Mundane dynamics: Understanding collaborative governance approaches to ‘big’ problems through studying ‘small’ practices

Yvonne La Grouw*, Oemar van der Woerd, E. Lianne Visser, Wieke Blijleven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Collaborative approaches to governance, policymaking, and administration are believed to provide means of adequately handling wicked problems. Simultaneously, many scholars have acknowledged the difficulty of collaboration in practice. In this article, we argue that understanding the ‘small’ practices of collaborative governance and actor-positioning processes illuminates why collaborative governance is such a challenging response to wicked problems. Instead of focussing on ‘big’ collaborative approaches to ‘big’ wicked problems, zooming in on mundane dynamics demonstrates the continuous work that governing and positioning processes require, exposing the provisional nature of elements that have been argued to be vital, such as mutual trust, reciprocity, long-term commitment, authority, or autonomy. Lastly, the mundane uncovers the importance of the material, spatial, and temporal organisation of actor-positioning processes and the potential of language to inhibit or enable collaborative governance. The article ends with a reflection on how analyses of mundane dynamics may help scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and citizens to understand their own processes of engagements in collaborative endeavours and possibly temper expectations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Policy and Administration
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Apr 2024


  • actor positioning
  • Collaborative governance
  • governance practices
  • interpretive research
  • mundane dynamics
  • wicked problems


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