Management “In between”: The Operative Manager in Governance Networks

  •  Ann Holmen    


This article discusses operative management in public governance networks. Drawing on case studies from public governance networks in Norwegian city regions, the article investigates the political preconditions for operative management, by asking how the role of the operative manager in governance networks is structured and affected by the preconditions granted by public authorities. The study demonstrates that operative managers hold an “in-between” role, between network members as well as between the network and public authorities. This role is though affected by structural conditions granted, in both positive and negative ways. Arguing for a flexible public authority intervention in governance networks, the article also emphasizes the importance of transparency and continually evaluating of the operative network management. Operative managers can hold an important role in forging a common understanding among stakeholders, as well as coordinating resources. Important in this respect is time, adequate funding and administrative support, all of which will affect the conditions required for the operative manager and the governance network to perform effectively within the framework of democratic politics. Lessons from the Norwegian cases indicate that public authorities should be aware of the significance of the operative management role. This “in-between” manager can strongly affect network processes and network outcomes. The role an operative manager performs can provide a useful tool to use resources efficiently. It can also provide a key mechanism for finding the proper authority intervention and thereby balance network efficiency against the need to retain democratic influence and control.

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