Blame Avoidance and Network Coordination: Evidence from Crisis Response
36 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 24 Aug 2009
Date Written: 2009
The growing literature on public service networks has identified a variety of mechanisms to foster coordination, including trust and norms reciprocity. This paper argues that network actors are also driven by a desire to avoid blame. In doing so, the paper develops the concept of blame avoidance in a network setting, identifying both potential causes and consequences. The paper points out that membership of public service networks is often a political responsibility rather than a voluntary act, and that members may be at least as attuned to their extra-network reputation as to their intra-network reputation, creating an incentive to apply blame avoidance strategies. The application of such strategies, in turn, undermines the ability of networks to foster trust and coordination, and therefore represents a significant threat to the implementation of public policy. To test the preliminary salience of the concept, blame avoidance strategies are identified under the most likely conditions of high political risk and task salience, as represented by the crisis response network in Hurricane Katrina.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation