Oslo’s Governance Model

Through institutional design and leadership the city government has developed a new collaborative governance model that, according to our informants, will ensure a ‘tight steering’ of Oslo’s green shift strategy across sectors and organizational boundaries. The core of the new governance model is a mainstreaming of the entire municipal administration. The climate department demands that the central climate goals of the city government guide and direct decisions and activities of all administrative departments and agencies. In order to reduce complexity, the overall goals and tasks have been disaggregated into more manageable parts and the administrative sectors and agencies are encouraged to identify core problems and to apply a variety of direct and indirect measures to cope with those problems. The tracking of problems to be solved has resulted in 76 new initiatives in 16 administrative sectors. The results of the decentered efforts of administrative departments and agencies to fulfill the disaggregated climate goals are carefully monitored on an annual basis as a part of the city budget (City of Oslo 2016e). In addition to all of this, each department regularly receives letters with assignments and expectations from the climate department in order to prompt and inspire decentralized actions, ideally through inter-departmental and inter-agency collaboration.

Now, with its effort to ensure that all administrative departments and agencies contribute to reaching the overall climate goals, the mainstreaming exercise appears to be rather top-down. However, the mainstreaming strategy is deeply concerned with ensuring horizontal coordination and collaboration in order to prevent gaps, overlaps and conflicts between the decentralized climate initiatives and foster complementarity and synergy between them. To this end, the climate department has formed five ‘climate groups’ with participants from 40 different administrative units. These crosscutting climate groups are arenas for knowledge sharing, exchange of experience, competences and resources, dialogue about problems and solutions, mutual inspiration and learning, identification of common barriers and drivers, experimentation and concerted or joint action (Monsen 2016b). The climate groups are thematic, each of them dealing with a core challenge for climate mitigation: mobility, building, resources, energy, and cross-sector linkages. Each of the five groups meets for three days in a row on a biannual basis to discuss an ongoing joint project involving several administrative units; for example, the energy group will meet to discuss compact urban development in one particular city district (Monsen 2016b). The creation of the crosscutting climate groups adds a horizontal and collaborative dimension to the vertical and rather hierarchical imposition of climate goals on all the administrative departments and agencies. The climate groups provide arenas for coordination and collaboration and may over time develop into arenas for collaborative innovation. The goal of these combined efforts to ensure vertical and horizontal integration is to ensure that the city of Oslo acts as a strategic whole thereby laying the foundation for a consistent, transparent and predictable climate leadership that can direct, design and manage the mobilization of internal as well as external resources and actors. So far, internal capacity building has taken up most of the time and energy of the political and administrative leaders, but new efforts to build collaborative relations with external actors are under way.

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