Reduced‐Boundary Governance: The Advantages of Working Together

Introduction by Jeremy L. Hall and R. Paul Battaglio of Special Issue of the Public Administration Review: “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….One of the factors complicating measurement and analysis in multistakeholder approaches to solving problems and delivering services is the inherently intergovernmental and intersectoral nature of the work. Performance now depends on accumulated capacity across organizations, including a special form of capacity—the ability to work together collaboratively. Such activity within a government has been referred to as “whole of government” approaches or “joined up government” (Christensen and Lægreid 2007). We have terms for work across levels of government (intergovernmental relations) and between government and the public and private sectors (intersectoral relations), but on the whole, the creative, collaborative, and interactive activities in which governments are involved today transcend even these neat categories and classifications. We might call this phenomenon reduced‐boundary governance. Moving between levels of government or between sectors often changes the variables that are available for analysis, or at least introduces validity issues associated with differences in measurement and estimation (see Brandsen and Honingh 2016; Nabatchi, Sancino, and Sicilia 2017). Sometimes data are not available at all. And, of course, collaboration or pooling of resources typically occurs in an ad hoc or one‐off basis that is limited to a single problem, a single program, or a single defined period of time, further complicating study and knowledge accumulation.

Increasingly, public service is accomplished together rather than alone. Boundaries between organizations are becoming blurred in new approaches to solving public problems (Christensen and Lægreid 2007). PAR is committed to better understanding the circumstances under which collaboration, cooperation, and coproduction occurs. What are the necessary antecedents? What are the deterrents? We are interested in the challenges that organizations face as they pursue collaborative action that transcends boundaries. And, of course, we are interested in the efficiency and performance gains that are achieved as a result of those efforts, as well as in their long‐term sustainability.

In this issue, we feature a series of articles that highlight research that focuses on working together, through collaboration, coproduction, or cooperation. The issue begins with a look at right‐sizing the use of volunteerism in public and nonprofit organizations given their limitations and possibilities (Nesbit, Christensen, and Brudney 2018). Uzochukwu and Thomas (2018) then explore coproduction using a case study of Atlanta to better understand who uses it and why. Klok et al. (2018) presents a fascinating look at intermunicipal cooperation through polycentric regional governance in the Netherlands, with an eye toward the costs and effectiveness of those arrangements. McGuire, Hoang, and Prakash (2018) look at the effectiveness of voluntary environmental programs in pollution reduction. Using different policy tools as lenses for analysis, Jung, Malatesta, and LaLonde (2018) ask whether work release programs are improved by working together or working alone. Finally, Yi et al. (2018) explore the role of regional governance and institutional collective action in promoting environmental sustainability. Each of these pieces explores unique dimensions of working together, or governing beyond traditional boundaries….(More)”.