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Structure, governance and challenges of networks in the public sector: the case of the power network in Pakistan

Shabana Naveed (University of Central Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan)
Aisha Azhar (School of Governance and Society, University of Management and Technology, Lahore, Pakistan)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 30 August 2021

Issue publication date: 3 January 2022




With governance networks as the critical emerging feature of public administration, this article examines the structure, governance and challenges of networks in the public sector. Using complexity theory, this article explains that control-based relations do not hold much relevance to govern the complex systems of networks.


Case study research design is employed taking the power network in Pakistan as the unit of analysis. Data were collected through eleven semi-structured interviews, companies' websites, government policy reports and other companies' reports. The structure of the power network was examined through the technique of social network analysis using UCINET. Thematic analysis of interviews was conducted with the help of NVivo 13 to identify the mode of governance and challenges.


The study found that five central public sector actors have a high degree centrality and betweenness centrality. Thematic analysis further revealed that these actors are controlling most of the decisions in the network in a hierarchical mode of governance. Other actors face multiple challenges including lack of autonomy, overlapping authorities, conflicting rules and complex decision processes.

Research limitations/implications

The findings imply that instead of top-down and control-based relations, networks require self-governance mechanisms where actors independently participate and interact with other actors to generate common solutions to problems.

Practical implications

The authorities should use network management strategies, participatory approaches and consensus-building methods to reach decisions.


The study explores the network structure and network governance challenges in the context of a developing country that is barely addressed in the public management literature.



Naveed, S. and Azhar, A. (2022), "Structure, governance and challenges of networks in the public sector: the case of the power network in Pakistan", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 16-33.



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