Expanding the City by Giving It Up Ex Ante Assessment of Reform in Public Administration Geert Vissers and Frans-Bauke Vandermeer

Department of Public Administration Erasmus University Rotterdam

Introduction In research on public administration, ‘vertical’ views tend to make way for more ‘horizontal’ views, in which policy is taken as a polycentric process (De Bruijn en Ten Heuvelhof, 1993). This changeover is sometimes ascribed to changes in the practice of public administration: "In the case of Wieringermeer impoldering the Dutch government was able to carry on quite autonomously. Now that impoldering and land use of Southern Flevoland are at issue, the government finds itself in a multi-actor constellation. The planning of military practice grounds, enlarging or reducing the Oostvaardersplassen, these topics call for negotiation and adjustment, rather than for orders being given." (Becker, 1987:126) And indeed, many novel elements can be discerned in the practice of public administration: new policy actors, new policy themes and topics, new policy instruments. Still, applying current theoretical and methodological notions in the analysis of some past policy process will probably give rise to findings that are unlike conclusions about this process arrived at in analyses at that time. According to present research standards, it does not suffice to observe that in the case of Wieringermeer impoldering the government functioned as a "most powerful actor" (ibid.); further questions have to be answered, e.g. concerning the features of the policy network in which government was able, apparently, to hold that position. In short, changes in thinking about public administration cannot be ascribed completely to changes in the practice of public administration; at least in part they result from developments that are more or less separate from changes in actual administrative practice, like the evolution of theory within scientific communities. Despite the wide recognition it has already gained, the idea that policy and public administration can be viewed as a horizontal and polycentric process (if not a series of interlocked processes) has only a short history. As yet, there has not been much time to derive and test implications for policy development and steering. Moreover, work in this field pertains largely to ‘network management’ and related approaches mainly focusing on relational aspects of administrative processes. Presumably, this emphasis relates to the interaction (and inter-actor) level that is now regarded most suitable for adequate description of policy processes. Not individual actors, the problems they face, or the policies they pursue, but the relational patterns to which they belong are the core of analysis. Prescriptions are made about how policy actors should interact, rather than how they should act. To the extent that this account is valid, the findings that current research in public administration has to

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offer will not meet the needs of many policy actors. Paragraph 1 presents the argument in greater detail. In this paper we do not seek some kind of compromise between adequate description of policy interaction and workable guidelines for action. Rather, we will contend that social simulation, used as an instrument for ex ante assessment of processes in public administration, may offer guidance - relevant, comprehensible, and doable - for actors involved in policy development and implementation, without trivializing or distorting the theoretical picture of policy as a horizontal, polycentric process involving various different (groups of) actors. Paragraph 2 presents the method of social simulation, and in particular the prospects of this method for ex ante assessment of reform in public administration. To illustrate this claim, the social simulation of a new town province will be described. Paragraph 3 lists some major problems in the region of Rotterdam that are to be solved by large-scale reform of administrative arrangements. Paragraph 4 gives an overview of ‘Polis’, the social simulation designed to make an assessment in advance of outcomes of these new arrangements, especially with regard to intermunicipal cooperation. In paragraph 5, we present some results of the simulation, then arguing that social simulation contributes to learning effects that may well enhance the quality of public administration.

1.

Arguments in favour of ex ante assessment of policy processes

Postwar developments in thinking about policy and public administration have often been described as a change from rationality-based prescription towards recognition of cognitive limits and social restrictions. Important elements in this development are the predictability of policy processes and the role ascribed to government. According to present views, policy processes evolve far less orderly than they were formerly believed to. The idea that between policy and its outcomes a direct, causal relationship exists has been abandoned, and given way to more balanced, less straightforward views on policy impacts (‘performance’ rather than ‘conformance’). Effectiveness is no longer equated with goal attainment (Bressers, 1983; Delange, 1995), direct connections between policy measure and outcomes are questioned (Mastop en Faludi, 1993; De Bruijn en Ten Heuvelhof, 1993), neglect of unintended policy effects is becoming inadmissible (Engbersen en Van der Veen, 1992), the meaning of ‘plan’ has ceased to be unambiguous (Mastop en Faludi, 1993), it is acknowledged that policy goals may change, and that policy may be goal seeking or goal setting rather than goal attaining (Herweijer, 1987). Furthermore, there is increasing recognition that behavioral change involves complex social and psychological processes, a recognition that has, of course, implications for selecting policy instruments (Hupe, 1987, Vandermeer et al., 1992). It is not only on the basis of such considerations regarding content that the orderly evolving of policy processes can be questioned. Recognition of relational or structural factors (which 1 are, by the way, closely related with content ) may also put the idea of ‘orderly policy process’ in perspective:

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government itself is no longer seen as a single, ‘monolithic’ actor government distinguishes itself, in functions fulfilled and behaviours exposed, less clearly from ‘ordinary’ actors’ than it was assumed to do in former accounts of public administration (especially now that the limitations of legislation - the policy instrument monopolized by government - are becoming visible) governmental actors find themselves, together with other actors, in polycentric networks, in which no single actor (nor a coalition) is able to control fully the course of processes or the outcomes of these processes The view of policy that underlies this concise picture can, slightly exaggerating, be called a new paradigm: a paradigm of policy researchers. Within this paradigm much work remains to be done, e.g. concerning network management, the design of new policy instruments (whether or not inspired by contingency theory), or the relationship between policy and learning processes. Apart from that, it is possible to withdraw from the paradigm, if only temporarily, in an attempt to judge its accomplishments. We will thus make two remarks on the paradigm. Firstly, given the available evidence concerning the dynamic nature of policy, it seems possible and necessary that policy processes be studied on the basis of research conceptions that do not hamper a researcher’s understanding of the dynamics present in the process. To explicate, we are not saying that conventional research conceptions prevent policy dynamics from being disclosed. Quite the reverse, we acknowledge that existing evidence on policy dynamics has been gathered with conventional means. However, these means do impose some restrictions on adequate description of process. Arriving at the conclusion that processes in public administration are often highly dynamic is a first, delineating and explaining the kinds of dynamics involved in these processes a further step. We suggest, for example, to treat the notion of ‘relative stability’ (of policy networks) as a possible outcome of research, rather 3 than as a research premise . More generally speaking, conceptions that suit the study of process may be particularly useful with respect to: perceptions and repertoires of actors involved (Vandermeer et al. 1992) network connections and network boundaries (O’Toole and Hanf, 1990; De la Bruhèze 1992) connections between policy networks, and especially the consequences of examining policy domains separately Secondly, the question can be asked whether and how policy actors (whose task it is to prepare, design, select, implement, and/or monitor policy measures) will benefit from findings arrived at within the above paradigm. Here, it is hardly possible to specify in advance what 4 these policy actors ‘really’ need . Such a specification would be incompatible with the idea that actor perceptions and repertoires are often highly dynamic; moreover, it would pass over cognitive differences between policy actors. This caveat taken in mind, it seems a tenable

