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On a crisp San Francisco morning in 1993, National Park Service superintendent Brian O'Neill got some good news and some bad news. The good news? The 76,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreational Area (GGNRA) that he oversaw had been given hundreds of acres of prime waterfront real estate just steps away from the Golden Gate Bridge. The bad news? The land, Crissy Field, was an environmental nightmare. For decades the Presidio military base had used it as an industrial storage yard, and by the time the military deeded it to the National Park Service, Crissy Field was loaded with upward of 87,000 tons of environmental contaminants. It would cost tens of millions of dollars to reclaim and improve the land, and Congress-naturally-had not allocated any money for the improvements.
The traditional response from a federal employee in O'Neill's situation would be to ask Congress for more money. Brian O'Neill, however, is not the typical federal manager. Instead, he paid a visit to his old friend Greg Moore, executive director of GGNRA's nonprofit partner, the Golden Gate Conservancy. "Let's try to raise the needed funds ourselves," proposed O'Neill. After a little persuading, Moore agreed to give it a try.
O'Neill's National Park Service colleagues were not so enthusiastic. Some thought his idea was crazy; after all, no one voluntarily gives money to the federal government. Others worried that if GGNRA succeeded in raising the funds, Congress would be less willing in the future to open its checkbook to park service projects.
O'Neill, characteristically, ignored the naysayers and with Moore's help plunged wholeheartedly into the enterprise. The result exceeded everyone's expectations-even O'Neill's. Not only did they raise more than $34 million for the renovation, but they also mustered unprecedented community support for the park. O'Neill even managed to convince dozens of nonprofit organizations to provide educational and environmental programs at Crissy Field. The end result: the concrete-laden environmental wasteland was transformed into a picturesque shoreline national park and environmental learning center.
By typical park service standards, this result would have been considered an extraordinary achievement. For Brian O'Neill and the staff at GGNRA, however, it was just another day at the office. During O'Neill's tenure, he and his team have partnered with hundreds of outside organizations. In fact, nonprofits do everything at the recreation area from maintaining historic buildings to rehabilitating stranded marine mammals. But outside involvement in the park extends beyond nonprofit contribution. Concessionaire firms provide tours of Alcatraz Island, contractors operate the park's housing rental program, and a real estate firm runs an international center for scientific, research, and educational activities. The partnerships are so extensive that National Park Service employees constitute only 18 percent of the GGNRA workforce; partners, concessionaires, contractors, cooperative associations, and volunteers compose the other 82 percent. "This park wants to partner," explains Alex Swisler, executive director of the Fort Mason Foundation, a nonprofit supporter of the park. "They talk about it and have made it part of the culture."
As a result of O'Neill's efforts, the Golden Gate National Recreational Area-which encompasses such breathtaking scenery as Stinson Beach, Muir Woods, Marin Headlands, Fort Point, and the Presidio-has become less like a government-run park and more like a network of interlocked public-private partnerships. Golden Gate operates on the premise that park employees should not do anything that the greater community could do as well or better. O'Neill and his management team live up to this principle by establishing a vision, writing a strategic plan, and then seeking help from the broader community to make it a reality. "Within the broader community are people with a whole set of talents who can make things happen," explains O'Neill. "My job is to figure out who our strategic partners should be and how to bring them together and inspire them to be a part of it."
This partner-centric approach represents a radical departure from the way that most national parks operate. Since its inception in 1916, the National Park Service has had a reputation for cultivating an insular culture. "The philosophy has always been that the best way to do things was to do it yourself," explains O'Neill. "It was a fortress mentality-put a gate around the park and keep the community from interfering."
