P25 New Public Governance - how much is it spreading, and what are its limits?

Corresponding Chair

Professor Viola Burau, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Denmark. Email: viola@ph.au.dk

Review Group Chair

Professor Tim Tenbensel, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, New Zealand


Since the 1990s, a burgeoning body of literature on the spread of the new forms of coordination of publicly funded and delivered services at different governance levels has emerged, and studies of New Public Governance (NPG) have spanned many national contexts and domains of public service delivery However, in the theoretical literature there is considerable debate about the extent to which NPG practices are spreading, and whether this spread of NPG encounters inherent limits. Some suggest that new forms of coordination are spreading considerably as they can better respond to “wicked problems”. Others are more cautious and point to the many difficulties in implementing NPG. Yet others argue that the spread of NPG is highly context dependent as newer forms of governance add further layers to existing, policy-specific governance arrangements.

Stephen Osborne’s initial formulation of NPG identifies two crucial dimensions of spread:

  1. the spanning of policy formulation and implementation, and
  2. the expansion of the range of actors involved in policy and service delivery.
  3. to this can be added a third dimension,
  4. the crossing of scales (between macro, meso and micro) to take into account the decentralised nature of many policy domains.


In this panel we seek submissions that will help build an understanding of wider patterns to the spread of NPG. Is it more likely in some policy sectors than others? Do some jurisdictions have more favourable conditions enabling the spread of NPG? Are the limits to NPG spread context-specific or are there more generalisable limits? Are there inherent trade-offs between different aspects of NPG?

We seek empirical contributions that explore the extent to which specific NPG initiatives spread in terms of one or more of these dimensions, as well as the ways in which this spread encounters limits. NPG initiatives include those that aim to develop and expand processes of collaborative governance, co-design of public services, and cross-sectoral approaches to policy issues, and can originate inside or outside of government. Contributions could include in-depth case studies from specific settings, or comparative analyses of NPG initiatives across multiple jurisdictions and/or policy sectors.