|This paper analyses the implementation of network governance concepts at regional level in Estonia. Estonian Ministry of Education and Science has launched several advanced policy initiatives since 2010 that presume profoundly integrative institutional setting in central local relations. As the existing theory points (Montin, Amna 2000), policy should rely not only on effective networks of interagency cooperation at regional level, but also on the smooth cooperation of central vis a vis local authorities in adjusting policy aims to local context while also meeting the specific needs of pupils, parents, and regional actor’s (business, public administration). Though, the institutional dynamics of central-local patterns in Estonia in last two decades (Sootla, Kattai 2018), and even more so after the abolishment of intermediate territorial level in a reform of local government in 2017 have created a formal institutional gap. This resulted in extreme fragmentation of education sector and centripetal trends in horizontal cooperation at regional level. Educational organisations have different institutional identities and are governed via different ministerial branches as well as by different owners (public local schools, private schools, regional adult education and training institutions). Thus, besides organisational fragmentation they have different administrative standards and organisation cultures. All this makes the development of network type arrangements and concerted policy action enormously difficult.
Based on a case-study this paper intends to analyze the bottom-up discourse and emergence of different scenarios in developing regional networks of those organisations in Rapla county (Estonia). First, based on Schön & Rein (1994) design rationality as well as Forester’s (2009, 2012) critical pragmatist theory, authors will analyse the consensus-building mechanisms between partners with competing interests and institutional identities in “puzzling out” core policy objectives and solutions for collective action, while retaining their previous autonomy and specifics. Secondly, the paper analyses different patterns of institutional solution to those issues which were worked out in the course of deliberative practices in previous years. Thirdly, we analyse the necessary transformation of power patterns of core actors (i.e. central, as well as local authorities) as well as empowerment of their organisation as precondition of institutionalisation of those network patterns.
This case-study is based on two research projects funded by EU Social Fund: “Consolidation of capacity of local authorities in Rapla County” (2012-2013) and “Developing networks of strategic development of educational organisations and local authorities in Rapla region” (2019-2020).
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Georg Sootla, Kersten Kattai (2020) Institutionalization of subnational governance in Estonia: European impacts and domestic adaptations, Regional & Federal Studies, 30:2, 283-301, DOI: 10.1080/13597566.2018.1511979
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