O'Neill felt that he had no choice but to work outside this model. An insular attitude simply would not work at Golden Gate; O'Neill and his colleagues maintain more than 1,000 historic buildings, steward 76,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land, and produce a steady diet of educational and environmental programming. GGNRA infrastructure needs run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Relying solely on federal funding would have been a recipe for failure. "The only thing static or losing ground [in this situation] was our own budget," recalls O'Neill. Two of the park's most important partners, the Golden Gate Conservancy and the Fort Mason Foundation, contribute close to 20 percent of the park's total support each year. For the nearly twenty years of its existence, the conservancy has invested a whopping $70 million into the park. The Fort Mason Foundation has pitched in more than $18 million in physical improvements and oversees more than 40 nonprofit tenants and 15,000 program events annually on behalf of GGNRA. In its role as intermediary between the park service and the dozens of organizations that occupy space and deliver programs at Fort Mason, the foundation provides invaluable management assistance to O'Neill and his staff. "We can serve as a buffer between the park service and the nonprofits," says Fort Mason's Swisler. "This gives them [the nonprofits] greater flexibility and freedom than they might have if they were dealing directly with the federal government."
Another twenty or so nonprofits, together with one for-profit entity, operate and maintain GGNRA buildings and facilities on behalf of the park service. Under long-term lease arrangements, these organizations provide all the upkeep and capital improvements themselves. In fact, the Golden Gate National Recreational Area Park was the first national park to invite external service groups to occupy park buildings on its behalf. In all, partner organizations have contributed more than $100 million in capital improvements to the park since GGNRA was founded in 1972.
Such success has silenced the critics who dogged O'Neill and his team as they built this new management model. O'Neill has faced-and overcome-resistance from diverse camps, including environmentalists, who worried that some capital improvements would degrade the environment, and government lawyers, who sometimes were more skilled at hindering innovation than facilitating it. "When you're out there trying to do innovative stuff, there are a whole lot of people trying to bring you down," says O'Neill. "All sorts of folks hoped we'd fail."
Managing a governmental entity that achieves most of its mission through networks of partners requires an approach and skill set different from traditional government models. For example, how many executive leaders could conceptualize such a broad redefinition of their responsibilities and then implement the changes as O'Neill did? The average National Park Service employee tends to have professional and technical knowledge but lacks experience negotiating and collaborating with outside organizations-two skills essential to network management. "Traditionally, our folks [National Park Service employees] have felt comfortable in their own kingdom; they feel less comfortable networking with the outside world," explains O'Neill. He is working to change this mind-set at Golden Gate. In fact, he is trying to transform altogether what it means to be a park service employee. "It's an entirely different role for public employees," explains O'Neill. "Rather than see themselves as doers, we try to get our people to see themselves as facilitators, conveners, and brokers of how to engage the community's talents to get our work accomplished."
The Department of the Interior has called the Golden Gate National Recreational Area the "archetype of a national park in the 21st Century." But GGNRA represents something more: a microcosm of the broader shift in governance around the globe. Its heavy reliance on partnerships, philosophy of leveraging nongovernmental organizations to enhance public value, and varied and innovative business relationships are all hallmarks of these shifts. Governments working in this new model rely less on public employees in traditional roles and more on a web of partnerships, contracts, and alliances to do the public's work. We call this development "governing by network." In this book we examine what this means, how it is changing the shape of the public sector, and how to manage a government in which achieving policy goals increasingly depends less on what public officials produce themselves and more on how they engage and manage external partners.
New Challenges, New Governance Model
In the twentieth century, hierarchical government bureaucracy was the predominant organizational model used to deliver public services and fulfill public policy goals. Public managers won acclaim by ordering those under them to accomplish highly routine, albeit professional, tasks with uniformity but without discretion. Today, increasingly complex societies force public officials to develop new models of governance.
In many ways, twenty-first century challenges and the means of addressing them are more numerous and complex than ever before. Problems have become both more global and more local as power disperses and boundaries (when they exist at all) become more fluid. One-size-fits-all solutions have given way to customized approaches as the complicated problems of diverse and mobile populations increasingly defy simplistic solutions.
The traditional, hierarchical model of government simply does not meet the demands of this complex, rapidly changing age. Rigid bureaucratic systems that operate with command-and-control procedures, narrow work restrictions, and inward-looking cultures and operational models are particularly ill-suited to addressing problems that often transcend organizational boundaries.
