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Success With a Bitter Aftertaste: Success Factors in Inter-Municipal Cooperation

Scandinavian journal of public administration, 21 (4) 2017, p 53 – 76


Dag Ingvar Jacobsen, Charlotte Kiland


Inter-municipal cooperation seems to be gaining popularity in many Western countries, making it of pressing importance to better understand what factors that may contribute to the success of such arrangements. This article focuses on three inter-municipal cooperative arrangements in the field of child welfare in Norway deemed as successful, setting out to find common features across the three. Combining document-studies and qualitative interviews, the study manages to reveal three main factors explaining success: a sense of urgency, incremental processes, and political and administrative anchoring. The study also indicates that these factors interact, and thus cannot be viewed as isolated explanations. Furthermore, the potential negative effects on allocative efficiency are highlighted. As the success of inter-municipal cooperation at least partly seems to depend on the task in focus is “moved out” of the ordinary activity and anchored at a higher political and administrative level, it is argued that this may further fragment the municipalities’ ability to prioritize between sectors and services.