Implementing Cross-Agency Collaboration – New IBM Report by Professor Jane Fountain

IBM – Center for the Business of Government just published a new report in their collaborative governance series on “Implementing Cross-Agency Collaboration”. Based on Professor Fountain’s in-depth analysis of collaboration projects in the U.S. federal government, the report provides insights into two main factors that support effective collaboration in government:

  1. people skills to develop trust, norms, and connections, and
  2. organizational processes that allow cross-agency actions to be sustained over time.

Much of the existing research, either focuses on specific roles that are needed or the resulting inter-organizational structures. What is largely ignored are the resources and processes needed as well as informal networking and governance mechanisms that need to be allowed outside the existing formal hierarchies to allow cross-agency collaboration.

This is a timely report, that is helpful for public managers to understand that even in a bureaucratic hierarchy, innovations, knowledge and resources to fulfill broad mandates, need to involve new roles in government, such as the recently established Government Innovation Officers. These new GIOs need to be boundary spanning individuals who tap into the resources they can get access to from their own networks, but also have the freedom to connect with other public managers across organizational boundaries.

As the new Open Government paradigm is spreading around the world, this report can also help open government activists to understand, build, and evaluate the processes and roles needed to successfully collaborate with all stakeholders: activists, nonprofits, public sector organizations on all levels of government as well as contractors to implement innovative platforms.

New article: Networks in Public Administration in PMR

CoverSheet PMR articleMy co-authors Jesse Lecy (GSU), Hans Peter Schmitz (SU) and I have published an article in Public Management Review:

Lecy, J., Mergel, I., Schmitz, H. P. (2013): Networks in Public Administration, published online DOI:10.1080/14719037.2012.743577, in: Public Management Review. [Link to pre-publication version on SSRN]

Here is the abstract:

Network-focused research in public administration has expanded rapidly over the past two decades. This rapid growth has created come confusion about terminology and approaches to research in the field. We organize the network literature in public administration using compact citation networks to identify coherent subdomains focused on (1) policy formation, (2) governance and (3) policy implementation. We trace how these domains differ in their approach to defining the role of networks, relationships and actors and to what extent the articles apply formal network analysis techniques. Based on a subsequent content analysis of the sample articles, we identify promising research avenues focused on the wider adoption of methods derived from social network analysis and the conditions under which networks actually deliver improved results.

Please email me in case you want to read the article!

Navy recommends LinkedIn for employees







I came across this SlideShare presentation today via FedScoop and think it is worth sharing: The Navy recommends to use LinkedIn (I assume as opposed to Facebook) as a way to tell the story of the Navy in an online environment where professionals share information. They recognize that many thousands of professionals use LinkedIn as a place for their up-to-date online resumes. Moreover, Navy employees can join groups to discuss topics of interest, to learn from each other for professional development purposes or even search for new jobs.

A disclaimer reminds Navy employees to keep privacy and OPSEC in mind when interacting online.

Here is the full presentation:



New working paper: Tying the network together

David Lazer (Northeastern & Harvard University) and I have just posted a new working paper titled “Tying the network together – Evaluating the Impact of an Intervention into the Advice Network of Public Managers“. It’s up on the Social Science Research Network for comments. We are in the process of making some substantial changes to it, but would love to hear your feedback!

Here is the abstract:

Networks are often see as emergent and self managed; and yet much of the research on networks examines how networks affect the effectiveness of systems and individuals. Is it possible to intervene in the configuration of a network to improve how it functions? Here we evaluate the impact of an intervention to change the array of relationships connecting a set of distributed public managers—State Health Officials (SHOs). SHOs were brought together for a one week executive educational program near the beginning of their tenures. This paper evaluates the question as to whether this program had long run effects on the ties among SHOs. Using a combination of survey and interview data, we find that there is a substantial effect on the probability of ties between individuals that attend the program together, relative to individuals who attend the program in different cohorts. Given recent findings that highlight the importance of interpersonal networks in the effectiveness of individual managers, this suggests a potential role for interventions to improve the efficiency of dispersed, public sector manager to manager networks.

Lazer, David and Mergel, Ines A., Tying the Network Together: Evaluating the Impact of an Intervention into the Advice Network of Public Managers (July 8, 2011). Available at SSRN:

Academic networking & social media

I recently presented my ideas on why academics should tweet and blog too at a symposium at Syracuse University called “Tenure Track Dream Team”. A little over 140 students who are currently on the job market attended the day – about 8-10 were actively using Twitter and 2-3 tweeted during the conference.

I focused my talk not so much on the technology (“You have to use it!”), instead I decided to think about what kind of networking ties academics need in early stages of their career and what usually drives human interaction. My advice for the students was to get out of their comfort zone: They need diverse network ties, so that they will hear about job opportunities (Granovetter’s research on weak & strong ties); they also need to maintain their local ties for future collaborations, but reach out into their global network, so that people are aware of their work and thereby bridge different parts of their network (Watt’s idea of creating small networks and reach across your local, dense ties).

I suggested to them that social networking services are a way to create, maintain and nurture their academic ties. I am using Twitter to understand who belongs to the network of people writing and talking about my research field. I tap into ongoing conversations and contribute when I have something to say. Twitter is a great resource to test and promote early findings or generally hear about hot and new topics. I also use it to understand how practitioners in my field talk about the issues. I started conversations and consequently was able to invite guest speakers to my classes. Moreover, Twitter is a great tool if you can’t attend a conference – someone will always tweet about what is going on or in which room the best presentations are going on.

In addition, I suggested to the students that blogs are a great way to bridge the 140 letters limitation of Twitter and point people to longer posts and links to publications. I suggested to think about individual blogs or content-area blogs that can be easily maintained by several people who are all working on similar topics. The latter lowers the individual publishing/writing pressure and the workload can easily be divided among several people.

