Call for papers: Boundary spanning in the age of collaborative governance – Insights from Nordic Local Governments


The special issue aims to shed light on the growing number of boundary spanners working across local government agencies and public services in a Nordic context. Boundary-spanning is well-researched within business contexts (e.g., Tang, Qin, and Zhang, 2018), and in the UK and European public policy contexts (e.g., Williams, 2012) – but there is little evidence from the Nordic countries. Nordic local governments operate within the context of affluent economies and well-developed societies where municipalities are responsible for many welfare tasks. The Nordic countries are furthermore on the global front regarding the digital transformation of public services. However, in the face of wicked problems and new ideas of public governance (Osborne, 2006), increasing inter-organizational collaboration and cross-boundary work with the purpose to make or realize public policies and programs – collaborative governance – have also become important to Nordic local governments’ service provision. (Ansell and Gash, 2008; Sørensen and Torfing, 2011, Meerkerk and Edelenbos, 2018a, 2019). We find multiple examples of the emergence of formal and informal boundary-spanning positions, e.g., public health coordinator, coordinator for integration of refugees, coordinator for cross-municipal partnerships, coordinator between primary care and hospitals, coordinator for environmental protection, coordinator for disaster and civil preparedness, coordinator for integrated employment services, and coordinators for regional councils, etc. The literature suggests that boundary-spanning activities play critical roles. Boundary-spanning is considered important for acquiring and maintaining organizational resources and legitimacy and for the exchange of information between organizations and their environment (Williams, 2002; 2013). Boundary-spanning is also increasingly important in the more complex and dynamic world, with a lack of clearness of problems and solutions and the growing need to coordinate the work of different professionals and institutions with different values and interests (Alford and Head, 2017). Boundary-spanning across groups, for example, may spur learning and innovation of working practices (Wenger, 2000). The literature also highlights the importance of organizational field characteristics (macro-level) and individual skills and capabilities (micro-level) for boundary-spanning and the ability to generate resources and legitimacy for their parent organizations, and broader macro-level consequences for a policy or an organizational field (Fleischer and Carstens, 2022; Van Meerkerk and Edelenbos, 2014, 2018b; Dimaggio and Powell, 1983).

Within a Nordic context, we welcome contributions from various government policy fields and different kinds of collaborative arrangements. Possible research questions include among others:

  • How does the Nordic context(s) influence(s) the activities and performance of boundary-spanning in local governments?
  • What practices emerge that support boundary-spanning work in organizational fields dominated by multiple professional groups?
  • How do organizational interfaces emerge across which boundary-spanning work can take place and become effective? E.g., some policy fields have well-defined boundaries while others have less clearly defined boundaries.
  • How does Boundary-spanning unfold in contested institutional settings where organizational changes and collaboration are indirect ways of instigating institutional change?
  • How do new digital technologies influence or assist boundary-spanning?
  • How do multilevel governance structures (encompassing e.g., state, regional, and local actors) impact the activities and performance of boundary-spanning in different policy fields (e.g., education, employment, business development)

Deadline for submissions of papers

  • November, 1st, 2022 – A letter of interest in participating in the special issue together with a paper abstract should be sent to the guest editors.
  • January, 30th, 2023 – Deadline for submission of full paper for review in Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration. See for author guidelines. Mark submission with “Boundary-spanners in Nordic local governments.”
  • Spring/summer 2023 – review and revision process.
  • Fall 2023 – Final acceptance notices for contributions in the special issue.
  • Spring 2024 – Expected publication (open access).

Guest editors

Andrej Christian Lindholst, Aalborg University, e-mail:

Dag Olaf Torjesen, University of Agder,

Mads Peter Klindt, Aalborg University, e-mail:


Ansell, C., and Gash, A. (2008). Collaborative Governance in Theory and Practice. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 18(4):543-571.

DiMaggio, P. J., and Powell, W. W. (1983). The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields. American Sociological Review, 48 (2): 147–160.

Fleischer, J., and Carstens, N. (2022). Policy labs as arenas for Boundary spanning: inside the digital transformation in Germany. Public Management Review, 24(8):1208-1225,

Osborne, S. P. (2006). The new public governance? Public Management Review, 8(3):377–387.

Sørensen, E., Hendriks, C., Hertting, N., and Edelenbos, J. (2020). Political boundary spanning: Politicians at the interface between collaborative governance and representative democracy. Policy and Society, 39(4):530-569.

Sørensen, E., and Torfing, J. (2011). Enhancing Collaborative Innovation in the Public Sector. Administration & Society, 43(8):842-868.

Tang, R.W., Qiu, X., and Zhang, M. 2018. Spanning the boundary of organizations: A systematic review of the inter-organizational boundary-spanning literature. In M. Zhang, (ed.), Trust Building and Boundary Spanning in Cross-Border Management. (181-217). Taylor & Francis.

Van Meerkerk, I., and Edelenbos, J. 2014. The Effects of Boundary Spanners on Trust and Performance of Urban Governance Networks: Findings from Survey Research on Urban Development Projects in the Netherlands. Policy Sciences, 47(1):3–24.

Van Meerkerk, I., and Edelenbos, J. (2018a). Boundary Spanners in Public Management and Governance: An Interdisciplinary Assessment. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing

Van Meerkerk, I., and Edelenbos, J. (2018b). Facilitating Conditions for Boundary-Spanning Behaviour in Governance Networks. Public Management Review, 20(4):503–524.

Van Meerkerk, I., and Edelenbos, J. (2019) Becoming a Competent Boundary Spanning Public Servant. In Sullivan, H., Dickinson, H., and Henderson, H. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of the Public Servant. Palgrave Macmillan

Wenger, E (2000). Communities of Practices and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2):225–246.

Williams, P. (2002). The Competent Boundary Spanner. Public Administration, 80(1):103–124.

Williams, P. (2013). We are All Boundary Spanners Now? International Journal of Public Sector Management, 26(1):17–32.

Williams, P. (2012). Collaboration in public policy and practice: Perspectives on boundary spanners. Policy Press.

Posted: 2022-09-12

Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2001-7405, E-ISSN: 2001-7413