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statement that actors involved in public administration will find little solace in the idea that policy processes take place in polycentric networks in which policy actors, like many others, have to struggle to reach their objectives. Nor will the observation be very useful to them, we suppose, that their perceptions and objectives are likely to change during the process. The same may go for the observation that actors addressed by some policy measure not only have to respond to this particular measure, but to various other incentives as well (Maarse en Moen 1991; Vandermeer 1995). Such findings, it must be recalled, stem from research aimed at acquiring knowledge about ways in which policy processes actually evolve, which is a legitimate research orientation. But equally legitimate is to proceed on this by asking the question whether the knowledge gained is, or can be made, relevant for concrete policy actors to guide their behaviours. We discuss some possible reactions. One type of reaction is that policy actors draw the conclusion from the above insights that they should not try to realize their plans and objectives in a direct way. This conclusion may incite ‘strategic indicative policy’ (Mastop en Faludi 1993; Delange 1995), decentralization and/or deregulation efforts, or network management (Koppenjan et al., 1993). Here, Hupe’s judgement may apply that the postmodern instruments for governmental steering can be considered a mixed blessing: "Against the view of government as Great Guardian the autonomy of subjects is acknowledged. The price to be paid for this: public responsibilities become less recognizable, rights and obligations of citizens are blurred. A weakness of postmodern governmental steering is that it allows the logic of social intercourse to become all-dominating. While this logic may broaden the scope of action of many citizens (individualization), it has also the potential of paralyzing government itself. Whatever the benefits in terms of goal realization to be gained from steering instruments like incentives and learning, at least potentially, seems to be lost with regard to policy norms and objectives" (Hupe 1990:232). Consistent with this view is Herweijer’s remark that legislation is becoming more and more aimed at procedures, and less at reaching a social standard; changes in the structure and the organization of elements of (the administration of) society are intended, not societal effects (Albers et al., 1994). We agree that a balance must be found between direct steering and steering at a distance, and also that it is wise to reconsider this balance every now and then (see also Kreukels’ (1987:267) propositions). When the balance swings to distanced, indirect, network-like forms of steering, however, not only Hupe’s objection comes to apply. The problem of reaching a social standard, in Herweijer’s words, is not solved but postponed whereas a new problem is created, that is the problem of how network management or steering should be done. Quite another reaction is that of policy actors who find themselves facing a degree of complexity they cannot handle and decide that there is no option but to demarcate their own tasks and competences rigorously, thereby ignoring connections with other policy areas and issues as much as possible. Such a reaction may be found for instance with actors who view themselves as ‘not higher-grade enough’ to make an attempt to reshape the policy network, and/or actors who have a clear solution in mind for some policy question, a solution they

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don’t want to be diluted (which is how they look at it) in a communication trajectory. Reactions of this type do occur. Not just a few public servants, presumably, tend to see segregation of policy domains as a necessary evil that makes policy processes surveyable and manageable. A drawback of this view is, of course, that a unicentric conception of policy is fallen back on, with all the disadvantages now known to belong to it. Still another reaction is that policy actors maintain their ideas about desired contents or direction of policy, yet taking current insights about policy processes into consideration. For example, actors may revise their assumptions about the relationship between means and ends (Bougon et al., 1977; Gründwald-Schindl en Kraan-Jetten 1987), or they may anticipate the perceptions of other actors present in the network, more frequently and more deliberately than they were used to. This type of reaction, however sensible, has limitations that follow from the fact that patterns of social interaction change over time, involve a variety of changing perceptions, and consequently encompass multiple and equivocal rather than singular and straight causal relations (Vissers, 1994). Some major limitations are: since relationships within the network may alter, since network boundaries may change, since new actors may appear while others disappear, and since perceptions are not stable, it is very difficult to form a reliable image of a future situation to be used as a basis for anticipation not just one particular policy actor may anticipate, other actors may too, which means that an actor has to anticipate no only other actors’ perceptions, but their anticipations as well. This may lead to a disorderly, sometimes perplexing chain of anticipations of anticipations and so forth how actors should anticipate is a question that remains to be addressed by the above researchers’ paradigm These limitations do not take away that it makes sense to form as accurate as possible a picture of future developments. To be sure, saying that no actor in a policy network has full control does not imply that it is indifferent which course of action is decided upon (Vissers, 1994). This can be formulated positively: any policy measure, any strategy, any style of action will have its influence on the course of processes in a policy network, even though these processes are not fully determined by it. In short, the assumption that policy processes take place in a polycentric policy network leaves reason and room enough to adopt a well-considered line of action. Therefore, there is ample reason to create a picture of, and derive expectations about future processes and about factors that may contribute significantly to these processes. These processes, it can be added, will remain equivocal. Because different actors are involved, different and sometimes very unlike perceptions of a policy process may coexist. Accounts of future developments in which the multiplicity of actor perspectives and perceptions is ignored (or even reduced to unequivocality by means of averaging, use of probability theory, etc.) pass over a principal source of policy dynamics. What is needed, next to further theoretical notions concerning

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policy processes, are research instruments which allow future policy processes to be examined and analyzed as the ongoing interplay of many actors with heterogeneous backgrounds, social environments, interests - hence with diverging perceptions. Our claim is that social simulation can be such an instrument.

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Social simulation as an instrument for ex ante assessment

It is not a new idea that policy processes may benefit from early research. Becker (1987) mentions analysis of economic consequences, environmental impact statements, technology assessment, social impact assessment, examples which show that in various policy domains a need is felt for timely information about possible consequences of intended behaviours. The question is which sources of information can be used for research preceding the actual beginning of a policy program. To be sure, ex ante assessment can be based on various sources of information, but not on data derived from an ongoing policy process, since that has 5 not yet started. One option is to rely on known situations to estimate or predict future developments: previous experiences in the same policy domain, in adjoining policy domains, or in the same policy domain but in a different context (e.g. abroad). In such cases, though, it is uncertain if the degree of correspondence with the future policy process does allow a trustworthy account to be made. This applies in particular to the case of rather innovative policy designs (Vissers et al., 1995). This is not to say that reasoning by analogy is pointless; it does have heuristic value. Further types of future-oriented research have been developed (see Van Doorn en Van Vught, 1978), often based on quantitative data and formal models, or relying on expert knowledge and judgement. For ex ante assessment of policy processes however, especially in view of the picture of policy processes sketched above, formal approaches have disadvantages (whether the model used is deterministic or stochastic). One point is "to what extent impact analyses should not only take objective impacts (money, goods, etcetera) into account, but also subjective (feelings etcetera)" (Becker 1987:120-21). Taken seriously, this point raises the question of how to incorporate ‘subjective impacts’ in a formal, quantitative model. Geurts (1981:47) uses the concept of ‘system’ to articulate another weakness of formal models. The state of knowledge about the functioning of social systems, he insists, does not yet allow decision rules to be derived with respect to system-internal reactions to changes in the not-so-near future, changes moreover that may be without precedent. And what is more, a method that requires all future decisions to be laid down beforehand in routines does not really allow us to take account of the quality of social systems to learn and adapt (ibid.). Thus, Becker draws attention to subjective factors that may play a part in future processes while Geurts stresses that a method to be used should not preclude unexpected events, e.g. unforeseen effects. Concerning the assessment of future processes in policy networks, still another weakness of formal models can be brought up: that it is hardly possible to include in

