatekeeper of the strategic plan. there were no attempts to create an organization internal to the municipality to manage the strategic plan. At the end of 2001, the election of a new mayor changed the situation, with the leader-ship of the strategic plan now passing to the assessor, who was head of the newly created office for strategic planning. the new office was a result of public pressure to institutionalize leadership at an organizational rather than an individual level (Pasqui, Armondi, & Fedeli, 2010, p. 58). It is worthwhile to highlight that the partnership of the province in the process was a move by the mayor of la Spezia to strengthen its internal and external legitimacy. Pasqui, Armondi, & Fedeli (2010) highlight the ability of the la Spezia strategic plan to create, among the plan’s participants, a feeling that the decision-making process was widely shared as a point of strength. the use of forums to engage partners in discussion was also successful. Forums allowed suggestions on procedure (method) of develop-ment to be collected, preliminary hypotheses on strategic issues to be defined, and problems and possible solutions to be identified. In the attempt to involve as many stakeholders as possible, a dedicated web site was activated, an information point, called the urban center, was established, and a communication campaign was launched. In practice, citizens were reached by distributing an informational brochure describing the progress of the strategic plan and a questionnaire seek-ing their opinions on the current state of the city and on future developmental alternatives. Moreover, seven consultative roundtables, called commissions, met in different neighborhoods in the city. widely shared common objectives and purposes accelerated and simplified some processes. In addition, several public-private companies were organized to manage specific projects, such as territorial promotion and management, diffusion of data, and informatics systems.


trento is a special case because its strategic plan was mandated by comma 96 of its municipal statutes, making the municipality the promoter.3 thus, one of the main objectives of the public government was to fulfill an institutional duty.

considering the level of PPP formalization, the municipality of trento tried, from the very beginning, to build strong relationships with its partners. the provision and submission of a contractual form to the city’s representatives for culture, environment, economy, education, research, and employment clearly demonstrates this.

the municipality approved its first strategic plan in 2003. Over a period of 26 months it produced four strategic guidelines, 10 objectives, and 73 actions. this was achieved by the municipality’s taking control of both the design and the

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implementation stages of the process. by its own admission, the trento munici-pality carried out 75% of the activities without involving any other stakeholders in the strategic planning process (private communication between Dr. Vesci and a representative of trento, 2010).

In the formulation stage, diagnosis was accomplished in two steps. In the first step, 250 people met to discuss three main themes—territory, culture, and services—in order to construct a SwOt analysis. the results of this stage were compared to those coming from other planning tools, such as the social plan, town plan, and cultural plan.

the SwOt analysis was then made public, and five thematic roundtables for discussion were organized, in which a total of 321 people took part. the round-tables compiled new proposals related to strategic actions.

by involving a large number of stakeholders, the government hoped to achieve a set of shared visions, strategic guidelines, and operative objectives, despite hav-ing built partnerships with only a small number of stakeholders who had unique interests (Pasqui, Armondi, & Fedeli, 2010).

In other words, in the trento case, even though the entire citizenry had the op-portunity to freely participate and there were no formal constraints, the process was developed under the strong leadership of the municipality, which served simultaneously as promoter, coordinator, and facilitator of the process. Moreover, a mixed group of participants (municipal employees and university professors) carried out the important task of validating the hypotheses and strategic guidelines as they emerged from the SwOt analysis conducted in ad hoc meetings (tavoli tematici).

Discussion and Conclusion

the selection and engagement of partners was evaluated based on the type, extent, and timeline of the activities that partners were engaged in during the formulation stages. this analysis was aimed at understanding whether there was a relationship between coproduction and cocreation and partnership sustainability. that is, how did different methods of involving and engaging people in the decision-making process affect the sustainability of a partnership?

In all the cases analyzed, there was a constant search for partners. however, methods of engagement and involvement of partners varied depending on whether cocreation or coproduction was the goal. what were the differences in relational terms between public partnerships aimed at coproduction and those aimed at cocreation?

