Complexity and governance in local partnerships: a case study of mutual observations of state and civil society
Sociologia Faculdade de Economia da Universidade de Coimbra Coimbra, Portugal
As the borders between state, market and community as modes of coordination are being discursively and materially renegotiated, a new mode of governance is gaining prominence as a way to articulate relationships that are being restructured in the fields of welfare. This new governance mode is constructed as negotiation between autonomous interdependent agents from the state, market and civil society and has as one of its expressions local partnerships. Multiplying across European localities they are the focus of a new articulation between actors involved in the regulation, production, delivery and take up of welfare policies.
My presentation is based on a case study in England, drawn from my doctoral research on the relationship between multi-sectoral strategic partnerships and the third sector. From the analytical framework provided by theories of complexity, cybernetics and governance and focusing on the concepts of observation, second order observation, governance and governance failure, I explore the challenges brought by the new governance mechanisms, often described as network governance.
Observing the observations from which sectors' semantics strategically emerge and focusing on mutual observations between actors of the third sector and of the local partnership, I analyse the ways through which partnerships emerge as mechanisms for governing civil society while at the same time are particularly able to remain unobservable to civil society through displacement of observations of failure of the systems and organisations in it. However, similar strategies of are also identified in third sector networks and organisations when these strategically chose to remain invisible to any governor, both in the third sector and in the partnerships.
This paper, as the research from which it is drawn, aims to investigate the implications of the use of network governance in welfare in terms of the usual self descriptions of state and civil society and their relationship, while at the same time exploring a framework for observation of a world that increasingly describes itself as complex.