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such models the multiplicity of perceptions and opinions that we have argued to be a major factor as regards the course of future policy processes. This weakness also applies to expert-based types of forecasting, especially in versions aiming at unequivocal conclusions based on consensus, majority, calculation of some measure of central tendency, and so forth, as is the case in many forms of Delphi research (Van Doorn en Van Vught 1978:107v). Here, two points deserve special consideration: (1) it is highly contestable to found a prediction on the average of various, sometimes incompatible views; (2) even in the case that experts reach agreement, the fact remains that in policy processes ‘non-experts’ are involved who ‘use’ their own perceptions and opinions to react to orders, measures, or other incentives, and thus may set off processes not foreseen by anyone. These remarks are not meant to disqualify whatever method in general. Rather, they are made to show that ex ante assessment of policy processes requires a research instrument to be essentially open, in the sense that it allows a multiplicity of actors, of perceptions, of relations between actors, and that it allows all these elements to change in the course of process without imposing limitations on the degree of heterogeneity to persist or develop. While many prominent forecasting methods do not meet these requirements in a satisfactory way, social simulation does. Simulation means imitation or representation. In a social simulation, conditions in a reference situation (Vandermeer, 1983:76) are represented in such a way that the acting by participants in the simulation allows conclusions to be drawn about the acting of those who participate in the reference situation. In the words of Boskma (1986): "The method of social simulation does not mean a simulation of social processes; it means real social interaction under simulated conditions." In a simulation, like in other experimental settings, conditions are controlled. Participants find themselves in a situation that can be changed, if so desired. The main difference between simulation and other experimental methods is that in a simulation these conditions can be changed by participants themselves, with the exception of a few boundary conditions that are operative throughout the simulation; examples are time elapsing, macro-economic figures (if present), and some communication rules. Next to boundary conditions, there are initial conditions: tasks, positions, organizational arrangements, a state of affairs to put are given at the beginning of a simulation. These initially given circumstances put the simulation into operation, but they may change during the simulation as a result of participants’ (inter)actions (Vandermeer 1983:78). It is because of the presence of initial conditions that social simulation can be used to study social processes in controlled circumstances. We explicate briefly. Participants, to be able to make real social processes develop, must be enabled to shape and reshape the situation in which they find themselves. In a setting that remains unaltered under participants’ actions and interactions, steps in an interaction process cannot occur. Such a fixed setting can be used to observe the reactions by participants (individually or collectively) to a given situation. But since it more or less predetermines the range of possible reactions, it is unlikely that in a fixed setting a pattern of processes may develop that can be viewed as a valid representation of the pattern of ‘real life’ processes to be explored.

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As we said above, circumstances in a social simulation may change in due course as a result of participants’ action and interactions. Thus, the method meets a necessary condition for ex ante assessment of policy and administrative processes. These processes can be shown, they can be analyzed, while no attempt has to be made to reduce or ignore heterogeneity. An environment is offered in which actors holding various positions - and having, if only for that reason, different repertoires and perceptions (Zajonc en Wolfe, 1966; Vissers en Vandermeer, 6 1991) - will react to some policy actor’s plans and measures . These reactions may give rise to adjustments, not only in terms of content (policy plans) but also in terms of social structure (relational patterns). In this way, policy as well as positions, perceptions, and repertoires of actors will change, simultaneously. (Changes may, but are not necessarily drastic.) Later, changed frames of perception will be used to react to changed policy plans or measures. We prefer not to speak of clearly distinguishable ‘stages’ in this regard, especially not because actors may differ considerably in ease and pace of changing their perceptions. Having discussed the rationale of social simulation, now we will make some remarks about the method’s application. First of all it must be noted that social simulation alone will not solve policy problems. A setting is offered that can be used to gain experience and to acquire knowledge that may contribute to enhancing the quality of policy and administrative processes: processes and results to be brought about by already made policy plans can be predicted: to what extent will desired effects (or a desired situation) be achieved; to what extent will unintended effects arise (whether or not undesirable); how solid is the plan (for instance, does it work well only in specific circumstances) it is possible to experiment with alternative plans or measures, with new implementation strategies to a given plan, or with different ways of designing policy (e.g. a plan can be designed so that it takes a wide range of problem definitions into account, or so that actors in a policy network are strongly committed, or ‘only’ to create or reshape a policy network) the ways in which various actors judge (the quality of) policy can be studied, not only initially, in relation to some announced plan, but also judgements as they are after a period of time different types of learning are feasible (De Caluwé et al, 1995), in addition to the explicit testing and experimentation indicated above: enhancing directly involved actors’ understanding of factors that codetermine the course of policy processes, clarification of the implicit theories (Brief and Downey, 1983) used by them, providing practical experience with future situations. Furthermore, simulation may serve as an instrument for collective learning (which includes, among other things, learning by experience about relational aspects of policy processes) These possible yields of simulation will not, as a rule, be accomplished all at once. If a

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simulation model (comprising boundary and initial conditions) is designed to serve a fairly specific purpose, as is often the case, one kind of ‘product’ may be aimed for at the cost of other options. Implied in this remark is that a simulation model is not a one-to-one representation of some reference system, but a selection of (abstracted) elements taken from a reference system in order to re-present it (Peters et al. 1995). This selection is always theoryladen: "one postulates that certain aspects of the system are relevant to the problem at hand and that certain aspects are not" (Raser, 1969:7). But also, this selection has to be based on empirical knowledge of the reference system that will be represented in the model. Thus, some kind of field research has to precede the designing of a simulation model. This methodological requirement agrees with our theoretical account of policy and administrative processes: examine the actors involved in the field under study, learn about their perceptions and their relationships (especially in view of the policy plan to be investigated in the project) but be aware that these perceptions and relationships are tied to current circumstances, and acknowledge that they may change over time as a result of changing circumstances (changed that may in part be produced by the policy plan being studied). Then introduce in a simulation: actors, perceptions and relationships found, together with a draft of the intended policy plan (all these elements in simplified and more or less abstracted form), and observe processes, perceptions, relationships, outcomes of the plan, and possibly adjustments of the plan to come about. Conduct several identical replications of the simulation, if possible, in order to distinguish ‘regular’ from accidental developments (Vandermeer, 1983:85).

