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The Training Schools overall topic is “Contested Administrations – Challenged Politics”. All levels of government (local, regional, national, international) in Europe are in a period of intense reform activity. As a result of the still enduring (global) crisis, financial, demographical and societal problems need to be faced simultaneously to overcome – partly contradictory – reform pressures. Respective reforms thus often aim at conflicting objectives (e.g. efficiency vs. citizen participation). Such policy problems like food safety, counter-terrorism, climate change, declining political legitimacy, citizen protests, the acceptance of large scale infrastructure projects or migration have been labeled ‘wicked problems’ by practitioners and scientists alike, putting them in contrast to ‘tame issues’ with easily identifiable single issues with a clear territorial locus or readily identifiable causal origin. Public administrations and politics are expected to be able to cope with such inter-connected, multidimensional problem constellations. In analytical terms, it means that these policy issues are characterized by a combination of simultaneously high levels of complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity, with far-reaching repercussions for organizational boundaries, attentiveness and problem-solving capacities. Subsequently, public administrations today require sophisticated management skills, complex structures of delegation, discretion, coordination, control as well as information and knowledge management. As a result, the question of how public administrations can acquire the requisite knowledge, ensure appropriate coordination and devise appropriate strategies has moved to the forefront of debate for both practitioners and researchers in the social sciences.
Similarly, local democracy is challenged by these policies and at the same time changes in society and multi-level decision-making arrangements. Problems of declining legitimacy, declining voter turnout, declining accountability, rising protests, growing complexity and intransparency in local governance arrangements are only some of the problems of local democracy that wait to be solved. Against this background, the PhD-Training School is meant to discuss reforms, experiments and changes addressing ‘wicked problems’ in multi-level settings.
The course intends to provide training in theories and methods to be applied in the study of public sector reforms, public administrations’, local politics and democracy and adjacent fields coping with ‘wicked problems’, especially in comparative perspectives. In addition, PhD students have the opportunity to “meet the publishers” and to foster their knowledge through mutual learning from each other in a small group.