Developing Practice-Oriented Theory on Collaboration: A Paradox Lens

Vangen, Siv (2017). Developing Practice-Oriented Theory on Collaboration: A Paradox Lens. Public Administration Review, 77(2) pp. 263–272.



Collaboration is present throughout public administration as a means to address social issues that sit in the inter-organizational domain. Yet research carried out over the last three decades concludes that collaborations are complex, slow to produce outputs, and by no means guaranteed to deliver synergies and advantage. For these reasons, this article explores whether a ‘paradox lens’ can aid the development of practice-oriented theory to help those who govern, lead and manage collaboration in practice. It draws on a long standing research program on collaboration and a synthesis of literature on paradox of relevance to collaboration. The article develops five propositions on the application of a paradox lens that explicitly recognizes the context of collaboration as inherently paradoxical; acknowledges the limitation of mainstream theory in capturing adequately the complex nature of and tensions embedded in collaborative contexts and uses the principles of paradox to develop practice-oriented theory on governing, leading and managing collaborations.

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