Panel Paper: How Does Intra-Governmental Competition Among City Agencies Influence Inter-Organizational Collaboration in Sustainability Initiatives?

Friday, November 4, 2016 : 10:15 AM
Dupont (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Seo Young Kim and Richard Feiock, Florida State University

While the effects of competition among local governments has been much studied, we know less about competition among functional agencies within governments and its consequence. This paper begins to fill this lacuna by investigating the relationship between intra-governmental agency competition and inter-organizational collaboration relating to urban sustainability.  Across the public administration and policy literatures it is often assumed that collaboration is at odds with competition since they are understood as distinct alternative modes of governance. According to conventional logic, competitive behaviors would rule out collaborations, and make it less likely that actors would share information or work harmoniously with each other. Understanding how these organizations can overcome competitive tendencies and collaborate more effectively has thus been one of the most important agendas in contemporary governance studies.

While this might hold in exclusively horizontal relationships across organizations, local governance is vertically, horizontally, and functionally fragmented in the United States. Even at a horizontal level, competition and collaboration among local governments coexist, and they quite often complement and even enhance each other. In public goods markets, competition among service producers may enhance the quality of services and facilitate cooperation among service delivery units due to the self-regulating nature of market competition. Competition can also be a motivator for creating new government boundaries for the purpose of mitigating the risks of collective action. Also, the engagement of civil society and the vitality of local governance may sometimes be facilitated by competition between the distinctive types of service units.

Competition among agencies within a government not only influences organizational outcomes, it may influence city collaboration with external actors. Intra-organizational competition can reduce transaction and coordination costs within the organization. It may also incentivize collaboration to achieve efficiency gains and send clear signals of commitment to potential collaborators. 

This paper investigates these relationships in the context of local sustainability using data from the 2015/2016 Integrated City Sustainability Survey. The survey measures perceptions of competition among functional agencies related to sustainability and collaborative relationships with other local governments and nonprofit organizations. The finding of this research will contribute to our understanding of how competition may reduce the transaction costs associated with collaborations between principal governmental delivery departments and external organizations in local governments, potentially leading to more effective collaborative arrangements for service delivery.

Full Paper: