Balancing Efficiency, Effectiveness and Democracy in organizing Inter-Municipal Partnerships: Conflicting aims?

Ole Johan Andersen


The balancing of efficiency, effectiveness and democratic control is an ever-recurring problem when designing governance structures more or less disconnected from the formal democratic institutions. As far as the relationship between these considerations is concerned, much of the theoretical as well as the practical discourse revolve around the issue of whether synergy emerges or whether there is just a matter of trade-off. By applying primarily empirical observations from local-to-local cooperation in some Norwegian regions the article attempts to investigate how the relationship turns out.

The article argues that at least three models are available, one balanced and two imbalanced variants. The notion of synergy highlights a model in which input-processes of democratic participation and output-processes of performance reinforce each other. The others, on the contrary, are imbalanced, implying either a democratic deficit or a deliberative surplus.

By comparing the models to experiences from local-to-local cooperation a pattern of divergent features emerges. Nevertheless, a trade-off where the regard for local democracy and autonomy seems to dominate at the sacrifice of performing efficiently and effectively, thus the article is rather pessimistic as to what may be gained by pursuing the intermunicipal cooperative strategy further.

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Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

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

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