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2.23 - Metropolitan and inter-municipal governance and territorial policies: towards increased institutional innovation?

Project Description

In the last few decades, thanks to increased mobility, growing demands for quality and efficiency and intricate economic interdependencies between territories, metropolitan areas and other inter-municipal territories became more and more complex. They need to manage multiple conflicts, meet the highly diversified aspirations of their citizens and deal with decisions taken at different scales. These trends produced institutional shifts throughout the World. Inter-municipal territories, particularly metropolitan areas, are usually targeted for the introduction of creative territorial policies, maybe because of their intrinsic complexity and the correspondent need for institutional innovation. In many countries, old-styled metropolitan governments were either extinguished or reformed. Their technocratic and bureaucratic procedures were often substituted by new, ‘governance-led’ approaches of territorial policy.

However, the outcomes of these shifts varied considerably. Even in places where major changes were generated, results are often far from satisfactory, which may be related with the specific institutional contexts of each agglomeration. Many arrangements are hardly efficient or effective, either from competitiveness or from cohesion perspectives. Others may have failed to meet increasing demands for more democratic procedures. In their attempt to ‘integrate’ different sectors, some public policies may have contributed to the growing fragmentation of territories. In the case of Portugal, despite successive legislative procedures, metropolitan reform produced modest results, at best.  Nonetheless, other experiences seem to be far more promising. The range of metropolitan reform possibilities is so large that a systematising effort needs to be made. The project aims to target the following research questions: which is the state-of-the-art of metropolitan governance? Which are the major trends in this domain? Which lessons may be learned to the Portuguese context? How do different models of metropolitan-scale territorial policies perform in terms of efficiency, efficacy and democracy?

Project research addresses these questions, notably the state-of-the art of research in this domain, the main observable trends and the major lessons from the Portuguese context. In the first phase of the project, methodology is based on documental research from various sources, including theoretical and empirical research studies, legislation, action plans of metropolitan-scale, territorial policy experiences and a wide range of technical reports and assessments. In its second phase, research explores the main advantages and drawbacks of diverse governance models by adding other methods, including semi-structured in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, data statistics from the two last censuses and other archival data sources.

Research Team

Carlos Oliveira

Isabel Breda-Vázquez

Financial Support


Stage of Progress

Started on january 2013.
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