Context in Public Policy and Management
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Context in Public Policy and Management

The Missing Link?

Edited by Christopher Pollitt

‘Putting into context’ is a very common phrase – both in the social sciences and beyond. But what exactly do we mean by this, and how do we do it? In this book, leading scholars in public policy and management tackle these issues. They show how ideas of context are central to a range of theories and explanations and use an international range of case studies to exemplify context-based explanation. The book uncovers the complexity that lies behind an apparently simple notion, and offers a variety of approaches to decipher that complexity. Context is indeed a missing link, which enables us to make sense of the vital relationship between the general and the particular.
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Chapter 15: Context in governance networks: complex interactions between macro, meso and micro. A theoretical exploration and some empirical evidence on the impact of context factors in Taiwan, Spain and the Netherlands

Erik-Hans Klijn, Vicenta Sierra, Tamyko Ysa, Evan M. Berman, Jurian Edelenbos and Don-yun Chen


In the discussion about governance it is very interesting to explore the meaning of context since context in many ways has an important position in that discussion (Emerson et al., 2012). After all, practically every conceptualization of governance emphasizes that because the context in which governments operate has changed (Agranoff, 2011) this has consequences for the social patterns in which concrete decision processes and service delivery takes place. Thus one could say that at the macro level, relation between society and government changes, which has consequences for the meso level (the patterns of social relationships) and that has impact on the concrete strategic interactions (policy making and service delivery, thus the strategic level and the outcomes). This is reflected, or should be, when authors draw normative conclusions in the way governments try to solve societal problems. In this chapter we want to do two things. Firstly, explore the possible use of context in the governance discussion. For that we explore the meaning of the word governance and some of the core assumptions that can be found in the literature on governance. We then explore how context is conceptualized in the governance discussion on the macro level (changes in society), on the meso level (changes in the relations between organizations and especially between governmental organizations and societal organizations) and at the micro level (the level of interactions and decision-making).

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