Navigating the Complexities of Collaboration

Published date01 March 2014
Date01 March 2014
Book Reviews 281
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 2, pp. 281–283. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12193.
Marc Esteve is a lecturer in the School
of Public Policy, University College London.
His primary research interests focus on
understanding how individual characteris-
tics inf‌l uence decision making, specif‌i cally
in interorganizational collaborations. He
is currently delving more deeply into the
mechanisms and effects of personality
in the context of collaboration by using
experimental designs.
A major problem when studying collaboration is the
many def‌i nitions of‌f ered in the literature. Some are
narrow, while others are broad. In this regard, the
author takes a broad approach, focusing not just on
one type of collaboration but instead addressing the
management of relational arrangements such as grants
and regulations, purchase-of-service contracting,
networking, and other sorts of partnerships. Table
1.1 in chapter 1, in which the author describes the
continuum of collaboration, is a very useful refer-
ence tool.  e existing literature does not strictly
def‌i ne terms such as collaborations, partnerships, and
networks, and sometimes they connote very dif‌f erent
types of interactions between organizations. Agranof‌f
of‌f ers detailed explanations of the dif‌f erent types
of collaborations that currently occur.  e author’s
ef‌f orts to dif‌f erentiate the elements of the collabora-
tion continuum make this, in my opinion, one of the
most interesting insights of the book.
In chapter 1, “To Manage Is to Collaborate,” Agranof‌f
argues that no public organization falls outside
the collaborative arena, and this frames the entire
book by showing what this means in the reality of
public organizations. Currently, an array of public
policies are delivered within diverse cross-sectoral
arrangements, presenting management with new
complexities that must be carefully considered.  e
author highlights the types of complex problems that
must be solved through collaboration by of‌f ering
examples on several policy areas such as rural devel-
opment, transportation planning, and emergency
e chapters in the book are not linked particularly
tightly, but each one of‌f ers valuable insights into the
management of collaborations, taking up six themes
that draw on several dimensions of collaboration.
e second chapter, “Intergovernmentalization and
Collaborative Public Management,” expands on the
importance of the legal framework in the develop-
ment of collaborations and uses the case of how to
integrate people with disabilities through collabora-
tion among multiple public organizations and non-
governmental organizations. An interesting claim is
Robert Agranof‌f , Collaborating to Manage: A Primer
for the Public Sector (Washington, DC: Georgetown
University Press, 2012). 288 pp. $29.95 (paper),
ISBN: 9781589019164; $29.95 (eBook), ISBN:
Collaboration has been def‌i ned as an impera-
tive within public organizations, whether they
operate at the local, regional, or national level
(O’Leary and Blomgren 2009).  e complexity of the
challenges that today’s managers must address is such
that they can no longer solve them alone, and so they
f‌i nd themselves working in collaboration with other
organizations from the public, private, and nonprof‌i t
sectors (Bryson, Crosby, and Stone 2006).  e reasons
for this new imperative are many. As  omson and
Perry state, “devolution, rapid technological change,
scarce resources, and rising organizational interde-
pendencies are driving increasing levels of collabora-
tion” (2006, 20). Despite extensive research on why
governments should collaborate, we still know little
regarding how to successfully manage such ventures.
More importantly, the little we know is dispersed and
fragmented into multiple outlets and venues, making
it hard for the neophyte as well as the mature scholar
to know where to start looking for insights and how
to discern what is helpful.
Robert Agranof‌f ’s book Collaborating to Manage: A
Primer for the Public Sector provides, in a single venue
and with great elegance, an integrated overview of
the unique public management challenges of work-
ing with other organizations. In doing so, Agranof‌f
helps answer the question of how to successfully
develop collaborations in the complex environment
that public managers face. Agranof‌f is one of the
most distinguished scholars of interorganizational
collaboration in the literature of public management.
His new book wonderfully condenses many years of
experience and knowledge in this f‌i eld. It successfully
identif‌i es the basics of collaborative management by
of‌f ering a comprehensive and compact overview of the
theory and practice of collaboration.  is book, then,
represents a successful attempt to identify the basics of
collaborative management.
Navigating the Complexities of Collaboration
Sonia M. Ospina and Rogan Kersh, Editors
Marc Esteve
University College London, United Kingdom

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