CANCELLED - Networks in Public Governance: Going Beyond the Metaphor

Course content

Both scholars and practitioners in public governance often use “networks” as a descriptive metaphor, however an understanding of networks as a relational structure is less common. Yet, the power of networks in public governance and policy-making depends on the relationships and interactions among relevant actors.


This course aims to go beyond the metaphor of networks and provide students with theoretical frameworks, relevant concepts and analytical and methodological tools to gain understanding of networked actors in public governance.


The course focusses on the emergence, driving forces and relevance and effectiveness of networked governance and provides an overview of separate network functions.


After setting the stage on the potential of networked governance, the course will cover some of its limitations and the possible dark side of collaboration networks as well.


There is special attention for networks in the international arena, such as epistemic communities, transnational advocacy networks, transgovernmental networks in IO and regulatory networks in the EU.


A considerable portion of the course aims to provide students with knowledge on the analytical and methodological tools of Social Network Analysis in the context of policy networks. The course offers an overview of the most important concepts, terminology of network theory and network visualization tools. Introducing Social Network Analysis, this course provides students with the tools to analyze network structure, actors’ positions in the network and crucial interactions in relation to the functioning and effectiveness of networks.


Bachelor student (2012 programme curriculum): 20 ECTS

Bachelor student (2017 programme curriculum): 15 ECTS

Master student: 15 ECTS

Learning outcome


The course provides an overview of theoretical literature on networks in public governance, ranging from classics to novel approaches.

Throughout the course readings, students will get a general idea of the variety of networks within public governance, both in terms of functions, scope and type of interaction.

Besides its potential, students will get to know the limitations of networks in public governance and the limits in controlling dark networks.

To gain better understanding on how networks function, the course presents a selection of methods used to study policy- and collaboration networks, such as descriptive and inferential social network analysis.



During the course, students will learn how to read and comprehend studies that analyze policy- and collaboration networks. Students will get familiar with key social network concepts and learn how to apply them.

The course will provide students with the necessary tools and skills to visualize networks in a meaningful way, taking into account key social network analysis concepts.



At the end of this course, students will be able to define and theorize emerging forms of network governance. Their understanding of network management will enable them to assess the limitations of networks in public governance in terms of accountability, legitimacy and conflict and address the boundaries of controlling dark networks. Finally, their competency to link theories on networks in public governance to social network concepts and methods will allow them to analyze the functioning, interactions, positioning and structure of networks in relation to policy-making, governance and implementation performance.

Classes will be broken down in a session explaining the key concepts and findings of the readings, a presentation by students on one of the readings and a practical session on applying concepts to cases (mini-presentation and/or discussion of a case using theoretical framework or applying network concepts and using network tools).

Preliminary reading list


Ansell, C., & Gash, A. (2008). Collaborative governance in theory and practice. Journal of public administration research and theory, 18, 543-571.


Bach, D., & Newman, A. L. (2010). Transgovernmental Networks and Domestic Policy Convergence: Evidence from Insider Trading Regulation. International Organization, 64, 505-528.


Borgatti, S. P., Brass, D. J., & Halgin, D. S. (2014). Social network research: Confusions, criticisms, and controversies. In Contemporary perspectives on organizational social networks (pp. 1-29). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


Börzel, T. A. (1998). Organizing Babylon-On the different conceptions of policy networks. Public administration, 76, 253-273.


Brandes, U., Kenis, P., Raab, J., Schneider, V., & Wagner, D. (1999, 1). Explorations into the Visualization of Policy Networks. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 11, 75-106.


Burt, R. (2004). Structural Holes and Good Ideas. American Journal of Sociology, 110, 349-399. Retrieved from


Carpenter, C. R. (2007). Setting the Advocacy Agenda: Theorizing Issue Emergence and Nonemergence in Transnational Advocacy Networks. International Studies Quarterly, 51, 99-120.


Christopoulos, D. C. (2006, 8). Relational attributes of political entrepreneurs: a network perspective. Journal of European Public Policy, 13, 757-778.


Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The Strength of Weak Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78, 1360-1380.


Ingold, K. (2011). Network structures within policy processes: Coalitions, power, and brokerage in Swiss climate policy. Policy studies journal, 39, 435-459.


Kadushin, C. (2012). Some Basic Network Concepts and Propositions. In Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings. Oxford University Press.


Kenis, P., & Schneider, V. (1991). Policy networks and policy analysis: scrutinizing a new analytical toolbox. In Policy networks: Empirical evidence and theoretical considerations (pp. 25-59). Campus Verlag.


Keohane, R. O., & Nye, J. S. (1974). Transgovernmental Relations and International Organizations. World Politics, 27, 39-62. Retrieved from


Klijn, E., & Koppenjan, J. F. (2000). Public management and policy networks: foundations of a network approach to governance. Public Management an International Journal of Research and Theory, 2, 135-158.


Krackhardt, D. (1999). The Ties That Torture: Simmelian Tie Analysis in Organizations. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 16, 183-210.


Maggetti, M., & Gilardi, F. (2011). The policy-making structure of European regulatory networks and the domestic adoption of standards. Journal of European Public Policy, 18, 830-847.


Marin, B., & Mayntz, R. (1991). Introduction: Studying Policy Networks. In Policy networks: Empirical evidence and theoretical considerations (pp. 11-24). Campus Verlag.


Milward, H. B., & Raab, J. (2006). Dark Networks as Organizational Problems: Elements of a Theory. International Public Management Journal, 9, 333-360.


O'Toole Jr, L. J. (1997). Treating networks seriously: Practical and research-based agendas in public administration. Public administration review, 45-52.


Papadopoulos, Y. (2007). Problems of democratic accountability in network and multilevel governance. European law journal, 13, 469-486.


Powell, W. (2003). Neither market nor hierarchy. The sociology of organizations: classic, contemporary, and critical readings, 315, 104-117.


Provan, K. G., & Milward, H. B. (2001). Do Networks Really Work? A Framework for Evaluating Public-Sector Organizational Networks. Public Administration Review, 61, 414-423.


Sabatier, P. A. (1998). The advocacy coalition framework: revisions and relevance for Europe. Journal of European public policy, 5, 98-130.


Sandström, A., & Carlsson, L. (2008). The Performance of Policy Networks: The Relation between Network Structure and Network Performance. Policy Studies Journal, 36, 497-524.


Scholz, J. T., Berardo, R., & Kile, B. (2008). Do networks solve collective action problems? Credibility, search, and collaboration. The Journal of Politics, 70, 393-406.

An interest in academic research on networks in public governance.
This course does not require previous knowledge on social network analysis, but does discuss its application in detail.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)


Oral feedback will be given to student presentations and to the final paper. Moreover, students get informal feedback to their ideas and arguments during class discussions.

Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • English
  • 56