Understanding inter-organisational relationships in public-private partnerships : a study of educational PPPs in Pakistan
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Given the increasing proliferation of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in both developed and developing countries, and the huge challenges that are often associated with establishing and managing them, and ensuring that they achieve their objectives, it is important to understand multiple aspects of their operation. Whilst the structural and economic aspects of PPPs have long been recognised and researched, the relational aspects of PPPs remain under-researched. This thesis is a contribution to addressing this gap in the literature. It uses a dimensional approach to understand the nature of inter-organisations relationships (IORs) in PPPs and considers the factors that shape these relationships. It also investigates whether a particular pattern of relationships is needed for PPPs to deliver more than could have been achieved by each partner working alone (synergistic benefits). These issues are studied empirically in three educational PPP programmes in Pakistan. In two of these, not-for-profit organisations ‘adopt’ state schools. In the third, the state funds private sector schools on the condition that they offer free education to students and achieve threshold quality standards. A case study methodology is used and an integrative conceptual framework, derived from a wide-ranging literature review, is used to guide both data collection and analysis. The research finds that partners’ motives for entering into a PPP play a dominant role in shaping inter-organisational relationships. These motives are, in turn, influenced by a range of contextual and organisational factors. Inter-organisational relationships can be broadly characterised as collaborative, contractual, cooperative or conflictual. Whereas much of the existing literature emphasises that collaborative relationships are a prerequisite for PPPs to deliver synergistic outcomes, this research finds that these outcomes are also present in PPPs characterised by cooperative relationships. However, inter-organisational relationships in PPPs are not static; they develop and change over time. These changes result from a dynamic interplay between contextual factors, organisational factors, partner motives and the perceived outcomes of the partnership. The research reported in the thesis makes a number of contributions to knowledge. It sheds new light on the relational aspects of PPPs and offers a new conceptual framework for explaining and investigating inter-organisational relationships, which integrates insights from the largely separate literatures on PPPs and inter-organisational relations. It counters an apparent pro-collaboration emphasis in the existing PPP literature by documenting and explaining the benefits associated with cooperative relationships. It also offers new empirical evidence on the operation of PPPs in a developing country context, which contributes to redressing the predominance of evidence from developed countries in the existing literature. The insights from the research have theoretical and practical implications for the development and management of PPPs and future research in this area.