3.

On creating a town province in the region of Rotterdam

In theory, the qualities of social simulation as an instrument for ex ante assessment are clear. But are they in practice? We designed a simulation to investigate patterns of intermunicipal cooperation that are likely to emerge in the future ‘town province’ of Rotterdam. In this paragraph we will sketch the plan for large-scale administrative reform in the region of Rotterdam, the problems that were supposed to be solved by this plan, and the possible lack of cooperation between municipalities it might lead to. In the next paragraph, the simulation we designed will be described. The plan to create a ‘town province’ in the Rotterdam area should solve two problems currently perceived by many officials in the present city of Rotterdam. One is that Rotterdam is too small; the other that it is too large. Rotterdam has a vital economic function for the whole country. Yet there are important policy domains where the city of Rotterdam has to rely on neighbouring towns’ willingness to cooperate; this applies in particular to public management of harbour and docklands and to public housing. Dependence of this kind may impede ‘forceful and integrated administration’, which is widely viewed a necessity in view of Rotterdam’s ‘mainport function’. It is felt that national and regional economic interests are too large to allow potential hindrance and delay to persist. However, incorporation of surrounding municipalities, the easiest and most apparent solution at first sight, is not feasible. The municipalities involved will, most likely,

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fiercely resist such a measure and what is more, incorporation would produce far too large a town to fit in the administrative landscape in the Netherlands. The second administrative problem of present Rotterdam is the absence of legal status of the existing district administrations, and in particular their lack of democratic legitimacy. In the mid 1980s, an attempt was made to reduce the distance between city council and citizens by installing district administrations that took over several municipal tasks. A legal basis for this installing was and is still lacking, since central government is totally unwilling to accept a further administrative layer. A ‘town province’ was supposed to solve both problems, that is the plan to create a new province enclosing the city of Rotterdam and 17 surrounding municipalities, at the same time splitting up the present city of Rotterdam into 10 autonomous towns. Creating a number of new towns in the area of the present city of Rotterdam would solve the problem of district administrations’ lack of legal status, and it would prevent the new province from being dominated by a single, comparatively large municipality - a situation already experienced in the context of Openbaar Lichaam Rijnmond (Rijnmond Public Corporation), an earlier attempt to achieve a regional administrative level in the region of Rotterdam. To ensure ‘forceful and integrated administration’ at the regional level, the plan transferred quite some powers of municipal authorities to provincial authorities, in particular those concerning public management of the harbour and its surroundings (including, of course, possible extensions) and the city centre of present Rotterdam. The above outline of the plan is written in the past tense. By now, it is inconceivable that the plan will be implemented in its original form. Recently, in a referendum held at June 7, the plan was voted down: 86% of the voters were against it. The referendum was attended by 42% of the electorate, while the city council had decided to accept its outcome if it was to be attended by at least 36% of the electorate. Thus, a somewhat concentric process of decision-making has suddenly come to a standstill, at least for the moment. It was a concentric process in the sense that a select group of actors produced plans and proposals that were presented successively to various relevant groups and public agencies. There are many of such groups. About 1,2 people live in the area which encloses 18 municipalities, presently. The area is part of the province of South-Holland (that will be halved, once the plan is carried out). Involved are the district administrations which are to become real, autonomous municipalities (in some cases after being consolidated). Also involved is the Ministry of Home Affairs, which will have to deal with a new province to which, moreover, standard legislation does not fully apply: that is to say, a special law was made to give the future ‘strong’ province a firm legal basis. This Lex Specialis, as it is commonly referred to, sets aside parts of standard legislation concerning provinces and municipalities. The Lex Specialis does reflect the chosen trajectory of decision making. The plan to create a strong town province and to split up the city of Rotterdam originates from Rotterdam

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political and administrative authorities and from officials of OOR, the consultative body representing all municipalities in the region. These ‘parties’ are still discernable in the Lex Specialis, which attempts to give very detailed treatment to the allocation of competences to provincial and municipal authorities. Rotterdam is pursuing a powerful regional or provincial administration (‘expanding the city by giving it up’), whereas the other towns involved seek to secure municipal autonomy under such a ‘strong’ provincial regime. In most, if not all, documents concerning the creation of a town province, a phrase returns that suggests these opposite interests to be very carefully considered and balanced: ‘local what can be done locally, regional what must be done regionally’ (‘lokaal wat lokaal kan, regionaal wat regionaal moet’ (e.g. Voorontwerp Wet Bijzondere Bepalingen Provincie Rotterdam (1993). It seems as if the ‘core actors’ have adopted a course of decision making in which parties assumed to have formal ‘bar power’ (Baakman, see Maarse 1991, note 9) are being committed to the plan, possibly believing that splitting up the city of Rotterdam, as a local issue, is not to become a major obstacle, especially not since present district administrations (and their officials) will be upgraded. Now if it happens that no town province will be created at all, ironically this will be the result of very local considerations in Rotterdam. (Official conclusions still have to be drawn from the referendum outcome; first reactions from MP’s suggest that the process towards a town province will be continued, though without radically splitting up Rotterdam.) The referendum outcome can be viewed as an unforeseen disruption of the transformation process even before it actually started. The consequence may be that already in this early phase a major revision of the plan will have to be made. The least to be said is that the episode illustrates the importance of paying due attention to implementation and transformation processes. While until recently Rotterdam authorities were quite sure that a ‘town province’ would be accomplished, they were somewhat worried about possible repercussions. Is some ‘Rotterdam identity’ likely to be preserved, and to be used as a basis for future intermunicipal cooperation? Will the towns to be created in the area of Rotterdam be prepared to cooperate in ways that reflect a sense of shared history? Will they seek to preserve and extend urban cohesion, or will they rather pursue their own interests? And if they seek to foster urban cohesion, what are the relevant conditions? Since the formation of a ‘town province’ has no precedent, at least not in the administrative and political landscape in the Netherlands, it is very difficult to predict the administrative processes and relations to develop.

4.

Simulation of administrative reform: questions, criteria, design

We developed a simulation on intermunicipal cooperation in the future town province, on 7 request of the ‘Project Bureau Regionalization’ of the city of Rotterdam . Previous research (interviews, literature) and simulation design were largely performed in the first half of 1994, that is a year before the referendum was held.

