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Ingmar van Meerkerk and Jurian Edelenbos

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Ingmar van Meerkerk and Jurian Edelenbos

This chapter sets out the aims and plan of the book. It discusses the need for examining boundary spanners and their behavior. Moreover, it stresses the need to realize a more comprehensive understanding of boundary spanning behavior, its antecedents and impact. In this respect it argues for a more interdisciplinary approach and for more systematic knowledge accumulation. Furthermore, it discusses the added value of the book compared to other books on boundary spanning. Next to a readers guide and overview of the various chapters, it provides a definition of boundary spanners and it presents the approach taken in this book of which a systematic literature review on boundary spanners is pivotal.

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Ingmar van Meerkerk and Jurian Edelenbos

This chapter discusses different developments in society, government and politics which increasingly lead to calls for boundary spanning behavior in the field of public management and governance. It first goes deeper into the concept of boundaries and the dual nature of boundaries. Then it discusses several developments in society and government that can be considered as drivers for boundary spanning work in public management and governance. Three developments are discussed in particular: (1) the increasing complexity of societal issues, (2) increasingly experienced fragmentation of government organizations and institutions, and (3) rising calls for participation, co-production and community-based initiatives. Finally, the potential role of boundary spanners in relation to these developments is elaborated.

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Ingmar van Meerkerk and Jurian Edelenbos

This chapter deals with the theoretical roots and evolution of boundary spanning theory. It provides an overview of various theoretical perspectives on boundary spanning and discusses differences and complementarities between the perspectives. It thereby provides an overview in the various literature and approaches on boundary spanning which can enhance comprehensive understanding of boundary spanning theory and which can be used in research on boundary spanning. In this chapter three theoretical perspectives on boundary spanning are distinguished and discussed: the structuralist, the role, and the action perspective. Each perspective approach boundary spanners in a distinct way and highlights different aspects of boundary spanning behavior. Furthermore, we come to a definition of boundary spanners building on the different perspectives, elaborating four key features of boundary spanners.

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Ingmar van Meerkerk and Jurian Edelenbos

Given the ambiguity in the conceptualization and measurement of boundary spanners, this chapter goes deeper into various activities distinguished in the literature and discusses methodological considerations in researching boundary spanners. It discusses the wide spectrum of methods and measurements used in the study of boundary spanners, varying from ethnographic research in profiling boundary spanners to quantitative and mixed method designs. Whereas the quantitative studies generally aim to measure certain types of boundary spanning activity, try to explain variation in boundary spanning behavior and test the effects of boundary spanning, qualitative studies pay more attention to typifying and contextualizing boundary spanning activity. In general the purpose of this chapter is to critically reflect on and compare different methods and research designs in studying boundary spanners in order to enhance and support future research. It thereby also aims to remove the ambiguity in detecting and examining boundary spanners and to come with a more solid and balanced methodological approach.

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Ingmar van Meerkerk and Jurian Edelenbos

This chapter aims to provide boundary spanners a face. Who are they and what do they do? The answer depends on the contextual circumstances in which boundary spanners operate. In this respect four profiles of boundary spanners in the context of public management and governance are developed: 1) the fixer, 2) the bridger, 3) the broker, and 4) the innovate entrepreneur. These different profiles contextualize boundary spanning and discusses the qualities, motivations, competences and typical challenges that each type of boundary spanner is confronted with. The chapter ends with a reflection and comparison of the four profiles and how these profiles might complement each other in cross-boundary endeavors.

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Ingmar van Meerkerk and Jurian Edelenbos

In the field of public management and governance there is relatively little insight in antecedents of boundary spanning behavior. There is some research discussing individual competences, but organizational and environmental factors are not much examined yet. As organizational psychology and business administration literature has picked up the topic of boundary spanning antecedents more extensively, much can be learned from these disciplines. Based on a systematic literature review, this chapter distinguishes and discusses different types of antecedents that influence boundary spanning behaviour (quality and level of boundary spanning activities) and job experience of boundary spanners. Four sets of antecedents are discussed: (1) individual determinants, (2) environmental characteristics, (3) organizational support, and (4) role composition and role stressors. In the last section a framework in which these different types of antecedents are related will be discussed and several avenues for future research will be provided.

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Ingmar van Meerkerk and Jurian Edelenbos

This chapter discusses the impact of boundary spanners. A key question is whether the work of boundary spanners matters at all. What impact do boundary spanners, for instance, have on organizational and inter-organizational outcomes? Based on our systematic literature review, different kinds of impact can be distinguished such as role stress and influence, organizational performance (for example innovation), relational quality (trust, collaboration), inter-organizational outcomes (network performance, synergy, and public value), and integration and alignment. These types of impacts will be extensively discussed. In the last section it presents and discusses a framework which goes deeper into the relationships between various types of impacts. Furthermore, it discusses several lacunas in the current research on boundary spanners’ performance and provides avenues for future research.

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Ingmar van Meerkerk and Jurian Edelenbos

In this chapter the main insights from this book are summarized. Next, a dynamic and integral research framework is elaborated in which the various components of the book are synthesized: boundary spanning activities, antecedents and context, boundary spanning interaction and outcomes of boundary spanning work. This framework brings together insights from various studies of different disciplines and aims to enhance comprehensive understanding of boundary spanners. This framework can facilitate scholars and students in their study and future research efforts on boundary spanners. Furthermore, several issues and guidelines for practitioners who are engaged in boundary-spanning endeavours, are discussed. Boundary spanning is a challenging job that needs a fertile context in order to become meaningful and effective in public management and governance. Key challenges that boundary spanners face in doing their job, for example balancing vertical and horizontal accountabilities, in supporting their home organizations and their stakeholders in the network are discussed.