Consider homeland security. Acting alone, neither the Federal Bureau of Investigation nor the Central Intelligence Agency can effectively stop terrorists. These agencies require the assistance of a law enforcement network that crosses agencies and levels of government. They need communications systems to capture, analyze, transform, and act upon information across public and private organizations at a speed, cost, and level that were previously impossible. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot adequately respond to an outbreak of anthrax, smallpox, or other bioterrorism incident on its own. An effective response would require the activation of robust public health and emergency responder networks.
The hierarchical model of government persists, but its influence is steadily waning, pushed by governments' appetite to solve ever more complicated problems and pulled by new tools that allow innovators to fashion creative responses. This push and pull is gradually producing a new model of government in which executives' core responsibilities no longer center on managing people and programs but on organizing resources, often belonging to others, to produce public value. Government agencies, bureaus, divisions, and offices are becoming less important as direct service providers, but more important as generators of public value within the web of multiorganizational, multigovernmental, and multisectoral relationships that increasingly characterize modern government. "[W]hat exists in most spheres of policy is a dense mosaic of policy tools, many of them placing public agencies in complex, interdependent relationships with a host of third-party partners," explains Lester Salamon, author of several books on the role of nonprofits in public service delivery. Thus government by network bears less resemblance to a traditional organizational chart than it does to a more dynamic web of computer networks that can organize or reorganize, expand or contract, depending on the problem at hand.
Networks can serve a range of impromptu purposes, such as creating a marketplace of new ideas inside a bureaucracy or fostering cooperation between colleagues. We use the term in this book, however, in reference to initiatives deliberately undertaken by government to accomplish public goals, with measurable performance goals, assigned responsibilities to each partner, and structured information flow. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to produce the maximum possible public value, greater than the sum of what each lone player could accomplish without collaboration. Public-private networks come in many forms, from ad hoc networks that are activated only intermittently-often in response to a disaster-to channel partnerships in which governments use private firms and nonprofits to serve as distribution channels for public services and transactions.
In a world in which elusive, decentralized, nonstate entities like al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and narcotic-trafficking cartels represent the biggest threat to Western democracies, the networked approach has become critical to national security. As RAND analysts John Arquilla and Dave Ronfeldt explain: "It takes a network to fight a network." Government alone, for example, cannot thwart cyber attacks on telephone systems, power grids, financial systems, dams, municipal water systems, and the rest of our nation's critical infrastructure. Why? The private sector owns between 85 and 90 percent of the infrastructure. Recognizing this, the federal government has formed several multisectoral networks to coordinate cyber-security efforts. The government and private sector have established private computer networks that allow private industry and government to share information and remain in contact in the event of a large cyber attack. These networks, Information Sharing and Analysis Centers, exist in the financial, telecommunications, chemical, transportation, food, energy, water and information technology sectors.
This networked model for combating cyber terrorism demonstrates the extent to which government is changing in response to today's more complicated problems. In simpler times the federal government might have employed a command-and-control approach for such a critical initiative.
Excerpted from GOVERNING BY NETWORK by Stephen Goldsmith William D. Eggers Copyright © 2004 by Brookings Institution Press with Innovations in American Government, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University . Excerpted by permission.
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Foreword by Donald F. Kettl
PART 1: THE RISE OF GOVERNING BY NETWORK
1. The New Shape of Government
2. Advantages of the Network Model
3. Challenges of the Network Model
PART 2: MANAGING BY NETWORK
4. Designing the Network
5. Ties that Bind
6. Networks and the Accountability Dilemma
7. Building the Capacity for Network Governance
8. The Road Ahead
Posted January 16, 2006
The average citizen may not notice it, but government is rapidly changing. Nongovernment workers are now delivering services that the government used to deliver as recently as a decade ago. As public policy specialists, authors Stephen Goldsmith and William Eggers know this area well. Their book is full of dense organizational descriptions, which come to life only when they use real-world examples. Fortunately, they do so often, presenting interesting facts and case studies. Still, this book is intended for serious students of public policy and government. Numerous checklists bog it down and may not be practical to use. We recommend it to public officials, policy-makers and citizens who want to understand trends in government and the ways that governing by network is changing the political scene.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.