Rethinking relationships: clarity, contingency, and capabilities

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Governments around the world have developed complex portfolios of relationships with other parties in order to carry out the various activities needed to govern. Reliance on the efforts of other parties has long been a feature of government activity, but in recent times governments worldwide have adopted contracting models to deliver outcomes to citizens and communities. This has especially been the case in their relationships with for-profit and nonprofit providers of public services. Despite the widespread use of contracting by government, how governments think about contracting is very narrow. Indeed, most government contracting models rely very heavily on a specific tool – outsourcing. This means that the practice of contracting is often very limited and reliant on a narrow set of tools and relationships. Such a narrow mindset shapes and frames relationships in such ways that governments will often fail to fulfill their aspirations in working with other parties. Adopting broader notions of relationships is important in moving beyond a fixation on tools. Such a shift in mindset, however, demands new ways of thinking about the various parties, relationships, and modes of working together. In turn, this would require very different sets of capabilities to effectively work together. In this article, I set out a much broader notion of relationships and explain what this means for the capabilities that governments need to manage much more complex portfolios. These capabilities extend beyond the skills of public servants, encompassing organizational and environmental factors. The end result being the need for governments to move toward broader, more strategic notions of relationships in order to deliver on the needs and aspirations of citizens and communities
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)115-136
    JournalPolicy Design and Practice
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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