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New forms of local governance and civil society

The research aims at contributing to a highly opical debate and it is original insofar as it focuses on the rather neglected notion of governance ambiguities by assessing transformations in local dynamics between civil society, private sector and the public sector, with focus on policy sectors such as: welfare services, social exclusion, minority representation and local development poli

The research is part of the ‘second generation’ research on network governance as the aim is to investigate how governance institutional arrangements and practices work, and the extent to which these are congruent with the normative notion of governance as self-organizing, self-steered and cooperative networks. The base of the research is the empirical observation that civil society associations and business organizations are increasingly involved in local operations of government, and that local governance is becoming characterized by network-based forms of coordination. The researchers specify: “the research contributes to the on-going debate on new forms of governance asking the question of how we can understand dynamics, actors and institutions in the changing local governance as well as the question of to what extend the paradigm of network governance, identifying a transition from hierarchy to networks, is reflecting what is actually going on at the local level”. A workshop in Trento, Italy, took place in June 2008 in order for the CINEFOGO researchers to critically discuss the notion of network governance. Participants focused on the ambiguities of governance, highlighting how governance arrangements imply a number of ambiguities that cannot be grasped with reference to network activities only. The main thesis developed on the workshop is that changes in local governance entail a more complex set of institutions, coordination mechanisms and institutionalized practices that mix vertical and horizontal coordination - thereby generating ambiguities - rather than a clear cut transition from vertical coordination to horizontal coordination.