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Collaborative Governance Under Austerity: An Eight-case comparative study

De Montfort University is leading is an ESRC-funded international study of austerity governance in cities (Ref: ES/L012898/1).  The project, funded from April 2015 to September 2017 is exploring austerity governance in eight cities: Athens, Baltimore, Barcelona, Dublin, Leicester, Melbourne, Montreal and Nantes.  Finding ways to collaborate with citizens has always been important for central and local governments.  Our study will tell politicians and public officials about how collaboration works as a way of governing austerity.  The project is part of the ESRC's Urban Transformations portfolio, seeking to critically assess and understand the impact and significance of transformations for the welfare and wellbeing of urban citizens across the globe. 

We have two overarching research questions. The first concerns the fate of collaborative governance – ideologies, institutions and processes – in austerity conditions.  The idea that we are moving from an age of hierarchy towards the “networked society” has been very influential.   Many thinkers and political leaders said that states have diminishing power and authority, and consequently have to build collaboration if they are to govern legitimately and efficiently.  The first thing we want to know is whether this worldview is surviving austerity – or if in hindsight, it was an ideology for “good times”.  

Our second question – familiar in the UK – is “are we really all in this together”?  We are less concerned with the widely debated economics of this question, than the politics. Collaborative governance was supposed to be one way of overcoming democratic decline by giving people otherwise marginalised from decision-making a voice with policy makers.  We want to know whether governing is becoming more elite-focused, remote and hierarchical, or perhaps even more inclusive despite austerity cuts.  Can activists speak truth to power through collaborating with city leaders and officials and perhaps alter the course of austerity? How does collaboration politicise or de-politicise austerity?  Do urban protests lead to the creation of spaces of dialogue between activists and urban leaders, or close them down? 

Our goal in discovering answers to these questions is to compare and contrast the politics of austerity in cities across Europe, North America and Australia.  What is distinctive and where do we find patterns?  We will share project findings on this page. Ultimately we hope to say something new about the relationships between city governments and citizens during a period when, to a greater or lesser extent, austerity dominated. 

You can follow the project’s progress on the “Austerity Governance” page of our blog.

Project team:

We have a diverse multi-disciplinary team of eleven investigators working on the project encompassing geography, political science, public policy, sociology and social theory. 

Dr Ismael Blanco, Autonomous University of Barcelona 
Case Study: Barcelona. 

Dr Ioannis Chorianopoulos, University of the Aegean
Case Study: Athens

Professor Jonathan Davies, De Montfort University (Principal Investigator)Case study: Leicester

Dr Niamh Gaynor, Dublin City University 
Case study: Dublin

Professor Brendan Gleeson, University of Melbourne
Case Study: Melbourne (with Helen Sullivan)

Professor Steven Griggs, De Montfort UniversityCase Study: Nantes (with David Howarth)

Professor Pierre Hamel, Université de Montréal 
Case study: Montreal (with Roger Keil)

Professor David Howarth, University of Essex
Case Study: Nantes (with Steven Griggs)
Professor Roger Keil, York University, Toronto 
Case Study: Montreal (with Pierre Hamel) 

Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive, Association for Public Service Excellence
External Consultant and Impact Advisor
E: PO'  

Dr Madeleine Pill, University of Sydney 
Case Study: Baltimore

Professor Helen Sullivan, University of Melbourne 
Case Study: Melbourne (with Brendan Gleeson)


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