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We suggested our client, the Project Bureau, to simulate the transformation process. Our argument was that implementation of large-scale administrative reform seldom fully corresponds to the initial plan, simply because actors involved may and will react in unanticipated ways. As outlined above, actors ‘use’ their repertoires and perceptions to react to plans, measures, or whatever incentive. These repertoires and perceptions differ between actors, and so do reactions. It is the interplay of different reactions that makes development processes somewhat unpredictable. As a result, frequent redefinition and adjustment of policy plans is rule, rather than exception, a phenomenon that is captured in the notion of incrementalism (Lindblom, 1959), which implies that only minor changes can be implemented rather reliably. In short, we suggested to focus the simulation to be made on the transformation process since we expected this process to influence profoundly the future relations and administrative practices in the town province. The suggestion was not adopted by our client, not so much because of the theoretical argument in it, but because the Bureau was prepared to consider only a particular application of simulation: its use as an instrument that might contribute to adapting, refining, and enlarging the Lex Specialis - which our client regarded a proper and sufficient, if not the only way to assure intermunicipal cooperation. Thus we were asked to concentrate on the situation that the plan was operative, that is, a situation in which there is a town province under the regime of the Lex Specialis. In particular, the simulation to be designed should answer questions like: § § § § § what types of intermunicipal problem will appear, especially between municipalities on the territory of the present city of Rotterdam will the instruments of the town province suffice to solve intermunicipal conflicts will additional formal or informal arrangements be necessary in order to achieve both a forceful regional administration and ‘vital’ local authorities who will take care of the cohesion of the city of Rotterdam who will take responsibility when typical metropolitan problems arise that transcend the borders of the future municipalities

In addition to this, it was granted that the simulation might also contribute to the transformation process, in the sense of offering officials involved the possibility to gain ex ante experience with at least some aspects of the future situation. The objectives of the simulation project can now be summarized as follows: development and utilization of a simulation depicting (the structural administrative aspects of) the future town province, in order to investigate the relational and behavioral patterns that may be typical of the future situation (research objective), and to support the transformation process by providing participants with ex ante experience about the future situation (development objective). From these objectives and from the theoretical picture of policy and administrative processes as given in the first paragraphs, we derived three sets of design criteria, concerning structural arrangements, complexity and heterogeneity of administrative processes, and contents of the

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simulation. STRUCTURAL ARRANGEMENTS The objectives formulated above require first of all that the simulation to be designed must have an initial situation in which the town province has already come into being. More specifically, this means that a ‘strong’ province is present, as well as several autonomous municipalities (a number of these replacing a former large city); both provincial and municipal authorities have to deal with a system of legal arrangements - an abridged version of relevant parts of the draft of Lex Specialis. We took this draft as a starting point, not because we believed it to be a correct representation of what was actually to be put into practice (in the mean time it has become clear that it will not) but because with our clients we were interested in the potential dynamics of these anticipated arrangements. Here a dilemma presents itself. No real institutional setting consists only of formal, judicial elements. Therefore we had to make suppositions about further organizational or institutional patterns the transformation process would give rise to. An example is what will happen with the municipal service organizations of Rotterdam. We supposed that some services would be split up and linked to the new municipalities while others would remain intact in a more independent mode, having contracts with different municipalities. Note that this holds for the beginning of the simulation; it can be changed by participants, if so desired. Suppositions of this kind do not affect the validity of the simulation, we think, when credible, although simplified, representations are made of arrangements in the reference situation. COMPLEXITY AND HETEROGENEITY OF POLICY AND ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESSES A valid simulation of inter-administrative processes requires the degree and kind of complexity and multiplicity to be reproduced that is characteristic for the real life situation referred to. Above, we presented a theoretical picture of policy and administrative processes to be found in polycentric policy networks. From this picture, applied to intermunicipal relations in the future town province, the following design criteria are derived: § § § the design should encourage a variety of repertoires to emerge, to a measure that suffices to have real life inter-administrative processes represented the ‘contents’ of these repertoires should reflect major preoccupations of (groups of) actors in real life patterns of relations should be established or encouraged that may represent such patterns in typical real life policy networks

A simulation that meets these criteria (in addition to the structural arrangements mentioned) can be used to explore and experience the dynamics of administrative arrangements in the future town province. In order to design such a simulation, the following questions must be answered successively: § § what are the outlines of relevant repertoires and relational patterns? how can these repertoires and patterns be incorporated in the simulation design?

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The first question is an intricate one, since we are dealing with a situation that does not yet exist. In fact, this was another reason for us to prefer a simulation of the transformation process over a simulation of an already formed future situation; in the latter case, there is no way to make sure that relevant patterns and repertoires are reproduced in the simulation. All that can be done is selecting one out of a variety of possible futures. A remark can be made to alleviate this point, namely that repertoires as such do not have to be incorporated in the simulation design itself. As implied in our theoretical line of argument, repertoires have a rather interactive nature, i.e. they are generated, reproduced and changed by actors involved. Since repertoires reflect both personal history, in the sense of preceding interactions in which actors have been involved, and their present position in the setting, the main design question is not what the repertoires will look like, but what histories and structural positions must be present in the simulation design. For this reason, we studied the course of discussion on the town province up till now, including the perceptions and expectations of various actors: officials of the municipality of Rotterdam, members of the Project Bureau, managers of various municipal services, officials of several district administrations within Rotterdam. Furthermore, we made an inventory of main social, cultural and economic features of diverse sub-areas and municipalities within the future town province. Finally we made a list of issues on a range of policy domains that are likely to show up, especially issues that may - from one perspective or another - require inter-administrative coordination. These elements have been used to design a simulation which involves a number of dependencies (often, but not always mutual dependencies), resource differences (Klijn et al. 1993) and other incentives that may encourage participants to adjust (or add to) their repertoires in ways relevant to the question at hand. Here, it is important to add that the development of diverse repertoires is not only depending on characteristics of the simulation setting, but also on participants’ backgrounds (their ‘repertoires ex ante’). Below, we will elaborate on this point. CONTENT CRITERIA In addition to meeting the above design criteria concerning structure and process, a simulation to be designed should involve plausible contents, in the sense that adequate selection of policy domains and issues is necessary, but also in the sense that participants in 8 the simulation must be able to view and experience the simulation as authentic . These content criteria refer, probably more than the other criteria mentioned, to social context of application. We discuss two important social contexts, client and participants (between which there is some overlap in the Rotterdam case). Client Being an actor (or a group of actors), a client will have perceptions, problem definitions, and desires concerning the reference situation that is being simulated and concerning the role to be fulfilled by simulation. These perceptions etcetera will, however, not be shared fully by other actors. This presents a further dilemma in simulation design. On the one hand various

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perspectives have to be present in the simulation for reasons of validity, but on the other hand the setting will have to meet the client’s viewpoint to a certain extent, in order to be accepted as a useful contribution to real life adaptation and reform. In the Rotterdam project the client was primarily interested in a simulation that could be used to identify shortcomings in the formal arrangements relating to the future town province. For that purpose, the simulation would have to reveal how intermunicipal cooperation and coordination would function in policy areas like public order and public services. About other areas such as environmental planning and infrastructure, our client appeared quite certain. However, in the interviews we conducted, we found that these latter policy areas were viewed as very important and problematic by many officials, especially at the sub-municipal level. Moreover we found (as our theory already suggested) that it was not always evident what the nature of an issue was. For example, when a road is scheduled in an allotment area, is this an issue of infrastructure, of recreation, of the quality of living conditions? We decided that it was necessary to include issues that allowed such a diversity of interpretations. We thought and still think that it is not possible to build a valid simulation on a single, welldefined issue or policy area, a point that is pertinent to the central question of the project. Our client did acknowledge this, but was not willing to accept the unavoidable consequence: that the simulation might show developments that they do not consider realistic, or focuses on problems that they do not consider relevant. Instead, our client asked for provisions made to guarantee that the simulation would produce the phenomena they see as relevant. The risks involved in making such provisions: § § § that participants experience ‘unnatural’ limitations in the simulation, which may lead to reactions to the simulation model replacing reactions to its subject matter that other actors come to see the simulation setting or its result as unrealistic 9 that the dynamics and results of the simulation will be invalid and hence that wrong conclusions may be drawn.

