The Contribution of Collaborative Public Management to a Network Administration Paradigm

The third paradigm of importance to network management is collaborative public management (CPM), which has focused on the skills of the public manager in collaborative settings. Robert Agranoff and Michael McGuire introduce collaborative management as “a concept that describes the process of facilitating and operating in multiorganizational arrangements to solve problems that cannot be solved, or solved easily, by single organizations. Collaboration is a purposive relationship designed to solve a problem by creating or discovering a solution within a given set of constraints” (Agranoff and McGuire, 2003, p. 4). The importance of collaborative skills, collaborative processes, and collaborative governance strategies for public administrators has been the subject of a great deal of literature, beginning with Axelrod’s application of game theory of cooperative behavior (1980), Barbara Gray’s articulation of collaborative processes (1989), and extending into the more recent literature concerning collaborative public management (Bingham and O’Leary, 2008).

Rosemary O’Leary and Lisa Bingham have noted the paradoxical nature of collaborative management (2007), observing that collaborative managers must work with both autonomy and interdependence; collaborative managers and their networks have diverse and common goals; they must work with both a fewer number and a greater variety of groups that are increasingly more diverse; and they need to be both participative and authoritative. Within some of the collaborative management literature the possibility that collaboration is mixed with more vertical forms of authority is raised. Agranoff and McGuire differentiate between vertical and horizontal collaborative activities, suggesting that collaborative management is not relegated to the management of horizontal ties built solely through voluntary engagement. Their comprehension of collaborative management appears to be very similar to the description of network management found in the literature.

What distinguishes collaborative management as a unique paradigm is the emphasis placed on the role of the collaborative manager as enabling greater citizen



General funding of programs and projects New funding of programs and projects

Interpretation of standards and rules General program guidance Technical assistance

Adjustment seeking

Regulatory relief, flexibility, or waiver Statutory relief or flexibility Change in policy Funding innovation for program Model program involvement Performance-based discretion

Horizontal Collaborative Activities

Policy making and strategy making

Gain policy-making assistance Engage in formal partnerships Engage in joint policy making Consolidate policy effort

Resource exchange

Seek financial resources Employ joint financial incentives Contracted planning and implementation

Project-based work

Partnership for a particular project Seek technical resources

Source: Agranoff and McGuire, Collaborative Public Management: New Strategies for Local Governments, Georgetown University Press,

Washington, DC, 2003, pp. 70—71.


  • ? Broad comprehensive analysis of problem domain improves the quality of solutions.
  • ? It ensures that interests are considered in any agreement and that acceptance of the solution is greater.
  • ? Parties retain ownership over a solution.
  • ? Mechanisms for future coordination can be established.

Source: Paraphrased from Gray, Collaborating: Finding Common Ground for Multiparty Problems, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1989,

p. 21.

participation. According to Lisa Bingham, Tina Nabatchi, and Rosemary O’Leary (2005, p. 548) the central questions being drawn in collaborative public management are: How does one best coordinate multiple players and stakeholders in indirect government and networks? How and when does a public manager attempt to engage the public and how broadly? Which forms of citizen or stakeholder engagement are most effective? Thus, collaborative public management as a paradigm places emphasis on participatory processes that enable citizens to better influence the actions of the governance networks in their midst. To this extent, CPM has much in common with the new public service framework advanced by Denhardt and Denhardt (2003). The collaborative public management paradigm privileges collaboration grounded in a strong normative foundation of democratic participation and deliberation. To this extent, CPM serves as the counterweight to NPM, which relegates citizen involvement to the realm of customer service and customer satisfaction.

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