In the case of the copparese municipality, the use of open laboratories in which everyone without distinction could participate reflected a preference, on the part of government, for cocreation rather than coproduction. the promoters aimed

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to create conditions that would integrate a net of horizontal governance (public-public and public-private) and achieve a shared vision. the use of laboratories as an enabling tool of participation could have been drastically reduced by the presence of a “techno-scientific” committee that had the last word on strategic guidelines and actions. In truth, the techno-scientific committee was made up of people of different backgrounds, as mentioned in the strategic plan document. Even if the number of people involved in the design and consultation stages was limited, each group was quite heterogeneous; even an artist was involved. In the stage of struggling for stability (Mandell & keast, 2008; Sydow, 2004), members were supported by the government (the mayor of copparo) but also acted inde-pendently. the members of the techno-scientific committee worked separately at first and then jointly to reach an agreement on strategic guidelines and actions to be implemented. In doing so they took into account suggestions by citizens.

this could have limited the effects of cocreation in two ways. First, the govern-ment did not communicate in a timely way what further steps remained and how the decision-making process would be managed. this lack of transparency might have led citizens to think that that their suggestions were not taken into account (Rawlins, 2008). thus, the attempt to create a common vision through a delibera-tive process failed to come up to the expectations of those who might have been supporters of further inclusive efforts. No one was managing the expectations. the neglected area of PPP analysis is the management of the partnership from its beginnings to its development. A fully cocreative process would have had the techno-scientific committee discuss the issues with the community and develop a managerial capacity to carry out the agreements. In addition, the citizens and other network members were suddenly going from processes that were not participatory to others that were highly inclusive. the strategic plan, as an experimental process of deliberation and collaborative efforts among societal components, needed to consider that the copparese network was struggling to achieve stability. As stated by Mandell and keast (2007, 2008) and by Sydow (2004), at this stage, legitimacy, both internal and external, is fundamental to network sustainability. therefore, strong leadership, specific and identified management, transparent availability of information, and timely communication are elements indispensable for the prosecution of a network.

As the foregoing demonstrates, the lead organization, the government, is plagued by uncertainties that make it difficult to find really innovative ways to democratically deliberate and implement. this way of acting also has an impact on legitimacy. In addition, the end of the strategic plan as a consequence of the mayor’s involvement in a scandal is illustrative on two points.

First, it shows that strong leadership is important in the starting phase but may be counterproductive in the subsequent stages. Management is different from leadership, and leadership may be the factor needed to deal with situations where

358 PPMR / December 2012

management is lacking. Second, it is indicative that lack of legitimacy can lead to low sustainability. this may confirm the need for a “dictatorial” role (Arrow, 1951), preferably benevolent, in order to bypass paradoxes related to the impos-sibility theorem.

At the organizational level, innovation is desirable in the creation of an appo-site organism entirely devoted to the strategic plan and therefore to partnerships. the la Spezia case shows how this municipality conceived innovation in term of governance and management. In la Spezia, management focused on the creation of a new organizational structure, as if the structure were by itself sufficient to guarantee success. Structure without managerial skill cannot work on its own.

creating public-private companies to manage specific projects is preferred as a means to formalize the partnership and make it more resistant in the event that key players abandon it or are replaced. In the case of the copparese municipalities, intermunicipality collaboration together with collaboration with local partners created more challenging partnerships. In the trento case, the presence of indica-tors of specific activities enabled us to understand the leitmotiv through which a strategic plan was completed—that is, a strategic plan “has to be done, and not just to be written.”

Political factors have an important effect on external legitimacy, as seen in the copparo case study. changes in the political environment can disrupt a strategic plan, as can abandonment of the project by a political leader (buchanan & tullock, 1962). too great a focus on the role of the leader can lead to a purely individual-istic conception of the collectivity in respect to the resources to be invested (time, etc.) and the sense that the leaders hope to capture value for themselves (krueger, 1974; tullock, 1965, 1967). thus, politicians have to openly disclose what value they are creating and for whom, lest participation be affected.

Accountability to the citizens was secured by a continuous and transparent communication process that provided information on the strategic plan’s gover-nance. In the trento experience more than in la Spezia, a system that controlled plan activities was implemented. la Spezia, instead, strengthened its external legitimacy by including the province in the strategic planning process and moved the leadership from the mayor to an environmental assessor. la Spezia and the copparese municipalities both used citizens to gain external legitimacy.

coproduction activities are mainly defined ex ante by a public administrator, whereas in cocreation every activity is achieved through a synthetic process that must also be managed. Management of process and production define PPP management as a unique form of public management. coproduction and cocreation have to be understood from a dynamic perspective that gives consideration to the different stages of strategic planning, the different points in time when actors join the process, and the process of strategic management as the partnering process develops.

cocreation assumes, not that the potential benefits outweigh the participation

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costs, but rather that a synthetic dialogue among its parts is essential to achieve a common goal, the public interest, that is not the sum of individual private interests but is a goal shared by the members of a community. here the decision-making process does not follow a top-down or bottom-up logic but is cyclic, indicative of the synergic exchange among societal components.

