Theorizing Public-Private Partnership Success

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Theorizing Public-Private Partnership Success

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Title: Theorizing Public-Private Partnership Success
A Market-Based Alternative to Government?
Author: Hodge, Graeme; Greve, Carsten
Abstract: One of the paradoxes of the past few decades has been the continuity and even growth of infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) despite the loud voices of critics and harsh judgments of some academics. Indeed, there is little doubt about the success of PPPs judging on the basis of increasing global interest, the frequency of use in countries such as the United Kingdom or Australia, or by the spectacular delivery of timely new infrastructure. There has been considerable work undertaken to date on the multiple meanings of PPP more generally, on the multiple disciplinary languages spoken by commentators and on the evaluation challenges faced by those interested in assessing PPPs as projects or activities. There has been less work undertaken, however, on the meanings given to how PPP has been judged as ‘successful’ by implementing governments. Indeed, the criteria on which governments might judge PPP as a success story seems to be inherently ambiguous and as politically oriented as it is oriented towards more traditional utilitarian policy goals concerned with project delivery or efficiency. In view of the continuity of PPPs post-GFC, the very nature of ‘PPP success’ needs serious rethinking. This paper explores the notion of ‘success’ for PPP and argues that short of embarrassing and large scale corruption or widespread incompetence, PPP and PPP projects are inevitably judged as ‘successful’ in government. This is not only because the PPP concept itself is so wonderfully amorphous and ambiguous, but because each strand of PPP has multiple goals. Infrastructure PPPs for example, have fifteen or so different goals. The criteria for success are therefore multi-faceted and themselves incorporate the very goals of government itself. It is inevitable that PPPs are seen by government to help create public value as well as private value. The paper uses theories of policy success and evaluation studies to assess how ‘success’ is interpreted. The paper concludes that many of the claims for PPP success and failure are therefore, to an extent, self defining exercises.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10398/8573
Date: 2012-11-20
Notes: Paper presented at the Public Management Research Conference at Syracuse University 2-4 June 2011, Syracuse, NY, USA.

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