Critical Reflections on Interactive Governance
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Critical Reflections on Interactive Governance

Self-organization and Participation in Public Governance

Edited by Jurian Edelenbos and Ingmar van Meerkerk

In many countries, government and society have undergone a major shift in recent years, now tending toward ‘smaller government’ and ‘bigger society’. This development has lent increased meaning to the notion of interactive governance, a concept that this book takes not as a normative ideal but as an empirical phenomenon that needs constant critical scrutiny, reflection and embedding in modern societies.
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Chapter 17: Doing what’s necessary: how encounters in practice shape and improve interactive governance

Koen P. R. Bartels


Bartels argues in Chapter 17 that interactive governance has rapidly been institutionalized in the public sector, but cannot guarantee productive dynamics and positive outcomes. He argues that making interactive governance work hinges on how it takes shape through encounters in daily practice. In their interactions, stakeholders can enact predetermined institutional interests, procedures and routines (logic of the organization) or engage in a process of discovering how best to address the needs and dynamics at hand (law of the situation). This framework is empirically grounded in and practically illustrated by the case of a Neighbourhood Practice Team in Amsterdam-West, the Netherlands. The analysis critically appraises its successful practice of ‘doing what’s necessary’: following the needs of the residents and the dynamics of the neighbourhood rather than abiding by pre-set interests, goals and procedures. Bartels explains how this works, what challenges it runs into, and why it makes a difference.

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