Governing by Networks: the Policy Implications of Civil Society Participation in Decision Making

Why has Vancouver developed and implemented more effective homelessness policy in the last 20 years than Toronto, despite sharing similar homelessness challenges? Finding that none of the traditional theories for policy divergence—such as executive and council leadership, local political institutions or ideational paradigms—adequately explain the policy variation, this dissertation identifies one key difference in the two cities: the properties and dynamics of homelessness governance networks—where state and civil society actors jointly craft policy. Through empirical analysis involving archival research, interviews, extended participant observation, and quantitative decision making data, the study finds that highly institutionalized and inclusive governance networks in Vancouver are largely responsible for the superior policy innovation and coordination over the past twenty years. The research then breaks new theoretical terrain by specifying and modeling the causal mechanisms that link network governance to public policy outputs, establishing that ‘brokerage’ and ‘persuasion’ are the key emergent dynamics from governance networks as deliberative systems of policymaking. The theory-building bridges the metagovernance, network governance, and deliberative democracy bodies of literature to construct a generalized and falsifiable model linking network governance to policy outputs that can be applied across a number of policy domains.

Publication Date: 
University of Toronto
Vancouver and Toronto, Canada