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The Serendipity of Fragmentation: Organizing public organizational landscapes

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After three decades of New Public Management-inspired reforms, public sectors have transformed into highly diverse and complex landscapes comprising organizational entities of different forms and functions. However, due to the strong disaggregation and decentralization impetus of reform approaches, governments and public administrations experience deficits in steering and controlling independent public sector organizations. In the recent literature, this phenomenon has been denoted as ‘fragmentation’: a threat to public sector unity and coherence as well as to democratic accountability.

In this project we analyze how public tasks of states (and especially cities) are organized within and across formal organizational boundaries. By taking an organization perspective on public governance, we focus on the integrative mechanisms that embed autonomous organizations and units within the overall entity of a public body and account for its coherence. Doing so, fragmentation turns out to be a by far more multi-faceted phenomenon than it is usually suspected and a fundamental principle of public organizational landscapes’ organizational order. We build on the institute’s extensive research on the management and governance of independent public sector entities and continue this avenue of scholarly work. A core element of the project is a case study of the City of Vienna. First preliminary results have been presented to different academic audiences This project is a joint initiative together with the Research Institute for Urban Management and Governance.

Team: Renate Meyer, Stephan Leixnering

Support: Stefanie Bramböck