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Difference-in-Difference model

Research Project

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it  

When (and why) independent service delivery is preferable to collaborative public management

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Principal Investigator: Thomas Elston

Associate Professor in Public Administration, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

Project Summary

Collaboration is a commonly prescribed method of public service improvement.  If collaboration fails, blame is typically ascribed to transaction costs, organizational inertia, or premature evaluation.  Drawing on a notable case of collaborative failure in England, however, we show that misdiagnosing public service problems as being of a type likely to be cured by joint working also generates poor results, and belongs conceptually prior to many “go-to” explanations of failure.  Using stacked difference-in-difference estimators on 11 years of performance data relating to subnational tax collection, we show that inter-municipal cooperation produced no cost or quality improvements over independent service delivery.  Supplementary testing attributes this less to governance problems, inertia or precipitate evaluation, than to a basic lack of interdependence – the specific “problem” to which collaboration is the “solution” – between large councils.  Having exhausted scale economies internally, partners experienced no mutual reliance warranting their attempt to further economize through collaboration.


Working Paper

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: When (and why) independent service delivery is preferable to collaborative public management | March 29, 2023

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