coproduction is typical of mandatory networks. Mandatory networks favor coproductive approaches over cocreative ones, as a reaction to a system of multiple forms of external accountability that are kept separate. coproduction resembles the scheme of liberal democracy and market mechanisms in which accountability to and legitimacy from third parties pertains to bureaucratic control. the structure of coproduction and its system of legitimacy and accountability is based on a system in which third parties represent wider but deferred interests. In virtue of this, third parties are not internal to the network but are considered to be external given their power to act on change. In turn, this leads to consideration of the administration of the public good as the result of task accomplishment aimed at satisfying third parties in accordance with the logic of buyer and seller or consumer and supplier. Indeed, in voluntary networks cocreation relies on shared accountability among members, and therefore final results are the responsibility of the whole rather than of a single organization. the form of control is social rather than bureaucratic. cocreation takes more time than coproduction. Internal legitimacy can be ac-complished by transferring responsibility to other organizations external to the network and therefore super partes.

In trento and la Spezia, the cocreation aspects were lessened by the strong role of the promoter and the coordinator. Partners were self-selected and given strategic direction to be followed. the experience at trento shows that in a mandate relationship, overcoming the political mandate cannot prevent free-rider behavior by partners or empty participation (Olson, 1965). this makes strategic planning less meaningful to relationships of coproduction, offering little advantage to communities, the public sector, and the private sector (for a comparison of the cases, see table 3).

this study indicates some important avenues for further research about the sources that have an impact on decision-making and outcomes. It leaves open further areas of study related to strategic planning networks that may be the result of alternative change agents, such as citizens, interest groups, or activists motivated by specific political issues (e.g., a crisis situation that creates a need for strategic planning). Studying the contextual issues that can influence municipal strategic planning and management outcomes could provide helpful information for the field of performance measurement. Developing a contextual understanding is an important dynamic associated with strategic planning at any level of government. the study of contextual aspects enables exploration of issues that can build upon and reinforce quantitative analysis in the field of performance measurement.

360 PPMR / December 2012


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contextual analysis of municipal strategic planning on the international scale can contribute methodologically and in a results-oriented fashion.

the next step in moving forward is to apply network analysis to the type of framework depicted in the preceding discussion. For instance, it might be fruitful to understand how perceptions of legitimacy, management, accountability, and transparency affect the outcomes of a network and therefore of multiple partner-ships, and how the combination of these relationships among a network’s mem-bers generates or resolves conflicts. the strategy adopted by a network manager to address this problem might be added in order to further clarify the effects of such interventions.

For instance, with respect to sustainability, does an interruption of the process of strategic planning imply an interruption of the partnership at the dyadic level? More clearly, does the formal dissolution of a network also disrupt the informal network, or do partners look for different means or projects through which to collaborate?


1. this case is consistent with Arrow’s impossibility theorem (1951). Arrow shows that the adoption of any decision rule respecting criteria of equality among voters can lead to decisions that do not guarantee the condition of transitivity. thus the decision-making process can become cyclical or even chaotic (Mckelvey, 1979).

2. the documents collected were illustrative of the planning process and its phases, proto-cols, conventions with partners, and so on. In particular these documents were retrieved from the dedicated web sites of three strategic plans: copparese municipalities (www.unioneterre-fiumi.fe.it/nqcontent.cfm?a_id=1611/), trento (www.laboratoriourbano.tn.it/pianostrategico/piano_ps10.htm), and la Spezia (www.comune.sp.it/pianostrategico/).

3. Resolution of the Municipality council (99/2010).


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Lucia Velotti is a graduate research assistant at the Disaster Research Center, Uni-versity of Delaware. She earned a Ph.D. in public management at the University of Salerno, Italy, and is a member of the Netherlands/U.S. Water Crisis Research Network (NUWCREN). Her research interests are network performance, network governance, public-private partnerships, and disaster studies.

Antonio Botti is a researcher in the Department of Management at the University of Salerno. He is a member of the Ph.D. Public Governance and Government Committee and of the editorial board of Mecosan. His main research interests are strategic management, public management, and health management.

Massimiliano Vesci is a researcher in the Department of Management at the Uni-versity of Salerno and a member of the Ph.D. Public Governance and Government Committee. His main research interests are strategic management, public manage-ment, local development, and city marketing.