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Building Capacity for Cross-Sector Collaboration: How Transportation Agencies Develop Skills and Systems to Manage Public-Private Partnerships Open Access

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This dissertation reports on case studies of two state-level agencies, as well as data collected from thirteen states, to investigate how transportation administrations develop skills for designing and implementing public-private partnerships for infrastructure (PPP) in the U.S. Case studies were conducted of the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of Transportation, and findings were analyzed in respect to a theoretical framework developed from literature on organizational learning and networked governance. The qualitative research included a review of more than 120 peer-reviewed articles and publications on public management, organization theory, and organizational learning; content analysis of interviews with forty-six public and private sector experts through the software application, Atlas.ti; and a review of more than 100 government documents on PPPs in Virginia and Texas.Research questions addressed the processes and practices of capacity-building for PPPs within transportation administrations, the social conditions that underlie collective learning in public sector contexts, and the scale and scope of national resources that support skill development for government agencies pursuing an understanding of PPPs. Interviewees perceived that public sector organizations are initially at a skill-disadvantage in working with the private sector on PPPs, but that public sector capacity can be improved. Four core domains of learning were identified as supporting knowledge development within public organizations: assessing & assigning employees; deciphering & integrating external knowledge, discussing & documenting lessons from direct experience, and designing and evaluating performance standards. Case findings also suggest that the tacit and unique nature of knowledge related to designing and implementing PPPs requires interpersonal dimensions to learning. Furthermore, cultivating a social climate where administrators can discuss project error without fear of recrimination was also seen as important throughout the process of conducting project reviews and evaluations. Conclusions imply that goal-oriented learning is central to government learning, and that public interest objectives can direct knowledge generation and accumulation in all four domains of the study's theoretical model.

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