Research Handbook on Street-Level Bureaucracy
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Research Handbook on Street-Level Bureaucracy

The Ground Floor of Government in Context

Edited by Peter Hupe

When the objectives of public policy programmes have been formulated and decided upon, implementation seems just a matter of following instructions. However, it is underway to the realization of those objectives that public policies get their final substance and form. Crucial is what happens in and around the encounter between public officials and individual citizens at the street level of government bureaucracy. This Research Handbook addresses the state of the art while providing a systematic exploration of the theoretical and methodological issues apparent in the study of street-level bureaucracy and how to deal with them.
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Chapter 23: Networks as unit of analysis in street-level bureaucracy research

Kim Loyens

Abstract

Whereas street-level officers increasingly operate in multi-disciplinary inter-organizational teams, there is only limited research on how their decision-making is shaped by such collaboration. Based on the argument that street-level bureaucracy literature shows conceptual and methodological gaps to facilitate the analysis of inter-organizational (in)formal networks in street-level decision-making, this chapter shows how network literature can be used to analyse how street-level work is impacted by inter-organizational collaboration. Network literature concerns, for instance, following people/policy in network ethnography, social feedback theory, social network analysis and the notion of ‘experimentalist governance’. As an illustration, these insights are applied to the findings of a recent study of how semi-professionals in law enforcement and social care organizations tackle criminal exploitation of minors in the Netherlands. By doing so, the chapter illustrates that insights from network literature can indeed increase our understanding of the role of inter-organizational (in)formal networks in the behaviour of street-level bureaucrats ‘on the ground’.

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