The Networks and Governance Lab (NGL)
The Networks and Governance Lab (NGL) works to discover how humans and organizations interact to address policy problems at a local and global scale. Blending theories and frameworks from political science, public administration, economics, and public policy with inferential methods from network science, the NGL seeks to model and understand how network structure, composition, and processes shape our collective capacity to solve public problems. Research in the lab spans the study of informal human networks within public organizations and local public service delivery networks to the formation of global city networks to confront transnational challenges.
The lab is not only a research unit, but also has the objective of supporting the learning needs of the students in the department’s doctoral program as well as visiting scholars and students from other universities. Professors working with the NGL support the development of affiliated students and visiting scholars through active involvement in research presentations, coding sessions, dissertation dialogues, and workshops on data collection and analysis. Meetings of the full Lab typically occur every two weeks and often include outside scholars working on related research.
Jun Li is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Abstract: Local governments seek collaboration mechanisms to address increasingly constrained fiscal environments characterized by shrinking revenues and growing demand for services. Though research on interorganizational networks has increased rapidly in the past decade, critical gaps in our understanding of local public service networks remain. This study looks to address existing gaps by answering three critical questions: 1) How are actors connected with each other in these networks? 2) Who do they choose to partner with? and 3) What are the specific and shared objectives they pursue? To answer these questions, we conduct a content analysis of a random sample of 500 interlocal and inter-sector agreements from 10 policy areas over a 10-year period. The results of the content analysis revealed three important findings. First, the most common institutional forms to collaborate are service contracts, joint operations, and new joint entities, while the least common institutional mechanism is joint facilities. Second, city and county, general- and special-purpose government, and cross-sector collaborations are the most frequent groupings found across the service areas. However, collaborations between cities are rare in our sample. Finally, each agreement was coded based on its objective. We find that agreements focus more on the expansion of public access to the service rather than increased efficiency or effectiveness. Based on our findings, we offer several avenues for future research.