RSS feeds as an integral part of blogs, but also all kind of other frequently updated parts on a website, are a great way for academics to sign up for table of content updates of their favorite journals.

We also had a good conversation about publishing cycles, open commons and publishing rights. Syracuse University has just started an “open commons” for working papers called “SURFACE” that shapes up to be a great vehicle to publish early results.

Here are my slides:

Update: Link to the video with my keynote address titled “Social Media for Prospective Faculty: Why Academics Should Blog and Tweet, Too!

Govt 2.0: From Tools to Policy to Convergence (crossposting)

Crossposted from Bill Greeves’ blog:

As I think back over the past two years, specifically with my involvement in the world of Government 2.0, I can’t help but think its adoption has coalesced into three phases. Nearly all of us have experienced some aspect of Phase I: Tools. What is Government 2.0? How does Twitter work? What good is Facebook? Phase I is very hands-on and experiential. It consists of learning the technologies that provide a foundation for Govt2.0 adoption. Many of the 2.0 movers and shakers might consider Phase I old news. But the truth is that when you look at government organizations as whole, particularly those of us at the local level, most are still in this phase – conducting experiments, discussing with peers, working on buy-in from our organizations, etc.

A small percentage of us have taken the next big step to Phase II: Policy. Phase II, which I highlighted in an entry a few months back, is focused on the larger, more extensive issue of the “how” of government 2.0. The effective policies cover such delicate topics as ownership, legal responsibilities, message consistency, etc. It answers sometimes difficult questions. Who will manage these tools? What can we tolerate in terms of two-way communication and feedback? Which tools will we deploy? The numbers of social media “policies” that address these issues continue to expand at a slow but steady rate.

This brings us to the relatively uncharted waters of Phase III: Convergence – a merger of these tools and concepts with our larger organizational strategy. How do we keep the momentum going? What’s next for us if we want to truly institutionalize the use of not just the tools but more importantly the concepts and the potential they represent, such as collaboration, open government and knowledge management? How do we take that next step to integrate these tools into our organizations’ larger communications or development strategy? These are all excellent questions. And no, I don’t know the answers…yet.

That’s where you come in! Together with Ines Mergel, Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University (and fellow MuniGover!), I’d like to request your participation in a very brief online survey to help us develop some empirical data on this very subject. Once we can get a snapshot of where we are today, we intend to develop some analysis on where the gaps are and how we can overcome them.

When completed, we plan to do a seminar to review and discuss the results with anyone interested. I expect that we’ll also be able to share some best practices and lessons learned from the experience that will likely also help you take your own organization to the next level of engagement and implementation.

So please, take a moment to answer these few simple questions – share your pain, share your success!

James Fowler on the Colbert Report

James Fowler talks about the strong influence of social networks and how they affect our lives:

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'James Fowler
The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Economy

It’s not all about Facebook…

The following graphic from Vinco’s blog shows the “World Map of Social Networks” and even though Facebook seems to be dominant, there are a lot of regions around the world where it’s not all about Facebook:

A Call for Papers on Twitter networks at the 2010 Sunbelt Social Networks Conference

At the 2010 International Sunbelt Social Networks Conference, to take place at Riva del Garda, Trento, Italy, from June 29 to July 4, 2010, we intend to organize a session on Twitter networks. We are looking for papers with empirical evidence using the social networking and micro-blogging service Twitter has become one of the most prominent publishing channels of short messages during the last year and caught our attention as network researchers. We would like to initiate a session on how network researchers use the public conversations observed on Twitter and how they capture, analyze and interpret Twitter networks.

Potential contributors should also note that at the Sunbelt conferences series, final (written) papers are not requested to be submitted: just abstracts suffice. However, all submitted abstracts of the proposed papers will be reviewed by the INSNA organizers (and not by the session organizers), who may also decide on the format of the paper presentation (as lectures of 20 minutes or posters of 60 minutes). In any case, since we would like to coordinate the Twitter networks session, potential contributors in this session are free to contact us before the end of November 2009, as the deadline for submission of abstracts of contributed papers is December 1, 2009 now January 15, 2010. Nonetheless, the abstract submission should be done by the contributors themselves who should complete the Submission Form here. Since the name of the session “Twitter networks” is not listed in the Session field of this Form, applicants should insert it in the “New Session” field.

Session initiators:
Ines Mergel, Maxwell School at Syracuse University, NY
Moses Boudourides, Department of Mathematics, University of Patras, Greece
Lothar Krempel, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Germany
Marc Smith, Connected Action Consulting, Belmont, CA

Book: Influence of social networks on the adoption of eLearning practices

On a personal note: Just designed the cover of a new publication. My dissertation (from 2005) will be available in a print-on-demand version soon.

An increasing number of public institutions of higher education are realizing that there is a need to integrate innovative technologies into their curricula in order to enable students to access and review academic content anytime and to connect with each other outside of the classroom. Many public institutions of higher education have recognized this need and are in the process of introducing new practices in order to meet changing market conditions. These practices are generally referred to as eLearning practices. Besides the intended outcomes of digital student support and access to teaching content, applying eLearning practices and integrating them into the traditional existing teaching routines challenges an organization in multiple ways. The aim here is to show the factors influencing this adoption decision process. To gain a deeper understanding of the patterns and success factors of the adoption of eLearning practices, a social network perspective was applied to the process through which innovative technologies adopted by faculty members.


Mergel, I. (2009): The influence of social networks on the adoption of eLearning practices: Using social network analysis to understand technology diffusion and adoption decision, Lambert Academic Publishing, Cologne, ISBN 978-3-8383-1083-1.