Local Governance Special Interest Group

Local governance issues have been high on the reform agenda in the past decades touching upon a variety of aspects in OECD countries but also in the developing world. Local government reforms are aiming to increase input legitimacy (e.g. through direct participation and changes in local representative democracy) and output legitimacy (e.g. through managerial reforms). Complex projects such as territorial governance reforms focus on the improvement of input and output legitimacy simultaneously. Additionally, municipalities are responsible for steering and managing networks and partnerships and need to equip themselves with adequate network management tools.

More recently, in several European countries, local governments have borne a significant part of the cutback and crisis recovery national plans.

The SIG explores trends in local governance and addresses questions arising in organizing and carrying out managerial responsibilities in local government.

Purpose and Aims

The Local Governance SIG was created in April 2013, with the aim of supporting the development of an international, worldwide network of researchers in the area of Local Governance, enhancing the stability and continuity of their collaboration.

During its first three years, the Local Governance SIG has organized several activities. These include winter seminars and academic journals’ special issues, beside the thematic tracks at the IRSPM annual conferences.

The 1st seminar of the Local Governance SIG was held on 2-3 December 2013 under the heading “Rethinking Local Governance to Enhance Public Services”. Over thirty participants from Europe, UK, USA, Mexico and Singapore, gathered at the University of Milano-Bicocca to discuss the new trends in local governance and their implications for the organization and management of public services. Martin Laffin (Queen Mary University of London) held the keynote speech entitled ‘Do Networks Matter?’. He made a historical excursus with the aim of answering the question of whether central government hollow out phenomenon had some evidence. Eighteen papers (out of 35 submissions) were selected and presented in five sessions over the two-days seminar.

A seminar entitled “Corporate Governance, Accounting and Accountability of State-Owned Enterprises and Agencies: Taking Stock and Next Steps in Theory and Practice” ws held at the Leipzig University, Faculty of Economics and Management Science, Germany in February 19th/20th 2015. Another international seminar entitled “Is Local Always Better? Strengths and Limitations of Local Government for Service Delivery” was held at the University of Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa in 3-4 December 2015. The seminar in Cape Town introduced a new concept. Besides academic paper presentations, the participants from Europe, Africa and Asia were introduced in community building projects in the Langa township of Cape Town. Scholars from local universities showed how local governance is being strengthened in socially difficult neighbourhoods and what impact evaluations of interventions show. Thanks to the hosting of the seminar by the University of Western Cape, the SIG has now started activities in Africa, an area which shall be on the radar in the future of the SIG. The academic part of the conference focussed on the limitation of local governance in providing public services, because of lacking resources, lacking management capacities and distributional justice reasons. The combination of the field visits and the paper presentations was a great benefit to the conference. A special issues of the articles presented and additional articles collected by an open call for papers will be published in the International Journal of Public Sector Management in 2017.

SIG chairs would like to continue with this Special Interest Group and its focus. They believe that there is still plenty of room for a further cross-national discussion about the influence of the globally pushed notions (such as maintaining local democracy, citizens’ participation and accountability (on one hand) and local economic efficiency, economic growth, and local prosperity (on the other hand)) on the local leadership.

The plurality of autonomous panels inside the Local governance area over the three years IRSPM conferences highlights the vibrancy and high motivation of academics working on these topics. The same characteristics are shown in terms of SIG members willing to invest their time and energy in organizing seminars and workshops taking place in-between annual conferences such as the 2013 conference in Milan, the 2015 conference in Leipzig and the 2016 seminar in Cape Town.

The SIG chairs are working on the following activities:

Contact Details

Reto Steiner, ZHAW School of Management and Law


John Martin, La Trobe University

Email: john.martin@latrobe.edu.au


Denita Cepiku, University of Rome Tor Vergata



Enrico Guarini, University of Milano-Bicocca

Email: enrico.guarini@unimib.it


Christopher Tapscott, University of Western Cape

Email: tapscott@uwc.ac.za


Filippo Giordano, LUMSA University

Email: f.giordano@lumsa.it