Study title
Performance and Transformation of Governance and Organization in the Water Sector: A Comparison of Switzerland, Germany and Great Britain
Ref study 9732
Study language English
Contributing institutions
  • Transformation
  • Performance
  • Public management
  • Public policy
  • Environmental governance
  • Water governance
  • European politics
  • New institutionalism
The focal time-frame of the research is on the present (and will extend to 2012) but also roughly takes the past decade into account.
Geographical space
Switzerland, Germany and Great Britain
In recent years the transformation of the state has received much attention in the political science field. The displacement of traditional, state-centred policies with new, non-hierarchical forms of coordination between political, economic and civil societal actors has initiated interesting research questions. Such research is concerned with theoretically and conceptually supported understandings and explanations of the transformation's causality as well as systematic and comparative empirical studies in various political fields. The term "governance" has been established in the social science field as a concept through which processes of change and new modes of coordination between public and private actors in diverse applied areas can be researched theoretically and empirically.
The research plan addresses the simultaneously basic and yet highly relevant questions in infrastructure policy, namely, how is a public service constituted, governed and organized. A gateway into this field is the theme of transformation through deregulation and privatization, which instigated many new forms of governance in the infrastructure sector in recent years (e.g. water, electricity, telecommunications and postal service). Specifically, the project addresses water as a public good, where questions relating to ownership as well as regulation, control and organization regarding the allocation and usage of the resource are often controversial. While some believe that the water sector will obtain a higher performance level by incorporating private actors, others fear that privatization erodes the principal of common welfare. Goals of the Project: The goal is to examine and explain the strengths and weaknesses of different governance and organizational modes and their performance in terms of legitimacy, effectiveness and efficiency in the infrastructure sector of water supply and waste water disposal in Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom. In addition, the study seeks to theoretically and conceptually elucidate the transformation in governance and organizational forms' causality in order to provide universally robust conclusions. The research proposes four specific goals:
1. The examination of various governance and organizational forms of water governance's performance via an analytical framework with guiding categories (input, throughput, output, outcome and impact), related evaluative criteria as well as critical success factors.
2. The development of hypotheses regarding the change in governance and organizational modes as well as their causal mechanisms.
3. The collection of data regarding the change in governance and organizational modes. These are then applied to the hypotheses in order to show if and to what extent formulated predictions about the transformation of the state and its causal mechanisms are valid and concur with events actually observed.
4. In light of the theoretical and conceptual considerations as well as the comparison with empirical findings, conclusions are drawn regarding how the transformation process affects the allocation of a public service.
The expected results include insights in the performance capacities of different governance and organizational modes found in Switzerland, Germany and Great Britain. Furthermore, the research should enhance theoretical understandings of the governance perspective, new institutional economics as well as regulatory theory. Finally, the research should shed light on how the transformation of statehood and the ensuing shift in the control over public goods, particularly water, affects the provision of public services.
Methods (description)
The research involves three main components:
1) a theoretical, analytical and methodological approach,
2) an empirical approach, and
3) a synthesis phase. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods are employed.

In the theoretical approach, a theoretical concept, including a multi-dimensional analytical framework as well as hypotheses are developed. The theoretically derived criteria and variables are operationalized and representative case studies in Switzerland, Germany and Great Britain are selected.
The empirical analysis is comprised of the quantitative compilation of different governance and organizational forms in the water supply and waste water disposal sectors, qualitative expert interviews, participation observation in meetings (if possible), primary and secondary document analysis as well as the analysis of existing databases.
In the synthesis phase, problems that arose during the research are addressed. Furthermore, the empirical findings are summarized and compared between the three countries. Finally, theoretical conclusions, reflections and recommendations are made.

Erhebungsverfahren: Inhaltsanalyse standardisiert, Dokumentenanalyse standardisiert, Beobachtung teilnehmend, Qualitatives Interview, Standardisierte Befragung face to face, Standardisierte Befragung telefonisch, Sekundäranalyse von Individualdaten
Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) SNSF
Date created 10.06.2009
Date modified 10.06.2009
Start - End date 01.03.2009 - 28.02.2012