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Boundary Spanners in Public Management and Governance

An Interdisciplinary Assessment

Ingmar van Meerkerk and Jurian Edelenbos

Boundary spanning behavior is important for both public, non-profit and private organizations to ‘survive’: to stay relevant in relation to the environment, to innovate, to improve performance and to collaborate in an effective manner, especially in multi-organizational settings. Providing an assessment of factors influencing the work and effectiveness of boundary spanners, and discussing the impact of boundary spanners on different types of outcomes (collaboration, trust, organizational innovation), this book offers a coherent overview of the evolution of boundary spanning in an interactive governance context.
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Chapter 4: Detecting boundary spanners and examining their activities

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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