Research Briefing, November/December 2021

blogimage_researchbriefingEach month, there is new, fascinating research emerging that provides practical insight into how the government, business, and non-profit sectors partner to address society’s most pressing problems. To keep our readers up to date on this work, which comes from a variety of academic and non-academic sources, we compile a bimonthly briefing and publish it on our blog — for researchers who want to stay up to date on progress in the field of cross-sector collaboration and practitioners who are interested in how this research may be applicable to their work.

This briefing includes articles and reports about:

  • Systematically analyzing outputs to understand collaborative governance evolution,
  • Understanding incremental and transformative innovations in local government,
  • Counterfactual assessment methods in outcome-based contracts,
  • A laboratory experiment on strategic bargaining, and
  • Ambidexterity in Cross-Sector Collaborations Involving Public Organizations.



Following the paper trail: Systematically analyzing outputs to understand collaborative governance evolution,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Emily V Bell, Tomás Olivier

Abstract: Collaborative governance has emerged as a popular approach to address complex governance problems. In recent years, research within this tradition has studied the linkage between outputs—agreed upon courses of action and outcomes—and the impacts of those actions. Yet, collaborative arrangements (‘collaboratives’) are likely to vary depending on their context and policy domain, making it difficult to draw generalizable insights about the linkage between outputs and outcomes. Furthermore, as collaboratives change over time (e.g., by building capacities, gathering resources, and fostering participant engagement), the nature of their respective processes—and outputs—also evolves. We argue that the burgeoning research on collaborative evolution thus needs a way to not only theoretically organize but to identify what, in practice, reflects collaborative evolution. Assuming that evolution—or change in the collaborative process dynamics—occurs across different milestones (e.g., each iteration of deliberation and planning, successes and failures of implementation, or the participant dynamics therein), we argue that outputs should reflect those changes over time. This study builds on collaborative evolution research by offering a series of propositions on how collaboratives change throughout different periods of their lifecycle. With semi-automated text analysis techniques, we examine how outputs change over time for 10 different regional collaborative planning processes. Specifically, our study focuses on how outputs from each region’s planning process change between two time periods (2009–2011 and 2015–2017) in the state of Georgia. We observe temporal- and arrangement-specific variation in recommended actions and nominations of actors responsible for implementing such outputs. Our evaluation of commonly designed collaboratives convened by the State suggest that certain action types are associated with specific stages of the evolution of a collaborative, as well as case-specific dynamics that occur in individual collaboratives.


Why are counterfactual assessment methods not widespread in outcome-based contracts? A formal model approach,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Sergio G Lazzarini, Sandro Cabral, Sergio Firpo, Thomaz Teodorovicz

Abstract: Counterfactual assessment techniques involving treated and control groups, such as randomized control trials, might be used in outcome-based contracts to avoid rewarding or sanctioning service providers for social outcomes that they did not cause. However, few outcome-based contracts adopt payment rules based on counterfactual assessment techniques. Potential explanations are that these techniques are complex and involve substantial transaction costs. In this paper, we develop a theoretical formal model that integrates the literatures of incentives and policy evaluation to propose the following alternative explanation: counterfactual techniques may lead to counterproductive incentive effects if they reduce the likelihood of payment even if project managers exert sufficient effort to promote the expected interventions. Our model shows that counterfactual assessment may undermine effort when the number of treated subjects is small and there is limited investment per treated subject. Our formal model also suggests that the increased experience of the contract sponsors may inhibit the adoption of counterfactual assessment. Simulations and descriptive evidence from a unique database of 350 outcome-based contracts designed or initiated throughout the world and from linear probability models are aligned with our predictions. By offering additional explanations on why counterfactual assessment methods are not widespread in outcome-based contracts and by identifying the boundary conditions under which these methods are used in incentive contracts, this work informs the literature on cross-sector outcome-based contracts and illustrates the use of formal models to develop novel theories in public administration.


The dynamics of sources of knowledge on the nature of innovation in the public sector: Understanding incremental and transformative innovations in local governments,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Julio C Zambrano-Gutiérrez, Jose A Puppim de Oliveira

Abstract: Understanding the effects of different sources of knowledge acquisition in public organizations has become widely promoted for overcoming socio-technical challenges through innovation. This study divided the sources of knowledge into external and internal learning mechanisms to assess their divergent effects on incremental and transformative innovations in 82 local governments involved in green and blue infrastructure projects. First, the study tests whether more diverse external sources of knowledge acquisition are more effective in increasing transformative innovation than internal learning mechanisms. The second proposition tests whether internal changes in organizational routines are associated with incremental rather than transformative innovation. Results from mediation analysis using structural equation models confirm that the initial negative effect of external and internal learning mechanisms on innovation can be eliminated, on the one hand, by engaging in more diverse cross-sector collaborations to increase transformative innovations and, on the other hand, by focusing on changing administrative routines to support incremental innovation.


Satisficing or maximizing in public–private partnerships? A laboratory experiment on strategic bargaining,” Public Management Review, Kristina S. Weißmüller, Robin Bouwman, Rick Vogel

Abstract: Cross-sectoral strategic negotiation is a key challenge in PPPs. Based on framing and game theory, we investigate the effect of sectoral agency, affect, and bargaining domain on sectoral agents’ bargaining behaviour in a PPP renegotiation scenario. Results confirm that public agents are more likely to bargain for satisfactory, ‘good enough’ contracts than private agents, who maximize their utility. This difference is stronger in the loss vis-a-vis the gain domain. These experimental findings advance our understanding of psychological mechanisms underlying cross-sectoral negotiations, suggesting that public managers and policy-makers account for partners’ dissimilar bargaining logics to prevent asymmetric loss socialization in PPPs.


Ambidexterity in Cross-Sector Collaborations Involving Public Organizations,” Public Performance & Management Review, Stephen B. Bryson, John M. Crosby, Barbara C. Seo, Danbi Stone, Melissa Middleton 2

✴︎ Available only with purchase from publisher

Abstract: This article extends the concept of organizational ambidexterity to encompass knowledge exploration and exploitation in cross-sector collaborations. Collaborations are frequently charged to devise or implement innovative solutions to longstanding complex public problems. Research on organizational management suggests that the capability to both explore and exploit knowledge—dubbed organizational ambidexterity—is an important contributor to innovation and long-term organizational performance. If cross-sector collaborations must innovate to address longstanding problems, and innovation requires the ability to explore and exploit knowledge, then collaborations too should benefit from developing ambidextrous capabilities. Using an illustrative case of a large-scale cross-sector collaboration in the transportation field, we investigate whether and how a cross-sector collaboration can explore and exploit knowledge. Based on our analysis, we demonstrate that collaborative ambidexterity exists and discuss external antecedents and mechanisms internal to the collaboration that enable collaborative ambidexterity. We conclude with a set of propositions to advance theory and provide an agenda for future research.