An increasing stream of monitoring activities has entered the public sector. In the Netherlands there are hundreds of monitors on a wide range, so it can be stated that monitoring is fashionable in the Netherlands. But monitoring seems to be functional, too. Without monitoring, organisations would not even survive. Research about the use of research information and evaluations makes clear that information is not always used in a direct and transparent way. This statement raises three, interrelated research questions, which we try to answer in our paper: (1) What is the amount and the character of (intragovernmental) monitors in the public sector in the Netherlands? (2) What forms of utilisation can be distilled and how are intragovernmental monitors used in practice? (3) How do these functions of monitors relate to recent insights in the complexity of governmental performance and the role information can play in complex systems? The paper concludes with the observation that the current mode of monitoring is dominated by rationalistic assumptions. Important functions from a complexity perspective, as learning and communicating, seem to be underestimated. Monitoring is fashionable, but it seems to be less functional.

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Society and Economy
Department of Public Administration

de Kool, D., & van Buuren, A. (2005). Monitoring: Functional or Fashionable?. Society and Economy, 26(2-3), 173–193. Retrieved from