Networked Governance

… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


Carolyn Tuohy, reference below, observes that “policymakers in Canada and other advanced nations are coming to see the role of government as operating through networks of state and societal actors, rather than as command-and-control hierarchies.”

Tuohy writes:

“In a context in which most policy problems now entail issues that span sectors, jurisdictions and even nations – establishing the conditions for prosperity, sustaining the environment, re-negotiating the inter-generational contract – governments cannot achieve their ends by acting alone. How can governments establish the framework that motivates state and societal actors to engage in collective action to pursue common goals? The traditional exercise of authority through hierarchies is one of a number of types of governance – others may entail greater use of market instruments and/or the exercise of ‘leadership’ – guiding, negotiating, brokering and facilitating the emergence of consensus.

“A related line of thought emphasizes the importance of governance frameworks that tap the wide range of expertise, insight and imagination that resides throughout society, in both the private sector and the so-called ‘third’ sector of voluntary action.”

Networked governance and accountability

Tuohy observes:

“These new models challenge established concepts of democratic government, with their emphasis on the ultimate exercise of sanction through democratic institutions. Lines of accountability within networks may be multiple, tangled and obscured. The central problems in a networked governance model of the role of government are the location of responsibility order to ensure accountability, and the channeling of the information necessary to hold responsible agents accountable. Networks diffuse responsibility, and complicate the flows of information. New ways of thinking about accountability have led to an increasing focus on attaining measurable results rather than compliance with prescribed procedures. But this shift in focus brings new challenges with it: how to specify desired results in measurable terms – capturing the essential dimensions, avoiding measurements that will inappropriately drive behaviour, discouraging attempts to ‘game’ the reporting of results, and preserving the leeway for qualitative assessment.”

Topic, subject and Atlas course

Modernizing Government in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100.


Carolyn Tuohy (2006), Partnering for Public Purpose – New Modes of Accountability for New Modes of Governance, A paper prepared for the Symposium on Partnering for Public Purpose: How Can Governments Ensure Success and Accountability in their Financial Support for the Activities of Others? School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto, 22 November 2006, available as Appendix 12, pages 81-90, in Ian Clark and Frances Lankin (2006), From Red Tape to Clear Results, The Report of the Independent Blue Ribbon Panel on Grants and Contributions Programs, Government of Canada, at, accessed 19 November 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 19 November 2016.