Policy & Politics 2014 conference: The challenges of leadership and collaboration in the 21st century

Noemi Lendvai

by Noemi Lendvai, Associate Editor of Policy & Politics

If conferences are there to capture and signpost contemporary public policy issues, then for me this year’s P&P conference signals at least three main trends.

Firstly, complexity, fragmentation, collaboration and multi-sector and multi-agency governance are key concerns. Can we consider partnerships, co-production and networks as an antidote to the ‘ungovernability’ of complex issues in public and social policy? Does collaborative governance fair well on issues of legitimacy, accountability, or social justice, whether we talk about governing cities, health care, education, migration, or environmental policy? The impressive international outlook of the conference, with over 33 countries covered in different case studies implies not only that key concerns cut across continents, but also that collaboration, partnerships and co-productions are also equally fundamental aspects of global governance.No doubt the four keynote speakers Chris Ansell (Berkeley), Erik-Hans Klijn, ​(​Erasmus​​ University​)​, Helen Sullivan (Melbourne), and Jacob Torfing (Roskilde) will throw a lot of interesting questions and suggestions on the table.

The second very noticeable trend is that austerity, public expenditure cuts and the economic, political and social crisis is still firmly at the heart of academic discussions. The nature of austerity politics, the interplay between austerity and localism, and issues around rescaling the state feature in many panel discussions. Case studies from the UK, Ireland, Greece and Australia all play out variable geometrics and policy implications. Policy making in a post-crisis context is still struggling with waves of expenditure cuts and recalibration of public services.

Finally, the co-presence of collaborative governance and austerity politics is one that offers interesting insights into critical policy studies, my third trend, in which a critical interrogation of issues such as the discursive formations of collaboration, collaboration that becomes co-option, the emergence of the psychological state, or the fundamental inequalities of global policy mobilities, become visible. Both the keynote speakers and panel organisers and panel chairs guarantee that we are going to have fascinating debates and discussions in the two days of the conference. We shall see whether we leave the conference more or less optimistic about collaborative governance.

The conference programme is available here.

Noemi Lendvai is Associate Editor of Policy & Politics and Lecturer in Comparative Urban and Public Policy in the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol.

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