Earlier this year, our project ‘Governance for Smartening Public Private Partnerships’ had the pleasure of welcoming dr. Lene Tolstrup Christensen, who works as a postdoc at the Copenhagen Business School (CBS). Lene visited the department of Public Administration and Sociology at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam in May and June 2018, working on her new postdoc project on infrastructure governance. After the research visit of our PhD researcher Rianne Warsen to professor Carsten Greve at CBS last year, this new exchange illustrates the intention of both research groups to work more closely together. In a short interview, Lene tells us more about her postdoc project, and her visit to the Erasmus University.
Could you tell us a bit more about what is your postdoc project is about?
My project is focusing on hybrid organizing in the governance of infrastructure. More specifically, the project is concerned with public alternatives to classic Public Private Partnerships (DBFM(O)) in infrastructure governance. The project takes it point of departure in state-owned enterprises and the Danish state guarantee model that has been used for mega transport projects. The model combines user charges with state guaranteed loans and each project is organized in a special purpose vehicle that is owned by the state. The project explores and explains the institutionalization of this specific model in a Danish context. Next to that the project has the ambition to compare Danish infrastructure governance with how hybrid models are used in Dutch and Canadian infrastructure governance to learn more about hybridization in and of the public sector on a more general level.
And what have you been doing during your research visit to the Erasmus University?
The research stay had multiple purposes. First, it was to visit and get inspired by the strong research environment on public administration that exist at the Erasmus University, especially the research group on the project ‘Governance for Smartening Public Private Partnerships’. Therefore I attended seminars, talked to researchers, and presented my project in the department. This was really helpful to kick off my project and because of this stay, I have introduced a new method in my research project. Second, thanks to professor Koppenjan, I had the opportunity to start the first phase of my Dutch case study via interviews about the Dutch context of PPP and infrastructure governance with civil servants, researchers and consultants. Third, I hoped to start collaborations with some of the researchers. Again I was lucky since we have more smaller projects coming up, which will be revealed when the ideas are a bit further developed.
Can you tell us what you’ve learned about infrastructure governance in the Netherlands and how it compares to Denmark?
The Netherlands is in a European context seen as one of the forerunners when it comes to the use of PPPs for infrastructure projects. What we learned during our interviews was that new ideas and realities are entering this administrative/ policy field. In Denmark we primarily have an agency based delivery of infrastructure and it was very interesting to hear about the Dutch governance of infrastructure where more models exist. The Netherlands also face specific challenges due to a dense network and the ‘water challenge’.
We’ve heard you’ll be coming back for another research visit in 2019? What are your plans for your next stay?
Yes, hopefully I will come back to the department next year to conduct the case study on the Netherlands including more interviews and analysis of policy studies and existing research. And of course to strengthen the collaboration as we work on our new common ideas for a future research agenda.