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Partnership meets politics: managing within the maze

John Friend (Durham University Business School, Durham, UK)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 1 April 2006




To present a perspective on partnership grounded in empirical management research. This paper is based on a keynote presentation by the author at a conference on partnership in Durham in 2004.


It reflects on the particular challenges of realising partnership ideals in the field of public policy with its rich textures of accountability, reflecting a career perspective of management research and the facilitation of planning workshops in inter‐organisational policy domains.


The challenge of managing decisions within an often obscure maze of inter‐agency relations is interpreted as one of developmental decision making, within which personal capacities for responsible scheming play a crucial role.

Research limitations/implications

It is argued that this view offers more appropriate guidance to partnership practice than a more conventional system‐centred perspective; and that this has important implications for future research and education in public management.

Practical implications

To learn from one another's experiences, it is suggested that public managers should cultivate capacities to map graphically the shifting patterns of structural relations among issues and among organisational roles. It is argued that the firmer grasp of new communication technologies exhibited by emergent generations offers new promise in this direction, bridging the traditional educational divide between the arts and the sciences.


The paper offers fresh perspectives on partnership that are intended to challenge the thinking of practitioners and consultants as well as researchers.



Friend, J. (2006), "Partnership meets politics: managing within the maze", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 261-277.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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