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Call for papers. EGPA Study Group on Regional and Local Government: "Sub-national Management and Modernization under Austerity"

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EGPA Study Group on Regional and Local Government

5-8 September 2012, Bergen, Norway

Context and background

The focus of this call for papers is on new challenges of managing under austerity, which European local and regional governments are faced with in recent years. We assume that the growing fiscal constraints, under which sub-national governments have to act and which are even combined with an increasing task portfolio, will place much greater demands on their capacities of coping with redistributive conflicts (an older literature from the early 1980s sheds light on these tensions). Of course, conditions of fiscal stress can also lead to policy innovations as actors struggle to do more, or the same, with less. Against this background, the sessions will on the one hand focus on the growing redistributive conflicts that arise at sub-national-levels of government. These conflicts are likely to occur e.g. between different levels of government, between functional interests (services departments) and regulating departments (treasury) or between elected politicians and appointed officials. On the other hand, the question will be raised as to whether and by which means local actors adopt policy innovations, new steering tools and institutional mechanisms, in order to address these challenges. Hence, two perspectives are put to the fore:

(1) Actor strategies of coping with fiscal stress: We expect that local/regional management under austerity affects the key tensions, roles and strategies of relevant actors at least in two respects. First, the power balance between functional interests, typically contained within the service departments, and the internal regulating departments (primarily the treasuries) is likely to shift. Second, the inevitable increase in conflict will mean that the politicians and officials will have to exercise different skills and perhaps develop a different type of relationship compared with that assumed during periods of growth in expenditure. Meanwhile, conflict over resources may lead both politicians and officials to defend territory and play a more aggressive politics of place or act as 'topocrats' to use Beer's famous phrase.

(2) New institutional mechanisms and policy innovations: Growing constraints and fiscal pressures may also be driving forces for institutional modernization and policy innovations at the local/ regional level of government. Although, in some European countries, local governments have been affected most seriously by the global financial and economic crisis, they were and still are an area of increasing reform intensity. Modernization activities are in a number of European countries more frequent and consequent at the local than at upper levels of government. Apparently, local authorities were forced more severely than other levels to effectively react to the crisis through implementing various modernization measures and adopting innovative strategies of service provision. In the sessions, we should have a closer look to these innovations in different countries, which might also shed light on the variety of local/regional modernization trajectories, their causes and impacts. This appraisal appears necessary, since in the current comparative research and literature concerning public sector modernization the analysis of the local level is blatantly absent.

Questions to concentrate on

Accordingly, we would like to highlight the following questions:

- What will be the implications of the aforementioned shifts in power balance?

- How does management under austerity differ from that under growth?

- How are the relationships between levels of government, between elected and appointed officials and between functional and regulatory departments changing?

- Do conditions of austerity encourage innovation or depress it? And under what conditions?

- What innovations have arisen in the form of new ways of delivering services as a result of these struggles?

- Which actors at which levels of government take the initiative and place themselves at the cutting-edge of policy innovation?

- What are the impacts of new institutional mechanisms and policy tools? Are they successful or do they fail and why?

- What are commonalities and differences between the European countries and regions concerning local/regional management and modernization under fiscal stress?

We are particularly keen to welcome papers which seek to deliver empirical, research-based arguments and build a theoretical understanding of these issues. They might also pursue a comparative approach, be it “over time”, “cross-countries”, or “cross policies”.

Abstracts and papers to be submitted

We welcome abstracts (1 page maximum) to address one of the issues/questions mentioned above. Abstracts should be sent no later than Friday the 30th of March 2012. They should include the following elements:

• Title of paper

• The argument and contents of the paper

• The research methods used and (if applicable) the empirical data used

• The research results and findings (to be expected)

• The name, affiliation and contact information of the author(s)

Abstracts should be sent to the three conveners of this EGPA Study Group i.e. to Ellen Wayenberg (ellen.wayenberg@hogent.be), Sabine Kuhlmann (kuhlmann@dhv-speyer.de) and Martin Laffin (M.Laffin@qmul.ac.uk).

Notification of acceptance will be no later than Tuesday the 1st of May 2012. Those authors whose abstracts have been accepted should dispatch their paper to the convenors as well as to Fabienne Maron (f.maron@iiasiisa.org) by July 31st 2012 at the latest.

Paper-givers might be asked to act as discussants for other papers.

Further practicalities

The EGPA SG on Regional and Local Government meets up during the annual conference of the European Group of Public Administration. This conference takes place from the 5th until the 8th of September 2012 in Bergen, Norway. More information about this conference and its practicalities can be found via:



Background of the EGPA Study Group on Regional and Local Government

The EGPA Study Group on Regional and Local Government was founded in 2010. Its focus is on the internal structures and processes of both local and regional governments and the relationships between these two levels. Recent years have seen the spread of regionalization across most European countries. Consequently, there is now a pressing need to assess how far those structures and processes have changed within local and regional governments and how regional governments have defined their roles and accommodated or suppressed the interests of local government. Further information on this EGPA Study Group is available on: http://www.iias-iisa.org/egpa/e/study_groups/regional/Pages/default.aspx


The Study Group aims for publication of high-quality papers according to three main lines:

- by activating special issues of peer-reviewed journals;

- by creating opportunities for the publication of single papers and/or

- by activating contacts with top level publishers for thematic edited books.


Sabine Kuhlmann is Professor of Comparative Public Administration, German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer, Germany.

Contact details:

German University of Administrative Sciences Lehrstuhl für Vergleichende Verwaltungswissenschaft, insbesondere Verwaltung in Europa Freiherr-vom-Stein-Straße 2

D-67346 Speyer

Phone: +49-(0)6232-654-332

Fax: +49-(0)-6232-654-410




Martin Laffin is Professor of Public Policy and Management and Head of the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London, UK.

Contact details:

School of Business and Management,

Queen Mary, University of London,

Francis Bancroft Building,

Mile End Road,

London, E1 4NS,

Phone: +44 (0) 20 7882 8570

Fax: +44 (0) 20 7882 3615



Ellen Wayenberg is Assistent-Professor at the Department of Business and Public Administration of the University College Ghent, Belgium and Guest-Professor at the Department of Political Sciences of Ghent University, Belgium.

Contact details:

Ellen Wayenberg

University College Ghent

Voskenslaan 270

9000 Gent (Belgium)

Tel.: +32.9.248. 24.82

Fax: +


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