Policymakers often mandate and regulate the network formation to tackle complex issues of public interest. However, the imposed legal, procedural, and political constraints (i.e. mandated specifications) can affect the structuring and functioning of these networks and thus the sustainability and effectiveness of the collaboration over time. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how mandated specifications affect the formation of public networks.
Four networks of healthcare providers were selected and studied from the inception of the collaboration until the services’ activation, focusing specifically on how mandated specifications (i.e. mandated purpose, mechanisms for access to resources, structure, and timing) affected their processes of formation.
The cases show that mandated purpose facilitates goal alignment within the networks. The leeway granted to the actors for access and internal distribution of resources enhances the network flexibility, if appropriate monitoring against opportunism is applied. If structuring requirements are too stringent and the actors are forced to respect timing constraints that go against the organic evolution of internal relationships, the network capability to adapt and solve conflicts could be jeopardized.
Based on the findings, the authors formulate four propositions about the impact that mandated specifications have on the process of network formation, which policymakers should be aware of, when deciding to instigate a network.
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