Facilitation as a Governance Strategy: Unravelling Governments’ Facilitation Frames
Governments increasingly choose facilitation as a strategy to entice others to produce public goods and services, including in relation to the realisation of sustainable energy innovations. An important instrument to implement this governance strategy is discursive framing. To learn how public authorities use discursive framing to implement a facilitation strategy, we conducted a comparative case study on two Dutch examples in which the government aims to facilitate non-governmental actors to exploit public waterworks for the production of renewable energy. Using content analysis, we identify ten ‘facilitation frame’ elements. We find two configurations of elements: restrained facilitation and invitational facilitation, which both have their advantages, ambivalences and drawbacks. It is often unclear what governments want to achieve and what they have to offer in terms of facilitation. The (discursively) offered support, ranging from ‘giving space’ to ‘creating beneficial conditions’, is often elusive. We conclude that, to avoid deadlock, false expectations and the inactiveness of external actors, the government’s communication should both enthuse and inform these actors about what they can expect. If, however, the potential, non-governmental initiators just lack the necessary capacity to act, there is only so much discursive framing can do. Then authorities should reconsider their ‘facilitative’ role.