As already mentioned, attempts to develop partnerships to tackle the range of problems experienced by cities have been mixed and are still evolving. For example, the Niagara Prosperity Initiatives (2009) stresses the capacity of public-private partnerships in Canada to mobilize resources for poverty reduction. (See Annex – Box 9) but it is still too early to tell how successful such an approach will be.
Governance through the formation of public-private partnerships or networks can be effective and enhance democratic participation in urban policy. but it may also create conflicts and deadlocks and make public governance less transparent and accountable. Power resources and “rules of the game” differ within and among partnerships. An enabling institutional structure and access to information are important to influence the decision-making process In this context, the study by Bristow (2008) on the approach developed by the Welsh Assembly Government to use formal influence to create institutional spaces for inclusion is of interest. Partnerships have been formally structured on the basis of strict equality across the public, private and the third sector23 and partnership legitimacy improved. However, the effectiveness of these partnerships did not improve, as they remained constrained by the prevailing emphasis on narrow managerialist implementation agendas (p. 903). Sorensen (2009) also underlines the role and responsibility of politicians, public managers and other relevant actors in ensuring that governance networks contribute to effective and democratic governing of society.
Finally, Ball (2005) underlines the limited interest in the effectiveness of partnerships and the partial and inconclusive nature of most existing evaluations. The paper provides a critical assessment of the way the partnerships principle has been adopted in the UK (the focus is on urban regeneration and not explicitly on health equity). Based upon a survey of the contemporary regeneration literature, it is concluded that “the partnership ideal is considered a useful policy device but that it has to be thought through more clearly and applied in specific contexts, rather than seen as the best and universally applicable model”(p.9)
In conclusion, the extent to which governance is “empowering“ or “enhancing resilience” appears to be critical to the development, relevance, maintenance and effectiveness of partnerships.
23voluntary, nonprofit organizations and NGO’s