Vangen, Siv. 2017. “Developing Practice-Oriented Theory on Collaboration: A Paradox Lens.” Public Administration Review 77 (2): 263–72. https://doi.org/10.1111/puar.12683.

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August 2, 2018

Critical Commentary

Abstract: Collaboration is present throughout public administration as a means to address social issues that sit in the interorganizational domain. Yet research carried out over the last three decades has concluded that collaborations are complex, slow to produce outputs, and by no means guaranteed to deliver synergies and advantage. This article explores whether a “paradox lens” can aid the development of practice-oriented theory to help those who govern, lead, and manage collaborations in practice. It draws on a long-standing research program on collaboration and a synthesis of relevant literature on paradox and collaboration. The article develops five propositions on the application of a paradox lens that explicitly recognizes the context of collaboration as inherently paradoxical; acknowledges the limitations of mainstream theory in capturing adequately the complex nature of and tensions embedded in collaborative contexts; and uses the principles of paradox to develop practice-oriented theory on governing, leading, and managing collaborations.