Sub-theme 06: (SWG) Hybrids and Hybridization in Public Management and Organizations

Christine Teelken
VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Ewan Ferlie
King's College London, UK
Nicolette van Gestel
TiasNimbas Business School, Tilburg University, The Netherlands

Call for Papers

This subtheme aims to bring together international scholars to debate the theory and practice of public management related to hybrids and hybridity in organisations, roles, work practices and knowledge systems. The aim is to explore what hybrids and hybridity mean for governance and public management in terms of effective coordination, new forms of regulation, innovation and creativity in public sector organisations, and strategies for accountability that correspond with the distributed and shared nature of responsibility and authority in the contemporary public sector.


Possible topics for papers include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The intermediate domain of organisations between state and market raises distinctive questions of financing, ownership, governance and styles of strategic management as well as any shifts in organisational culture and day-to-day working practices. Which tensions are caused by the combination of private and public logics in hybrid organisations ('leaking' of public money, 'unfair' competition, problems around equal access, social justice and democratic accountability)?
  • How do these organisations respond to multiple regulatory regimes, embedded within multiple normative orders, and/or constituted by more than one cultural logic or identity, for example in hospitals or universities? A more careful look at the micro-practices of agents in their attempts to create, sustain or resist hybridity appears necessary to understand how new organisational forms take shape and which new practices are created?
  • Hybrids may open up new space for innovation and creativity in organisations, an aspect where public organisations are often seen as lagging compared to others sectors. Empirical work on the emergence of innovative practices in private industry identifies the potential of shifting boundaries to stimulate the emergence of innovations. Hybrids under certain conditions can create such space where actors will feel more legitimate to think about and implement innovative practices and policies. Little is known yet about the governance of such innovative collaborative spaces.
  • What are the consequences of hybrids and hybridity on forms of control and accountability in the public sector? For example, what are the consequences for accountability of hybrid individual roles (e.g. managerial/professional hybrids in hospitals or universities), hybrid groups (e.g. multi-sectoral project team), hybrid work practices (e.g. growth of 'business planning' and project management inside public service organisations) and hybrid knowledge (e.g. in health care, novel 'improvement science' and 'implementation science' movements may be fusing clinical and managerial knowledge)?
  • What are the barriers to hybridisation? Where and why do hybrids fail? May strong or even competing values and ideologies prevent hybridisation? Do incompatible financial incentive systems pull hybrids apart? Is the dedifferentiation argument oversold and do subsystems (such as the state) retain their own autonomy and communication codes which block hybridisation?

Numerous theoretical framings can be mobilized to inform the analysis of governmentality and hybridity in the public sector. For example, recent work in institutional theory emphasizing competing institutional logics and their effects on micro-processes in organisations (Lounsbury & Crumley, 2007; Kraatz & Block, 2008); Actor Network Theory (Latour, 2005) with its stress on loose networks involving humans and non humans; critical accounting (Miller et al., 2008) with its stress on accounting based practices and knowledge as a form of Foucauldian governmentality; and the sociology of the professions, raising as it does the possibility of professional restratification (Calnan & Gabe 2009), and the possible emergence of a hybrid professional/managerial elite. Post bureaucratic theory in organisational studies (Reed, 2011) suggests that organisations in volatile and complex environments, which generate many different stakeholders, may develop more flexible, diffuse and hybrid control modes. The areas of activity today in which public and private interests interact in complex ways require empirical studies and development of theories to understand the interactions and their consequences for public management and organisations better (Mahoney et al., 2009).



Calnan, M. & J. Gabe (2009): 'The Restratification of Primary Care in England – A Sociological Analysis.' In: J. Gabe & M. Calnan (eds): A New Sociology of the Health Service. Abingdon: Routledge, 56–78.
Kraatz, M.S. & E.S. Block (2008): 'Organizational Implications of Institutional Pluralism.' In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, K. Sahlin & R. Suddaby (eds.): The Sage Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. London: Sage, 243–275.
Latour, B. (2005): Reassembling the Social – An Introduction to Actor Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lounsbury, M. & E.T. Crumley (2007): 'New Practice Creation: An Institutional Perspective on Innovation.' Organization Studies, 28 (7), 993–1012.
Mahoney, J.T., A.M. McGahan & C.N. Pitelis (2009): 'The Interdependence of Private and Public Interests.' Organization Science, 20 (6), 1034–1052.
Miller, P., L. Kurunmaki & T. O'Leary (2008): 'Accounting, Hybrids and the Management of Risk.' Accounting, Organizations and Society, 33, 942–967.
Reed, M. (2011): 'The Post Bureaucratic Organisation and the Control Revolution.' In: S. Clegg, M. Harris & H. Hopfl (eds.): Managing Modernity – Beyond Bureaucracy? Oxford: Oxford University Press, 230–256.


Christine Teelken works as Associate Professor at the Department of Organization Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Ewan Ferlie is Professor of Public Services Management, Department of Management, King's College London, UK.
Nicolette van Gestel is Professor of New Modes of Governance in Social Security and Director of the Centre for Governance of the Private Public-Sector Enterprise at TiasNimbas Business School, Tilburg University, The Netherlands.