Public Managers in Integrated Services Collaboratives: What Works Is Workarounds


  • David Campbell

    1. University of California, Davis
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    • David Campbell is a political scientist in the Human and Community Development Department at the University of California, Davis. He works as cooperative extension specialist with the goal of deepening the practice of democratic citizenship in California communities. Taking community planning and service delivery systems as the unit of analysis, his research illuminates the policy dynamics and collaborative mechanisms that shape local implementation of federal, state, and foundation programs. E-mail:


Public managers in local integrated services collaboratives find that commitment to local partnership goals sometimes requires evading policy directives that are imposed by legislation or bureaucratic superiors. Using data that reveal what is often concealed, the author finds that these workarounds can be defined and identified and that they often revolve around central features of policy rather than marginal details. Workarounds emerge in the space created by certain managerial strategies and dispositions: treating directives as starting points for negotiation, using performance to justify discretion and manage risk, establishing local collaborative goals as an alternative locus of accountability, and distinguishing front-door services from back-door accounting. By aggregating data from clusters of workaround stories, researchers and practitioners can (1) identify policy flaws in need of repair, (2) illuminate tensions in the integrated service ideal, and (3) inform the enduring normative debate over administrative discretion and public accountability.