Public Sector Knowledge Networks: Measures and Conditions for Success

Public Sector Knowledge Networks: Measures and Conditions for Success

Sharon S. Dawes (University at Albany/SUNY, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4058-0.ch006
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This chapter focuses on success in Public Sector Knowledge Networks (PSKNs). These networks are especially salient in the context of e-government where expectations for innovation and good performance rest on creative use of data, information, and technology. PSKN success can be assessed at the network, organizational, and individual levels by considering measures of structure, performance, and interaction. Beyond success measures, however, the chapter also discusses the conditions for success—the critical success factors—that create the environment for individual, organizational, and network performance. These considerations of success are illustrated with case examples that offer lessons for practice and new avenues for research.
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Background: Public Sector Networks

The concepts and challenges of networks are important to understanding the operation of the public sector and the performance and prospects for e-government. Network thinking and action are necessary to address the demands of the “wicked” (Rittel and Webber, 1973) and “tangled” (Dawes, et al., 2010) problems that confront the public sector. Wicked problems cannot be divided into logical parts, assigned to suitably experts, and brought back together into a comprehensive solution. They are more organic and have multiple causes and interacting effects that do not lend themselves to traditional division-of-labor approaches. Welfare reform, community safety, and effective schools are examples of wicked problems. Tangled problems are somewhat smaller in scope but very common throughout government: negotiating the maze of programs that can serve a disabled child, developing positive relationships between a university and its local community, or deciding how to cut back a school budget in economic downturns.

Network forms of organization are needed for other reasons as well. Political demands for broad inclusion in decision making and implementation favor networked forms of governance involving diverse stakeholders and communication channels. And layers of overlapping mandates and regulations in nearly every domain almost guarantee unexpected, even perverse, outcomes unless administrators recognize and deal with a cross-cutting networks of requirements and actors.

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