European Association for Public Administration Accreditation

I. Working group on Politico-Administrative Relations

WG Programme Coordinators:

Bernadette Connaughton, University of Limerick, Ireland;
Georg Sootla, Tallinn University of Educational Sciences, Estonia;
B. Guy Peters, University of Pittsburg, USA;

NISPAcee Project Manager:

Viera Wallnerova, Email: wallnerova@nispa.org

Theme 2004:
“Various decision and discourse arenas at different level and stages of the policy process”

The permanent Working Group on Politico-Administrative Relations was created during the 1998 NISPAcee conference in Prague.  Four years of intensive research resulted in two books and numerous articles in NISPA proceedings.  At the 11th Annual NISPAcee conference in Bucharest, April 2003, the group broadened its research focus. At this conference, almost twenty papers/presentations were gathered, helping us to reach our objective:  to publish a book in which new approaches will be demonstrated.

This new focus was not merely an enhancement of the scope of study, but rather a major advancement in the methodology of the study. The traditional approach considered the roles of politicians and civil servants in the framework of top-down policymaking and implementation. This approach is appropriate for the study of a traditional, “positive” state and useful in studies aimed to establish, compare and describe the general institutional framework of governments. The modern process of governance is, however, much more dynamic and complicated, even if the traditional core actors – as is frequently the case in CEE countries -- do not agree to recognize that.

The contemporary focus on governance can be understood in part as a response to the challenge of governing complex and fragmented societies, and the difficulties faced by the state in attempting to solve complicated and intractable social problems through direct forms of intervention. Therefore, in addition to the traditional focus on the relationship between the principal actors - politicians and civil servants - the concept of governance implies the presence, impact of, necessity and contribution of a variety of other actors in the policy-making arena. 

This means that instead of the well-structured and hierarchical structure of the policy process, we will have increasingly loosely linked networks of collective actors that shape policy outcomes. These networks should be carefully studied and effectively managed if the government of the day wishes to take responsibility for policy aims and if researchers wish to better understand how these goals could be achieved.

It may be argued that in the case of Central and Eastern Europe the development of channels, access and the roles of these actors is weak.  This in turn has a negative impacts on the institutionalization of public policies in CEE countries and capacities to govern, given that traditional devices of political, as well as administrative, responsibility and accountability do not optimally work in the region. 

From this general definition of the problem are derived the aims of the WG and individual researchers.

The main subjects of the analysis are various decision and discourse arenas at different levels and stages of the policy process in a specific sector or dimension of governance.  In order to study these arenas, main channels and styles of government – civil society interactions (consultations, participation, feedback, impact, manipulation etc.) in the policy process and the diverse configurations of stakeholders, patterns have to be identified.  

Researchers should use the case study method in developing empirical research and presenting papers. These should not be traditional area or country studies or descriptive general reports. Case studies are used to acquire detailed and unique information about single events or processes that will be interpreted departing from empirically established causal links. Case studies should focus on an in-depth analysis of people, decisions, actions, programs and assessments.

The basic framework of case study should consist of the following dimensions.

  1. Brief description of background. Description of conceptual core and context of the policy formation process in general.
  2. Analysis of stakeholders:
    • Mapping the policy network around the policy.
    • Understanding the interests and aims of the stakeholders.
    • Analysis of the historical and social background of these interests and aims.
  3.  Analysis of the organization of stakeholders or participants, i.e. analysing the logic of collective actions.
  4. Channels and ways of involvement: for instance, official – unofficial, open—closed etc.
  5. Style of participation and involvement.  For instance, the decision/ discourse could be more or less consensual, with a broad set of bilateral consultations; but it could also be competitive, aiming to win a majority, and in this case, coalition building could be one of the most striking features of the process.

Because large number of participants and diverse directions of their research interests/ experiences the  following sub-groups inside working groups were established at the Bucharest meeting:

  1. Institutional-administrative policy (public administration reforms)
  2. Changing roles of civil servants
  3. Telecommunication policy
  4. Environmental and agricultural sector
  5.  Human recourses policy (education, health, labour)
  6. Policy arenas in central local relations, especially in the context of EU accession

Despite a rather wide variety of sectors, papers should clearly focus on the aspects that are defined as the main subject.  Coordinators of the WG will select papers primarily on the basis of their fit with defined subject of study and, later, with research protocol. Our final aim is to develop comparative and integrated papers to be published as a book.

Detailed outlines of analysis and methodology are described in research protocol:  view webpage or  download .doc file

Contributions from both CEE and western countries are welcome, especially from those who have not had any previous contact with the WG. More detailed information about our WG is available on the NISPA website.


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