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Co-operative Governance of Public–Citizen Partnerships: Two Diametrical Participation Modes

Conceptualizing and Researching Governance in Public and Non-Profit Organizations

ISBN: 978-1-78190-657-6, eISBN: 978-1-78190-658-3

Publication date: 12 February 2013


Purpose – The aim of this study is to examine the impact of co-operative governance structures on citizen participation in public service provision.Methodology – Using a multiple case study-approach, we analyse and compare five examples of co-operative public–citizen partnerships in Austria and Germany.Findings – The study clearly shows that co-operatives can be a tool for both, (1) the bottom-up self-organization of citizens (co-operative as ‘contested space’) and (2) the top-down organization to canalize citizen participation (co-operative as ‘invited space’). Co-operative public–citizen partnerships therefore represent a balancing act between dependency through public funding and autonomy through community-based decision making.Research implications and limitations – The chapter underlines the importance of context-sensitive qualitative research. Limitations might stem from the fact that municipal areas might differ in other countries than Germany and Austria, for example, due to legal prerequisites.Practical implications – If regional government representatives are supporting a bottom-up initiative, they are more inclined to provide crucial resources for the public–citizen partnership and tensions between different stakeholders involved are weakened.Social implications – Co-operative public–citizen partnerships might enhance participatory democracy and seem to strengthen solidarity and social cohesion on the neighbourhood level.Originality/value of chapter – In showing that co-operatives are a suitable governance structure for community organizations, which enhance democratic decision making and foster social innovation in public service delivery, we support the findings of other studies. The chapter suggests that in order to enhance our understanding of citizen participation, context-sensitive research that goes beyond merely descriptive governance analysis is needed, taking into account the historical trajectories of public–citizen partnerships.



Lang, R., Roessl, D. and Weismeier-Sammer, D. (2013), "Co-operative Governance of Public–Citizen Partnerships: Two Diametrical Participation Modes", Gnan, L., Hinna, A. and Monteduro, F. (Ed.) Conceptualizing and Researching Governance in Public and Non-Profit Organizations (Studies in Public and Non-Profit Governance, Vol. 1), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 227-246.



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