Political boundary spanning: politicians at the interface between collaborative governance and representative democracy

Eva Sørensen*, Carolyn Hendriks, Nils Hertting, Jurian Edelenbos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Research finds that productive interfaces between collaborative and bureaucratic forms of governance hinges on the extent to which public managers act as competent boundary spanners who process information, accommodate communication and align and coordinate behavior, and it seems likely that politicians have an equally important role to play in aligning processes and arenas of collaborative governance with representative democracy. The empirical forms that political boundary making takes are examined in a study of 28 cases of local, regional or national level policy-making in nine Western countries. This study indicates that there is considerable variation in the way politicians perform political boundary spanning particularly with respect to their degree of engagement in collaborative policymaking arenas and the focus of their boundary-spanning activities. Furthermore, the study shows that collaborative governance tends to go best in tandem with representative democracy in those cases where politicians perform both hands off and hands on boundary-spanning activities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolicy and Society
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)530-569
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • boundary spanner
  • politicians
  • collaborative governance
  • representative democracy
  • Database
  • Case Analysis
  • political leadership

Cite this