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Assessing local partnerships: an organisational perspective

Maddalena Sorrentino (Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche, Aziendali e Statistiche, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy)
Massimo Simonetta (Ancitel Lombardia, Milan, Italy)

Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy

ISSN: 1750-6166

Article publication date: 2 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to assess, from an organisational perspective, the internal efficacy of public policies designed to stimulate voluntary inter‐municipal partnerships. In particular, it sets out to assess the capacity of such incentive‐based policies to push the councils in the direction desired by the legislator, i.e. service sharing and joint policymaking.


A qualitative approach (exploratory case study) has been adopted. Primary data from semi‐structured interviews with administrators and public managers were collected and analysed along with secondary data on the inter‐municipal partnerships established in the important Italian region of Lombardy. The critical contingencies and conditions that shape local voluntary collaborations are compared with the assumptions of a model developed by Montjoy and O'Toole.


The paper questions the assumption that access to additional resources is enough to induce the councils to collaborate in service sharing and joint policymaking. While, on the one side, the councils' organisational and managerial limitations condition their willingness and capacity to forge long‐term relationships, on the other, the pressure on councils tasked with partnership implementation (especially the aggregation leaders) and the effort to ensure the orchestration of the activities and joint decision making lead them to opt for the less structured forms of cooperation (e.g. bilateral agreements). The most binding and ambitious collaborative forms are also those exposed to risks, including stagnation and goal displacement.


Unlike the mainstream studies on local partnerships, the paper addresses the policies that incentivise the setting up and development of such initiatives. The paper further develops the use of a model that policymakers will find a valuable aid in predicting agency responses to external mandates and in identifying the different types of potential implementation pitfalls.



Sorrentino, M. and Simonetta, M. (2011), "Assessing local partnerships: an organisational perspective", Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 207-224.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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