Network Structures: A Review

In this chapter we have introduced a set of structural characteristics that maybe used to describe structural configurations at the network-wide level. We began by noting that governance networks are, by definition, implicated in either the preenactment, enactment, or postenactment of certain policy tools. Following Lester Salamon and his colleagues, we explored the relationship between policy tool characteristics and the structural configurations of governance networks. We then introduced Michael Provan and Patrick Kenis’s framework of network governance, suggesting that this typology is useful in describing macro-level network structures. We then discussed five major forms of governance network configurations found within the literature. We noted how these configurations distinguish themselves by their place within the policy stream, the type of macro-level governance structures they take on, and their sectoral composition.

Although we have broken policy tools, macro-level network governance structures, and different types of network configurations down into discrete types, e.g., we distinguished between types of policy tools, governance structures, and network configurations, we need to consider the extent to which a particular governance network possesses more than one policy tool, more than one simple governance structure, and more than one type of configuration. The policy tools and instrument literature is clear in positing that policy tools are rarely offered independently of one another. Salamon refers to them as a suite of policy tools (2002a).

Some governance networks are quite extensive, possessing more than one center of power or activity, possessing pockets of self-governance, and other instances of lead organization behavior. Likewise, we may find instances of when a governance network can be described as a PPP or as a grant and contract agreement, or a regulatory subsystem that exhibits qualities of an interest group coalition. As we consider governance networks as existing in time and space, we must consider how the various combinations of structural forms discussed in the chapter evolve over time. Governance networks exhibit these qualities because they are complex, dynamic systems.

Over the course of the last several chapters we have steadily broadened our scope, beginning with the characteristics of individual network actors, to the kind of ties they have between them, and then in the last two chapters, the types of functions and structures governance networks take on. Although we have generally extended our view from the micro to the macro, we need to apply an additional descriptive layer to our architecture. So far, we have been describing network structures as being brought to life through a complex array of resource exchanges and collective actions orchestrated between certain configurations of policy actors. We now must turn our attention to describing governance networks in terms of their systems dynamics. In Chapter 7 we describe systems dynamics in terms of boundaries and borders, open and closedness, and feedback loops and logic models. In subsequent chapters on public management, accountability, and performance, we must rely on a combination of network analogies discussed in Chapters 3 to 6, and systems concepts that we will discuss in the next chapter.


With this chapter we can now begin to address governance network questions in regard to the role the network plays in terms of system-wide functions the network performs.

Revisit the governance network that you have been tracking.

? How is the network governed? Does it have a lead organization?

A network administrative organization? A shared governance structure? Does the governance network have more than one of these structures operating?

  • ? What policy tools or instruments are evident within the governance network? Are these tools and instruments used as an input into the network or as the objective of (an outcome of) the network? How do the properties of the tools or instruments impact which actors participate in the network? To what extent do policy tools help to structure the network? In other words, what is the relationship between the policy tools and the network structures?
  • ? Describe the governance network in terms of one of the five network configurations introduced toward the end of the chapter.

To what extent does your network exhibit more than one of these configurations.

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