Delegation, Knowledge Integration, and Cooperation: How to Solve Problems of Coordination in Structural Fund Programs. Findings From Comparative Case Studies in the South of Italy


European cohesion policies are increasingly relying on grassroots networks tapping into tacit knowledge and participatory decision-making processes. Regional governments delegate their decision making power to local institutions with the assumption that local agents possess both contextual knowledge and political legitimacy to integrate different policy measures in a cooperative fashion. Delegation of decision making power is therefore presumed to minimize the unintended or conflicting outcomes emerging, for instance, when environmental protection and infrastructure building are not designed consistently to local contextual needs nor are these pursued through a cooperative effort of local networks of actors. Different agents, including resource users and government agencies try to work together to resolve shared dilemmas of coordination, as an increasingly common alternative to centralized institutions. Coordination consists of managing interdependencies among multiple individuals or organizations involved in the overall program or project management. Several studies classify different types of coordination mechanisms, including standards, hierarchy, targets or plans, slack resources, vertical information systems, direct contact, liaison roles, task forces, and integrating roles. Other ways of classifying coordination include formal impersonal, formal interpersonal, and informal interpersonal; non-coordination, standards, schedules and plans, mutual adjustment, and teams; task-task, task-resource, and resource-resource coordination; vertical and horizontal coordination; coordination by programming and by feedback; and coordination by standards, plans, and mutual adjustment. Building upon a current field research in four regions of the South of Italy, this paper examines how coordination occurs across local development programs, which are embedded within multilevel governance structures and relations. The paper presents a number of cases of local collaborations in which large numbers of local actors representing a wide range of contending groups have, with the help of mediating institutions, worked out agreements for integrating development programs. In some circumstances, specific coordination mechanisms encouraged consensus building offering all relevant groups the knowledge and skills needed to participate in these negotiations. In other circumstances, though, delegation of decision making power opened the door for opportunistic participation, lacking vision and trust for mutual cooperation.

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