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Legitimacy in municipal experimental governance: questioning the public good in urban innovation practices
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Urban and Regional Studies. Division of Built Environment, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Stockholm, Sweden;Department of Urban Planning and Environment, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8985-8630
Municipal Research in West Sweden, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Department of Business Administration, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Urban and Regional Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0688-9547
2022 (English)In: European Planning Studies, ISSN 0965-4313, E-ISSN 1469-5944, Vol. 30, no 8, p. 1596-1614Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Urban experiments, living labs and testbeds have emerged as influential approaches to governing cities around the world. Experimental governance allows stakeholders to trial possible futures and to embrace creativity and innovation in the pursuit of sustainability goals. Experiments are often conducted through triple helix partnerships that favour informal and distributed actions. This is a significant departure from traditional urban development processes that are informed by well-defined processes executed by public authorities to ensure the public good and are legitimated by citizens. In this paper, we investigate this tension between experimental governance and public sector legitimacy by focusing on experimental practices in two Swedish municipalities, Stockholm and Gothenburg. We gathered data through a desk-based study, participant observations and semi-structured interviews with municipal actors to investigate the input, throughput and output legitimacy of municipalities in experimental governance. The findings indicate that municipalities emphasise actions and results from experiments, while de-emphasising reflection and attention to democratic procedures and protection of the public good. The focus on legitimacy reveals the fragmented and instrumental practices of experimental governance and a deficit in organizational capacity with potential detrimental impacts on legitimacy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2022. Vol. 30, no 8, p. 1596-1614
Keywords [en]
Experimental governance, legitimacy, municipalities, democracy
National Category
Public Administration Studies
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis, Urban and Regional Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-311417DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2021.2015749ISI: 000730467700001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85121504440OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-311417DiVA, id: diva2:1654465
Note

QC 20220427

Available from: 2022-04-27 Created: 2022-04-27 Last updated: 2023-10-09Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Experimental Governance: Capacity and legitimacy in local governments
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Experimental Governance: Capacity and legitimacy in local governments
2022 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Contemporary planning and governance of cities involves practices of experiments and trials in urban experiments, collaborative platforms, and urban development projects with high ambitions for sustainability and innovative solutions. These practices of experimental governance can be seen as new policy instruments that include actors from all sectors of society in collective problem-solving. The introduction of experimental governance establishes a new logic of public administration that results in multiple opportunities and challenges. Previous research has emphasised the importance of organisational development beyond a focus on single experimental projects and institutional designs to support experimentation. This thesis aims to examine the municipalities’ organisational capacity for experimental governance and the opportunities to ensure legitimacy.

The thesis involves a case study of the City of Stockholm and its innovative practices in general and experimental governance practices in particular. The focus is on the municipal organisation and how it has developed over the past decade, rather than single experiments, collaborations, and projects. Using a qualitative research approach, empirical data was collected by shadowing City of Stockholm staff members, while also conducting semi-structured interviews, participatory observations, and document studies. The thesis comprises four research articles: three using the City of Stockholm as an empirical case of a municipality engaged in experimental governance, and one that develops theoretical insights using examples from Stockholm. The first article provides a discussion of municipal innovation approaches and their influence of institutional logics. The second article is about municipal functions related to experiments, and how these functions challenge the local government. The third article examines the work of experiments and partnerships in policy and practice from a legitimacy perspective. The fourth article explores the institutional capacity for translating innovation actions from high-profile urban development projects into regular processes of the municipality.

The results provide new knowledge about public actors and urban experimentation, while also providing practical insights that are relevant to stakeholders who engage in urban experiments. Specifically, the thesis reveals the challenges that municipalities face in embracing experiments while also ensuring and developing procedures for legitimacy. It also highlights the tensions of introducing new logics and roles for public authorities in a changing governance environment. The findings point towards the need for a more nuanced understanding of practices of experimental governance, and the development of permanent organisational structures and cultures to support and steer these practices. There is also a need for organisational procedures to ensure legitimacy, related to both input in terms of transparency, accountability and equality, and output in terms of results and effectiveness, with a capacity to implement the results. By meeting these needs, municipalities can harness the opportunities of experimental governance to serve the public good.

