A State of Agents? Third Party Governance and Implications for Human Services

July 2008, University of Wisconsin–Madison

This research conference will address important issues raised by public policy and management scholars regarding the burgeoning number of third-party entities that play increasingly central roles in the design, management, and execution of public policy.

A central goal of this conference is to advance new ideas and theoretical arguments for research and generate new empirical evidence that sharpens the debate over the extent and impact of the increasing use of agents of the state to implement public policy. The purpose of a primarily empirical rather than a normative approach is to see if the assertion of governmental transformation with more leakage of authority to third parties (and the corresponding difficulties it may create for effective governance) holds up to empirical scrutiny. This conference will consider the consequences—in the increasingly common context in which agents of the state influence how the government performs its work—from the politics of policy development to primary work tasks and client outcomes. For example, these issues are particularly important in social services delivery, where nongovernmental service providers may have primary control over who gets access to different types of benefits and services (cash transfers, counseling, training, support, etc.), their quality, and the efficiency and efficacy with which they are delivered. In other words, the success of many of our public policies and programs—in terms of core principles such as justice and equity in access, quality, efficiency, responsiveness and representation—may be determined primarily by agents of the state, sometimes with little oversight or weak mechanisms of accountability and control (political or bureaucratic). The poor, who rely disproportionately on the state for access to basic services (e.g., health care, food and nutrition supplements, child care, employment assistance, housing, and others), are particularly exposed to the impacts of these changes.

This conference is being organized by Carolyn Heinrich, with financial support from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the University of Arizona, School of Public Administration and Policy, Eller College of Management; the University of Washington, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs; and the University of Southern California, School of Policy, Planning, and Development.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008
6:00-7:30 pm
Opening Reception
Carolyn Heinrich, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Thursday, July 24, 2008
8:45 am
Opening remarks and overview of conference themes
Carolyn Heinrich, University of Wisconsin–Madison and H. Brinton Milward, University of Arizona
9:15-10:15 am
The State of Agents: An Intellectual Agenda
Laurence E. Lynn, Jr., University of Chicago
10:30-11:30 pm
Third-Party Governance under No Child Left Behind: Accountability and Performance Management Challenges in Supplemental Educational Services Provision
Carolyn Heinrich, University of Wisconsin–Madison
11:30-12:00 pm
Discussant: Stephen Page, University of Washington
1:30-2:30 pm
Relational Contracting and Network Management
Anthony Bertelli, University of Georgia and Craig Smith, University of Arizona
2:45-3:45 pm
Contracting for Complex Products
Trevor Brown, Ohio State University, Matthew Potoski, Iowa State University, and David Van Slyke, Syracuse University
3:45-4:15 pm
Discussant: Steven Smith, University of Washington
4:15-4:35 pm
Concluding discussion
Friday, July 25, 2008
8:30-9:30 am
Governance and Collaboration: An Evolutionary Study of Two Mental Health Networks
H. Brinton Milward and Keith Provan, University of Arizona
9:30-10:30 am
10:45-11:45 am
The Role of Private Agents in Affordable Housing Policy
Elizabeth Graddy and Raphael Bostic, University of Southern California
Discussants: Jodi Sandfort, University of Minnesota and Shui Yan Tang, University of Southern California
1:30-2:30 pm
Accountable Agents: Goal Congruence and Attenuation in Federal Networks
H. George Frederickson, University of Kansas and David Frederickson, U.S. Department of Labor
2:30-3:30 pm
Fishing in Muddy Waters: Principals, Agents and Democratic Governance in Europe
Christopher Skelcher, University of Birmingham
3:30-4:00 pm
Discussant: Joaquin Herranz, University of Washington
4:00-4:30 pm
Open discussion
Carolyn Hill, Georgetown University and Daniel Mazmanian, University of Southern California