Research event

Open governance: A new paradigm for understanding governance in an information age

A presentation by Albert Meijer (Utrecht University). This event is part of the Digital Governance Research Colloquium hosted by the Centre for Digital Governance and the Data Science Lab. Given the current circumstances, the colloquium will take place via Teams. You can join the Teams meeting here.

This theoretical viewpoint paper presents a new perspective on urban governance in an information age. Smart city governance is not only about technology but also about re-organizing collaboration between a variety of actors. The introduction of new tools for open collaboration in the public domain is rapidly changing the way collaborative action is organized. These technologies reduce the transaction costs for massive collaboration dramatically and thus facilitate new forms of collaboration that we could call “open governance”: new innovative forms of collective action aimed at solving complex public policy issues, contributing to public knowledge, or replacing traditional forms of public service provision. These innovative open and collaborative organizational forms in cities seem to point toward not only a wide variety of digitally connected actors but also to a fundamentally different and more invisible role of government in these arrangements. We argue that the recently emerging paradigm of New Public Governance (NPG) (Osborne, 2010) also fails to capture the dynamics of open governance since it does not acknowledge the emergent—pop-up—character of the new collaborations; neither does it present an understanding of massive individualized collaboration in cities. This paper aims to theoretically and empirically explore the core elements and the underlying socio-technical developments of this new Open Governance (OG) paradigm and compare and contrast OG with existing governance paradigms.

Based on illustrative real-life cases, we will argue that we need a new paradigm that is better capable of explaining these emerging innovative forms of governing cities. We will argue that this requires an understanding of governance as a platform that facilitates an urban ecosystem. By connecting new insights from studies on digital governance to the debate about governance paradigms, this paper results in a set crucial empirical and normative questions about governance of cities and also in guidelines for urban governance that builds upon the rich, emerging interactions in cities that are facilitated by new technologies.

Albert Meijer is a professor of Public Management at the Utrecht University School of Governance. He was trained as a chemist but, already as a student, he shifted his focus to the societal impacts of technology. He became fascinated by new technologies but even more by the way they transform our societies. He worked on these issues professionally as a policy advisor and consultant and then decided to study them academically. His current research program on public innovation revolves around the transformation of government in an information age and ranges from virtual organizations to electronic democracy. He has published extensively in top journals in the field of public administration and government information studies. He is the chair of the permanent studygroup on e-government of the European Group for Public Administration and collaborates with researchers from various countries on issues of transparency, e-government and innovation.

Prior registration is not required.

Download the paper here.