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Inter-sector partnerships: complex dynamics and patterns of behaviour

López Herrero, Silvia (2013) Inter-sector partnerships: complex dynamics and patterns of behaviour. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis examines inter-sector partnership processes from a complex dynamical systems perspective. Inter-sector partnerships is increasingly researched both as new forms of government and policy making, and in the sustainability field. The theories traditionally used to analyse this topic fail to confront their dynamics as a whole. Recent approaches draw on complexity theory but, by pre-defining the principles for analysis, constrain the complete understanding of these phenomena. This thesis combines an inductive and deductive approach to explore the complex principles that drive agents’ interactions both at an emergent level (macro), process level (meso) and a causality level (micro). This aims at 1) providing a theoretical and methodological framework to study inter-sector partnerships as complex dynamical processes; and 2) advancing the understanding of social dynamics in the field of complexity theory. This work is based on two case studies collected during fieldwork in Brazil and Ecuador using participatory inquiry and semi-structured interviews to account for the multiple agents, perspectives and components of these processes. These experiences reflect dissimilar topics of collaboration and context conditions intended to provide various scenarios of work and highlight regularities through cross-examination. The results show that, despite the differences, a common pattern of behaviour governs the creation and evolution of multi-stakeholder processes in both case studies. This pattern shows five stages driven by different complex principles: 1) the creation of niche opportunities; 2) the occupation of this niche by a new agent; 3) the emergence of collective behaviour and inter-sector partnerships; 4) the influence of the collaborative process in the system dynamic; and 5) the expansion of a new dynamic in the system. The results provide new insights into the functioning of complex social systems and show that multi-stakeholder processes represent (1) a phase transition in the system dynamics; and 2) a poised state in the system dynamic at the complex regime or edge of chaos, state where the system optimises its capacity to adapt to change, innovate and perform complex tasks. These findings have a direct practical implication by providing practitioners and policy makers with a tool (qualitative dynamical modelling) to promote or reinforce inter-sector partnerships, and to drive social systems to this intermediate regime of optimal performance, the edge of chaos.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Silvia López Herrero
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JC Political theory
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Hall, Anthony and Mitleton-Kelly, Eve

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