 

Abstract [sv]

Samtidens planering och styrning av städer inkluderar ofta experimenterande och försöksverksamheter i urbana experiment och samarbetsplattformar, ofta inom stadsutvecklingsprojekt med höga ambitioner inom hållbarhet och innovativa lösningar. Sådana former av experimentell styrning går att se som nya sätt att styra, där aktörer från olika samhällssektorer involveras i en gemensam problemlösning. För offentlig förvaltning innebär införandet av en experimentell styrning också en ny logik, som leder till såväl nya möjligheter som utmaningar. Tidigare forskning har betonat vikten av att se bortom enskilda piloter och projekt och i stället säkerställa en organisatorisk utveckling och institutionell utformning som stödjer experimenterande. Den här avhandlingens syfte är att bidra med kunskap om experimenterande inom kommunala organisationer, och hur detta förhåller sig till kommunernas demokratiska grundfundament. Avhandlingen undersöker kommunens organisatoriska kapacitet för experimentell styrning, och rutiner och praktiker för att säkerställa legitimitet.

Avhandlingen är baserad på en fallstudie av Stockholms stad och studerar kommunens innovativa aktiviteter i allmänhet och dess styrning av experimenterande i synnerhet. Fokus ligger på den kommunala organisationen och hur den har utvecklats under det senaste decenniet, snarare än på enskilda experiment, samarbeten och projekt. Empiriskt material har samlats in genom skuggning av kommunala tjänstepersoner inom Stockholms stad, och genom semistrukturerade intervjuer, deltagande observationer samt dokument-studier, allt med en kvalitativ forskningsansats. 

Avhandlingen är en sammanläggning av fyra forskningsartiklar: tre artiklar där Stockholms stad används som ett empiriskt fall av en kommun som ägnar sig åt experimenterande, och en artikel som utvecklar teoretiska kunskaper där Stockholm används som ett illustrerande exempel. Den första artikeln inkluderar en diskussion om olika kommunala sätt att bedriva innovations-arbete och hur de olika sätten influeras av olika institutionella logiker. Den andra artikeln handlar om kommunala funktioner inom experimenterande, och hur dessa funktioner utmanar kommunerna på olika sätt. Den tredje artikeln undersöker arbetet med experiment och partnerskap utifrån ett legitimitetsperspektiv, på såväl policy- som praktiknivå. Den fjärde artikeln utforskar den institutionella kapaciteten att omsätta innovationsaktiviteter från högprofilerade stadsutvecklingsprojekt till ordinarie processer inom kommunen.

Resultaten skapar ny kunskap om offentliga aktörer och hur de förhåller sig till experimentell styrning, samtidigt som de ger praktiska insikter som är relevanta för kommunala aktörer som ägnar sig åt olika former av experimenterande. Avhandlingen visar särskilt de utmaningar som kommuner står inför när det gäller att säkerställa legitimitet i sina processer samtidigt som de utvecklar den experimenterande styrningen. Dessutom belyser den de spänningar som skapas inom organisationen när offentliga aktörer inför nya logiker och roller inom förvaltningsmiljön. 

De samlade resultaten pekar på vikten av en mer nyanserad förståelse kring experimenterande inom kommuner, och behovet av utveckling av långsiktiga organisatoriska strukturer och kulturer som kan stödja och styra dessa aktiviteter. De visar också på ett behov av att utveckla organisatoriska processer för att säkerställa legitimitet. Det gäller såväl input-legitimitet i form av transparens, ansvarsutkrävande och jämlikhet, som output-legitimitet i form av effektivitet och kapacitet att implementera resultat. Genom att utveckla organisationen för att möta dessa behov kan kommunerna dra nytta av möjligheterna som kommer med experimenterande samtidigt som de offentliga värdena säkerställs.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2022. p. 92
Series
TRITA-ABE-DLT ; 2213
Keywords
Experimental governance, legitimacy, municialities, democracy, organisational capacity, capacity-building, local government, public sector innovation
National Category
Public Administration Studies
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis, Urban and Regional Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-311422 (URN)978-91-8040-220-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2022-05-25, Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, KTH Campus, Videolänk: https://kth-se.zoom.us/meeting/register/u5MpdeirrzgoGtNOMozrBVvwEB6hhV3iCZh7, Stockholm, 09:00 (Swedish)
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QC220428

Available from: 2022-04-28 Created: 2022-04-27 Last updated: 2022-06-25Bibliographically approved

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