Despite these risks, our client stressed a simulation to be designed around a single issue, public order, and to be kept very simple furthermore. Eventually, a certain plurality of issues was agreed upon. About the degree of complexity no such agreement was reached; it was decided to discuss the matter further after one or two tests had taken place. Our client was not convinced by the tests, however, still considering the degree of complexity too high and viewing the phenomena in the simulation as being too general and therefore not realistic enough. (We tend to see these two points of critique as hardly compatible, since we believe that highly specific and ‘real’ processes to come about require a high degree of social complexity.) Our client decided that the simulation would not be used for research purposes, but that it still could be used for development purposes during the transition process. A role in this decision was also played by the fact that, at the time of the second test, the draft law was adapted in the sense that province authorities were given additional instruments to handle intermunicipal conflict.

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Participants In relation to participants, two design criteria are important. The first pertains to the question who are to be participants and what requirements they have to meet, the second to the question if the simulation is performable (doable) for a given group of participants. If a simulation is designed for a specific group of participants, like for development purposes, only the second criterion applies. But in other, more research oriented cases, selecting and preparing participants is a major design element. As stated above, one way of introducing relevant repertoires in a simulation setting is the selection of participants. Participants bring along their repertoires, the cognitive result of their personal history and their present social positions. These repertoires will be used to make perceive what is going on in the simulation setting and act accordingly. Therefore, the pattern of repertoires and relations to develop in the simulation can be viewed to reflect the culture of a group of participants (Vandermeer 1983: 52-56, 289-295). If elements of a relevant cultural context can be specified in advance, and when the people purveying that culture can be identified, careful selection of a specific sample of participants may help to bring about a relevant setting. In the Rotterdam case it was surmized that the culture(s) of already existing administrations are an important factor in the sense making and construction processes that will shape administrative practices of the new town province. It was therefore decided to carry out the simulation experiments mainly with participants from present administrations. Performability of a simulation depends on ‘technical’, ‘social’ and ‘psychological’ conditions, the first of which are quite straightforward: the simulation must not be too complex. Participant should be able to perform relevant tasks and activities without lengthy preparation. Within a few hours development processes should already become visible. Thus, the simulation setting should be as simple as possible; due to time pressure, however, participants often experience a considerable degree of complexity anyway. In the present simulation we introduced only four municipalities (in reality 27 were planned), we described for each of them the initial situation in only three or four pages, we devised very simple procedures, financial calculations, etc. But a ‘year’ only lasted 80 minutes. Social and psychological criteria relate to the experiences of participants: they should be able, individually and collectively, to make sense of the simulation setting and to act upon it. In particular, they should recognize the setting and be able to believe that it may approximate reality. If so, participants are likely to act and interact in ways relevant in view of the aims for which simulation is applied. In line with the criteria and choices discussed above we developed a social simulation, called ‘Polis’ after the town province existing in it. The province encloses four municipalities: Breehave, Langekamp, Buurwegen en Biesdam. The first three of these used to be the constituents of a large city called Biesmond. In addition to these five administrations, there is an Information and Consultation Agency (ICA), that can be engaged by administrative authorities for research or advice. Each of these six groups consists of 4 or 5 participants.

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Within each of the administrations, a distinction is made between political functions (Royal Commissioner and Provincial Executives or Mayor and Aldermen) and civil servants (one of whom is mainly responsible for finances, another for town and country planning). Before the start of the simulation, participants receive materials about simulation in general, about the design of ‘Polis’ (initial situation, history, communication rules, time schedule), and about legal arrangements that are operative in the recently formed town province (materials are described in Vandermeer et al. 1994). Participants are assigned a position in the initial situation (random assignment, usually), and they receive materials that relate to the position assigned to them. This ‘specific instruction’ includes: § § § § § history, and an outline of present characteristics of own corporation (province, town, or service agency) existing plans (province: integrated strategic plan; municipality: zoning plan) local regulations budgets, including estimates for the years to come an official document containing urgent policy issues (municipality)

As regards the goals to be pursued in the simulation: participants are asked to make their own objectives, and ideals come true, thereby using the position assigned to them as a startingpoint. For this, they may develop their own strategies, make agreements, create new formal or informal arrangements, etcetera. Here, only two strict limitations apply: a ‘year’ lasts 80 minutes, and communication between groups in the simulation is somewhat restricted (only free telephonic and written communication, else on request). In addition to these boundary conditions, participants will face restrictions that arise from other actors’ behaviours. For instance, a change attempt undertaken by one participant will have implications for other participants. These implications should not be thought of in terms of eventual outcomes alone (structural, procedural, etc.), but also in terms of the impact a change attempt will have on various ongoing processes in the simulation: participants are enrolled, or refuse to be so, priorities have to be articulated, relations or even groups may become redefined, and so forth. More or less similar implications may result from measures, questions, comments, and other ‘inputs’ from various ‘outside world actors’ (represented by the facilitator of the simulation). Several types of such ‘inputs’ can be distinguished. A first type of input is given with the information in the initial situation. A second type is introduced during the simulation and consists of issues raised, questions asked, proposals made by ‘outside world actors’ (residents’ associations, business companies, public welfare services, property developers). These first two types are made in advance, and introduced according to a fixed schedule (concerning type two, without participants being informed about this before). Inputs have been devised in an attempt to make the intended cooperation and coordination issues appear (these inputs, like any action, do not determine the reactions to follow). The inputs are listed in Vandermeer et al. (1994). Outside world actors may react to participants’ decisions (or the failure of these to appear);

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they may also be presented, by authorities or officials, with announcements, questions, or proposals (in written form, of course). In such cases too, the facilitator will represent ‘outside world actors’, in a plausible way and if possible in a way that makes the question of interadministrative cooperation reappear.

