The influence of democratic legitimacy on outcomes in governance networks
Abstract The literature on (governance) networks and network management in general focuses on the performance of these networks or the way networks are constructed or decision-making or collaborative processes in these networks unfold. Some authors assert that most of the new forms of governance networks have a distinct managerial bias (see, for instance, Pollitt’s 2003 discussion of joint up government or Sullivan & Skelcher, 2002). This certainly is evident in the US literature, which, with some exception (see for instance: O Toole, 1997), pays little attention to the democratic character of networks, or to the possible tensions between governance networks and the traditional institutions of representative democracy. As compared to the American literature, a greater level of attention is paid in the European literature to the tensions that exist between governance networks, institutions of representative democracy and the overarching need to involve stakeholders in decision making. There is however very little empirical work on the democratic nature of these networks although theoretical work on this is growing (Sorensen and Torfing, 2007). This paper elaborates on the notion of democratic legitimacy and develops a framework for analyzing this phenomenon in governance networks. The paper distinguishes three dimensions of democratic legitimacy drawing upon different theories of democracy. These are accountability (tied to more representational theories of democracies), voice (tied to more participative theories of democracies) and due deliberation (tied to more deliberate theories of democracies). The paper operationalizes each form of democratic legitimacy and then looks how these various forms of democratic legitimacy influence the outcomes in governance networks. We test this with a survey done in the first half of 2010 among respondents in environmental projects/water management projects (n=220). Regression analyses with various forms of outcomes (process or content outcomes) and the forms of democratic legitimacy as independent variables show that democratic legitimacy in general has a significant positive effect on outcomes in governance networks and that more deliberate dimensions of democratic legitimacy have much stronger impact than for instance representational dimensions of democratic legitimacy. The paper also shows a fairly strong correlation between network management strategies and democratic legitimacy. The paper ends with a reflection on the findings for theories of governance networks and network management.