Searching for Answers: Networks of Practice Among Public Administrators
Maria C. Binz-Scharf
City University of New York, CUNY City College of New York - Department of Economics
Northeastern University - Department of Political Science; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)
Ines A. Mergel
Syracuse University - Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
March 21, 2011
American Review of Public Administration, March 21, 2011
How do public administrators find information about the problems they confront at work? In particular, how and when do they reach across organizational boundaries to find answers? There are substantial potential obstacles to such searches for answers, especially in a system of decentralized governance such as the U.S. government. In this article, we examine the alternative mechanisms within the public sector that compensate for this dispersion of expertise, focusing on knowledge sharing across public DNA forensics laboratories. In particular, we propose that the emergence of informal interpersonal networks plays an important role in providing access to necessary expertise within a highly decentralized system. Our findings point both to the need for further research on knowledge sharing networks within the public sector as well as practical implications around the value of investments into facilitating the creation and maintenance of networks of practice.
Available online before print March 21, 2011.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 24
Keywords: Knowledge sharing, search, innovation, network of practice, case study, Intergovernmental Relations, Public Management
JEL Classification: D73, D83Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: December 12, 2008 ; Last revised: January 18, 2012
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