5. Conclusions How can a simulation like the one described above contribute to the quality of public administration. For the sake of argument, we will start from a rather basal idea of quality. Public administrations, municipalities included, perform various tasks and deliver a range of services. Quality in this respect can be taken to mean that tasks are performed accurately and services delivered well. For example, we like to see public places clean and safe, we want the police to be present when necessary (and not very present otherwise), we want customs officers to be honest and not too loutish, we want a natty passport (see Koppenjan, 1990), we hate town hall queues. And in addition to these rather concrete desires, we also want adequate infrastructures, absence of inconveniences, no corruption, a smooth economy, and so forth. Such a list of cases is clarifying; it shows that quite often it is easier to designate quality in negative terms than to give a positive definition of it. The notion of quality can be applied to effects of public policies, to the commodities and procedures used to achieve these effects, and also to ways of decision making in this regard. Each of these elements can be judged by a variety of criteria. These criteria are not always clear and unambiguous (e.g. what is carefulness in decision making?), nor are they always compatible. A general illustration of this second point: public requisites like legal security and absence of arbitrariness presuppose elaborate procedures; for reasons of efficiency, these procedures may be applied routinely; but societal change requires frequent adjustment of these procedures and routines, anf flexible application. These factors already make it difficult enough to reform existing or create new policies. The process is still more difficult than that, however, since various actors will happen to interfere (as stressed by the notion of polycentric networks), and because of the fact that often decisions have to be made in the absence of an accurate picture of likely effects. How can the quality of public administration be improved? Or differently phrased: how can policy actors be enabled to improve their behaviors? It is important here to recognize that actors themselves must (be able to) do it. There are two reasons for this. (1) Very detailed instructions, advice, or procedures will have only limited value; when circumstances change or when policy plans are adjusted, such instructions etcetera cease to be valid. (2) Instructions etcetera cannot be specific to the extent that they fully constrain other actors’ behaviors (the argument from autopoiesis, see Vandermeer et al, 1992). If quality of public administration does depend on the performance of policy actors, quality improvement means that either policy actors learn to improve their ways of acting, or that

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performance improvements are fostered by changes in the environment in which actors have to perform (like better structures). When considered more closely, this second option seems a question of learning as well, but now it is learning by actors who are responsible for (re)shaping the working environment. Which are appropriate learning modes? The first reason mentioned above implies that ‘singleloop learning’ will not always be useful. ‘Single-loop learning’ denotes ‘the ability to detect and correct errors in relation to a given set of operating norms’ (Morgan 1986:87v). To be sure, when circumstances change this given set of norms may no longer apply. Rather than just solving the problem at hand (monoparadigmatic), proper teaching or advice strategies are poly- and meta-paradigmatic (Feltmann, 1992). These concepts are very useful, indicating that problems may disappear or become solvable when a new frame of perception is adopted. Polyparadigmatic advising (or teaching) means that such a new frame is explicitly offered, metaparadigmatic advising means that actors develop the capacity to produce a new frame by themselves, if necessary. In more generally known terms, ‘learning to learn’ is recommended for many situations. Thus, it becomes a matter of serious consideration whether or not to take actors’ own policy theories (Hoogerwerf 1987) for granted. Concentrating on the simulation of intermunicipal cooperation: we think we would have done our client (and not only our client) an ill service, had we followed our client in the view that policy questions (and accompanying social issues) can be prevented or solved by using judicial means and nothing else. These means do have limitations which we, with regard to our Rotterdam case, summarize by the paradox that it is (to municipalities) forbidden to noncooperate. When it is suspected that lack of cooperation might become a significant problem (on this point too, the actors we interviewed did not agree at all), various strategies and instruments can be considered next to (or even instead of) very detailed legislation. We were thinking about cooperation-encouraging strategies to be tested in the simulation (e.g. strategies to be conducted by provincial authorities) when receiving the message that the project was stopped, at least the research part of it. By that time, two test runs had been conducted. The primary aim of these tests was to inspect the simulations’ performability, validity and relevance in more or less technical terms. We will not report on these topics here (see Vandermeer et al. 1994). Rather we will discuss some observations about administrative reform as found in the two tests. These observations are used to depict different ‘levels’ of learning about administrative change; moreover, they elucidate the possible role of social simulation. IMAGES In the simulation, a clear and sometimes sharp difference existed between the groups’ selfimages and the images held of other groups. For instance, other groups viewed the province as rather passive and not very managerial, while provincial authorities tried to stimulate intermunicipal cooperation by endorsing municipal initiatives rather than by resorting to a topdown course of action (first simulation), or by creating funds to support municipal projects

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(second simulation). Such endeavours in spite, in both simulations provincial authorities came increasingly under attack from other groups, mainly because municipal authorities felt that it was a provincial responsibility to steer and to offer a clear framework for their own policy making. But provincial authorities were also, and sometimes in one breath, criticized for acting too vigorously. RELATIONAL PATTERNS Between municipalities, there were surprisingly few bilateral contacts. In the first simulation, municipalities engaged in multilateral negotiations about the foundation of the financial allocation model. Soon these talks dissolved, which is remarkable in view of the image of a passive province. Apparently, municipalities kept focusing on the province, regardless its supposed passivity. The second simulation showed a similar pattern. In both simulations the province was involved in most of the consultations. In the first simulation, two regular consultations appeared. A first, involving the royal commissioner and the mayors, largely concerned the question of the preferable kind of consultation to be held between royal commissioner and mayors. The discussion tended towards: securing progress, making sure that policy contents will be discussed by the assigned officials, and supervising of policy processes - conclusions hat seem consistent with the province’s strategy. These good intentions, however, could not prevent the discussion from recurrent substantial debate, which meant overlap with the second regular consultation, that of the officials who were responsible for town and country planning (portfolio holders). DISCUSSION TOPICS In the first simulation, the commissioner and mayors discussed two rather encompassing subjects - next to more occasional topics. One is the foundation of the financial allocation model. Some mayors blocked a plan according to which the province would draft a proposal on the basis of municipalities’ desiderata; in their view, this plan might give the province too much influence. The commissioner then invited the municipalities to present a joint proposal. These talks did not lead to conclusions. The second subject was regional priority setting. After considerable discussion it was decided that each municipality was granted two key problems. The result: eight regional key problems... In the second simulation too, portfolio holders devoted lengthy discussion to a list of key problems. Here, an interesting question arose: to which degree can municipalies be allowed to talk about each others’ key problems, and to which degree a key problem of one town could be solved, at least in part, by developments in another town. These discussions passed off all but easy. Also in the second simulation, most of the interadministrative discussions took place within structures already present by the start of the simulation, or developed right after the start. In these consultations, often the provincial delegate was able to determine the kind of consultation (usually this meant generating inventories or information, especially for the purpose of provincial policy formation). Although the province was increasingly criticized, in particular for not being communicative enough, few attempts were made to reshape existing or to create new types of consultation. This had been more or less the case in the first

