This is a summary of the master thesis I wrote regarding Strategy in Public-Private Partnerships in 2013. Title: 'Strategy in the playground - A research on the influence of practitioners on the strategy formation of Public-Private Partnerships'.
Since the upcoming of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), these types of partnerships are used more and more because of their synergy effects, such as knowledge sharing, to create more innovative and durable ideas. The term ‘partnership’ implies the involvement of multiple partners who are collaborating in the process, but there is not much known about what goes on within a PPP in terms of the interactions between actors, the content of the interaction, the actors’ involvement and their institutional context. Thus: how practices, interaction and praxis of practitioners influence the strategy formation of a Public-Private Partnership project.
The Strategy as Practice approach is suitable for researching the micro-level processes of partnerships because of the focus on practices and praxis from a strategy viewpoint. Interactions and practitioners are in the centre of attention with an eye for the social construction of strategy, power, performativity and agency-structure. This is of importance because strategy formation is not done by just one person and does not follow a set plan. The strategy for a PPP is formed with both public and private actors and has to serve their organizations interests and ambitions, as well as a common goal.
This research was conducted in the pilot projects of the organization ‘Zero Emissie Busvervoer’ (ZEB - Zero Emission Bus transport) between April and July 2013. In these projects, both public and private parties gather information to fill in the TCO model, which is a simulator for the purchase of zero emission buses. With the information, the directors, managers and deputies of the project members make a decision for the ‘strategy’ they will continue with. The process of filling in the TCO model is managed by project managers, who also try to get the public and private actors to come together.
Results showed that interaction is necessary for the continuance of the process and forming a strategy. However, interaction is difficult and it takes times to set up a trustful partnership. Having the right competences helps with this, but also managerial coverage is important, as well as commitment from the actors. The actors are the ones performing the activities for the basis of the strategy, but the directors decide about this after being informed about the options. It is important for the actors to put all their interests on the table to decide on strategy that suits everyone; however, not all interests are always being displayed. Comprehension about each other’s worlds is necessary to have for the actors to understand each other. It are these differences at which PPPs often fail.
Thus: the background of actors, their position within an organization, their environment and competences have an influence on their practices, thus the routines they are performing, the ways they think and act. The activities they perform guide the information that is gathered and that is put on the table for discussion and making the business cases. The interaction between the actors is for making those business cases. All interests of the organizations have to be served while negotiating the business cases, both public and private interests. This is the moment that influences the strategy: actors with their backgrounds and interests have to generate an eye for the backgrounds and interests of the other actors in order to come up with business cases which suit all. A mentality change is necessary to make this happen. They need to create a coherent way of thinking. Culture is the most important in this, not structure.
Voor meer informatie, zie het uitgebreide onderzoek (Engels) Smit, E. (2013) Strategy in the playground: a research on the influence of practitioners on the strategy formation of Public-Private Partnerships. Unpublished master’s thesis, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands.