The Collaboration Riskscape: Examining the opposing forces of fragmentation and homophily in urban sustainability
How does the proliferation of local governments in metropolitan regions impact the level of collaboration between them? In theory, more fragmentation creates more potential opportunities to find collaborative partners. However, political homophily -- the tendency of governments to only work with similar-looking governments -- is thought to hinder this influence. Despite the prominence of collaboration and collective action in the inter-governmental literature, we know little about how the collaborative mechanisms used to address sustainability issues are influenced by the configurations of horizontal, general-purpose governments and vertical, single-purpose governments.
In a new paper in Publius I wrote with Richard Feiock, we combine national- and metropolitan-level analyses through a mixed-methods design to fill this lacuna. The first component examines how fragmentation influences choices of mechanisms for interlocal collaboration utilizing surveys of U.S. cities. The second component examines collaboration barriers between localities in a single metropolitan area through qualitative analysis of interviews conducted with twenty city managers in the Chicago metropolitan region, one of the most fragmented in the United States. These analyses offer evidence to support the conclusion that more fragmented regions may be better suited to overcome coordination risks and find more avenues for collaborative activities. However, preference heterogeneity within fragmented environments increases the risk of defection and thus offsets some advantages of polycentricity.
I work as an Assistant Professor at the O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington. There, I direct the MGMT Lab.