Reduced‐Boundary Governance: The Advantages of Working Together

Published date01 July 2018
Date01 July 2018
Reduced-Boundary Governance: TheAdvantagesofWorkingTogether 499
Going it alone is not always the best policy. Sure,
there are mavericks out there who prefer to do
things their way. We have certainly witnessed a
transition of U.S. foreign policy in recent months away
from global cooperation and back toward a platform of
greater isolationism—symbolically if not substantively.
As co-editors of Public Administration Review (PAR),
we recognize the greater potential for gains that can
come from working together and combining strengths
to manage the journal. Indeed, if you skim the pages
of most academic journals—especially those in public
administration—it is increasingly rare to find single-
authored manuscripts. Scholars combine their expertise
to realize developments in the field that may not have
been possible individually. When it comes to public
administration and management, however, the issue of
political control is more often tempered with a need for
effectiveness and efficiency. Citizens and stakeholders
want agencies and programs that are accountable to
their defined goals. While politicians measure success
in votes, for professional public managers, agency and
program performance is a key mantra. Managers must
attend to citizen and stakeholder demands for agency
responsiveness while balancing the guiding hand of
their political principals. These demands often translate
roughly into “doing more with less.
Collaboration, cooperation, and coproduction are all
approaches that reflect the realization that creative
solutions look beyond traditional, organizational,
and structural boundaries to overcome various
capacity deficiencies while working toward shared
goals. Capacity has been central to our understanding
of agency performance for decades (Weber and
Khademian 2008). The regional commissions formed
in response to the Public Works and Economic
Development Act of 1965 were intended to provide
the technical capacity that was lacking in resource-
poor, professionally weak local governments, and to
facilitate working across geographic boundaries to
address regional problems. States rapidly promulgated
new regional commissions that were able to work
with local governments as active or passive partners,
bridging the capacity gap and facilitating improved
local public services. We have come a long way
since then; states must work together on important
infrastructure projects that transcend their boundaries
(like the Ohio River bridge project between Louisville,
KY, and southern Indiana), and international
cooperation is necessary to cope with crises and
natural disasters (Christensen, Lægreid, and Rykkja
2016). Moreover, governments now hollowed out
like a rich seam from a coal mine must rely on the
technical expertise and resources of private firms and
nonprofit organizations to deliver key services.
Public administration scholarship began to focus on
the relationship of capacity to performance around
1980 (Gargan 1981; Honadle 1981). Measurement
and statistical analysis are always better at dealing
with the presence of things rather than their absence,
so focus has naturally been on the positive effects
of capacity rather than the absence thereof. The
capacity/performance paradigm is often clouded by
the shifting realities of day-to-day management: there
is no guarantee of performance even when sufficient
capacity is in place. It all depends on how that capacity
is brought to bear on the problem, what external
factors emerge to shape or reshape political and agency
legitimacy, and changes to the problem itself.
Some research has explored capacity/performance
relationships directly. Hou, Moynihan and Ingraham
(2003), for example, considered the linkages between
capacity, management, and performance. Hall (2007)
measured state innovation capacity as a predictor of
state economic development performance, and later
developed a measure of local government capacity to
leverage federal grant funding (Hall 2008). This latter
study begins to bridge the study of intergovernmental
capacity to address stated goals. Sometimes the effects
are not as intended; Hall (2010) learned that locations
with lower capacity levels were buying their way
into federal grants with debt while higher capacity
locations were cherry picking programs with low or
no match rates.
Jeremy L. Hall
University of Central Florida
R. Paul Battaglio
The University of Texas at Dallas
Reduced-Boundary Governance:
The Advantages of Working Together
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 78, Iss. 4, pp. 499–501. © 2018 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12965.

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