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Searching for Answers: Networks of Practice Among Public Administrators

24 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2008 Last revised: 18 Jan 2012

Maria C. Binz-Scharf

City College of New York

David Lazer

Northeastern University - Department of Political Science; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Ines Mergel

Syracuse University - Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

Date Written: March 21, 2011

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Knowledge sharing, search, innovation, network of practice, case study, Intergovernmental Relations, Public Management

JEL Classification: D73, D83

Suggested Citation

Binz-Scharf, Maria C. and Lazer, David and Mergel, Ines, Searching for Answers: Networks of Practice Among Public Administrators (March 21, 2011). American Review of Public Administration, March 21, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1314822 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1314822

Maria C. Binz-Scharf (Contact Author)

City College of New York ( email )

Convert Avenue at 138th Street
New York, NY 10031
United States

David Lazer

Northeastern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-373-2796 (Phone)
617-373-5311 (Fax)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Taubman Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-0102 (Phone)
617-496-1722 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.davidlazer.com

Ines Mergel

Syracuse University - Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs ( email )

215 Eggers Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244
United States

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/iamergel/

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