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simulation as well. Interesting is a completely new form of communication that was developed in the second simulation: the emission of (many) ‘press reports’. These press reports, we add, did hardly encourage ‘regular’ consultation. LEVELS OF LEARNING What can be learned from these tests? We distinguish some different levels. The first is that the simulation provides participants with experiences, and observers with impressions about the future town province: its possible shape and ensuing complications. Differences between the two tests are noticeable, though, which may be taken as evidence that simulation is not an instrument to predict concrete outcomes. Still, the experiences and impressions gained may help actors to anticipate future effects, intended or unintended: to recognize them in an early stage and to react upon them. The practices to emerge in both simulations did not agree with expectations many participants said to have about the town province. This is not to say that results of administrative reform will always be disappointing, but it does imply that dreams will not necessarily come true, not even when they are shared. Now, an important question is: how did the actual shape of the town province come about, and can this process be a subject of steering. We will discuss some further levels of learning. A second level of learning relates to the understanding of general social mechanisms that play a role in administrative reform. An example, already mentioned, is the mutual formation of images. Partly on the basis of the closing discussions (held after the simulation itself had come to an end, see Vandermeer, 1983:116-22) we may say that the formation of images is very often based presumptions about other actors’ ‘strategic’ behaviour (presumptions derived from these other actors’ perceived ‘strategic’ position), rather than on actual information about these other actors or on information originating from these actors. Some participants tended to ascribe this to a culture of officials that is widespread in the realm of public administration. Others blamed the simulation. Still others viewed presumptions about ‘strategic’ behaviour an almost inevitable aspect of interaction between equal partners, and that precisely for that reason a strong higher level authority is necessary. The closing discussions revealed, however, that participants’ intentions were quite often all but ‘strategic’ in the way presumed by others. It can be gathered that interadministrative behaviour in a simulated setting is largely determined by (often untested, sometimes wrong) presuppositions about the intentions and behaviours of other actors and about what is ‘rational’ in the given context. Understanding of such mechanisms may help to achieve more ‘explorative’ and ‘communicative’ behaviours in ‘real life’, indispensible to prevent unintended effects. A third level of learning relates to more specific elements in the simulation setting. Again an example from the discussion above. One of the reasons to form a town province is to strengthen regional administration. This is seen as necessary since local administrations are likely to pursue local interests, which may well conflict with ‘general interest’. Hence, a strong authority is required to make municipalities act according to the general interest. In the simulation a strong province, at least in the formal sense, was created, but nevertheless in

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both replications local interests dominated the scene. Provincial efforts to achieve what it viewed as ‘general interest’ - by encouraging cooperation in an attempt to escape the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ that is generated by ‘strategic’ actors - were rejected, obstructed, or simply ignored by others. This is noticeable and even distressing since not just a few participants said to be aware of this prisoner’s dilemma character of many interadministrative issues in ‘real life’, and believed that a strong town province is needed to overcome this problem. It was concluded, in the closing discussions, that the combination of formal arrangements and individual convictions did not suffice to prevent or suppress NIMBY-like behaviours. Apparently, the interplay of a new structure and ‘old’ administrative culture reproduced a number of the problems of the old situation. Moreover it became clear that central authorities face practical limitations when applying the legal instruments they have disposal of. Thus, it appears that much attention should be paid to cultural transformation (a.o. with respect to ideas about ‘own interests’), if the new administrative arrangements are to function properly. Fourth-level learning from simulation could be helpful in such an effort. The fourth level of learning, that includes knowledgeable experimentation and strategy development, explicitly presents the (promised) link between polycentric policy theory and guidelines for policy actors’ behaviours. An analysis or evaluative discussion with participants as discussed in this section may be a starting point for developing strategies to support the transformation process. We have shown how social simulation may enhance awareness of problems and mechanisms involved in this. Such awareness, especially when it is shared, can be quite beneficial, enabling conscious actions to steer the process. Simulation may contribute to experimentation and to processes of strategy formation by providing a setting in which ideas about how to do it can be tested. Because of the untimely end of the project, there as beeen no opportunity to experiment with transformation strategies or with other conceivable means to steer or influence patterns of interadministrative cooperation. Going through these four levels one can observe a shift from learning what the new situation is like, through learning why and how, to learning that may contribute to its construction. In a sense the fourth level is in contradiction with the first. Eventual adminstrative practices and patterns are not dictated by formal regulations, they must rather be seen as the outcome of social construction processes. Legal and other formal regulations are only one possible input in the process, and so are the intentions of policy makers. In a social simulation, or as a result of it, various other inputs may be revealed, that can be explored, elaborated, and tested in further ‘runs’. This precisely is why the method of social simulation adds value to processes of administrative reform.

Notes

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1. The interrelationship between ‘content’ (social-cognitive) factors and relational (socialstructural) factors is dealt with by Strauss et al., 1963; Vandermeer, 1983:40; Harbers, 1987:74-77; Maas, 1988:108-09; Bolk, 1989:21-23; Vissers, 1994:50-51. 2. Ringeling (1990:62) refers to Rosenhal’s ‘Politiek, de staat en het staatsapparaat (1980); see also Smith (1981). 3. Many policy studies present conclusions in terms of stability of the phenomena investigated, even when empirical observations are made within a rather short period of time. Whether or not a phenomenon can be viewed as stable depends largely on the time scale to apply, which does not necessarily coincide with the time scale a researcher is used to. With respect to policy processes, the question of a proper time scale has not too often been posed. Relevant here is that policy effects may range over a longer time period - references can be found in Sabatier and Hanf (1985:303) and Hoogerwerf (1993:225). When the stable character of policy network is emphasized, as is frequently done, the possibility may be skipped over that a longer period of time is more appropriate, at least the hidden suggestion is that already a short period will do. One could see this as a symptom of ‘policy analytic impatience’, that is to hamper rather than facilitate an adequate picture of policy processes. 4. In this respect, pluralistic analyses like Rosenthal (1979) and Grin en Van de Graaf (1994) might have been less statical. 5. Ex ante assessment is clearly distinguished from formative evaluation, in which information is collected that is used primarily for ongoing program development and improvement (Dehar et al. 1993, italics added). 6. Note that ‘not reacting’ is also a form of action, at least, other actors may perceive it that way. In Delaat’s (1983:68) formulation: it is not possible no show ‘no behavior’. 7. The municipality of Rotterdam contracted Bestad BV (public administration advisors) of which the first author is a partner. Next to the authors, Co Engberts participated in the research for and design of the simulation. 8. There are also more general design criteria concerning feasibility and performability; these are treated at length by Vandermeer (1983). 9. Although our theoretical approach implies that it is not possible to draw definite conclusions about the future course of events, it is quite possible to build a simulation that can be demonstrated to be invalid in relevant respects, which means simulation results that do not apply to the reference situation.

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