What is hybridity?


What do we mean when we talk about hybridity? In this project hybrid forms of governance refer to four perspectives of modern institutional diversity.

Mixed ownership. Consider the current forms of organising important societal functions, such as energy delivery and supply and the infrastructure in different countries of the world. These societal functions are often organised as state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that aim to combine the politically driven goals of modern nation states while exploiting business logics and operating on global financial markets. In many cases, public ownership is also seen as a solution to grievances among customer groups. Mixed ownership can be seen as another form of hybrid arrangement, which is seen in entities aiming to combine the best of both worlds between public and private actors. This is why societies, especially government systems, have thought it important to control these combinations through ownership.

Goal incongruence and competing institutional logics. Think about institutions that aim to balance the logic of profit seeking vis-à-vis the logic of societal effectiveness. While these organisations – in terms of ownership – may quite often be purely private firms, their activities are shaped by different forms of ambiguity and ambivalence. They should be able to employ different but parallel institutional logics. They should be able to provide financial value for their shareholders but also social impacts on society and citizens. Consider health care firms operating in the area of outsourced health care services, where the impetus is to use business logics while supplementing or replacing the public provision of health care. Alternatively, consider social enterprises, the objective of which is to ‘do well by doing good,’ where ‘good’ refers to legitimate social aims, and ‘well’ is understood as being profitable.

Multiplicity of funding arrangements. Think about modern megaprojects such as the International Space Station, the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway, the Airbus A380 aircraft, or the Channel Tunnel connecting the UK and continental Europe. These projects not only take time and massive amounts of financial and intellectual resources but also institutional collaboration between public and private actors. These arrangements may include private investors and financiers as well as taxpayers who all have different interests and stakes in a project and its arrangement. Despite all the complexities in the valuation and measurement of the returns and paybacks of such activities, all parties are necessary to make these projects possible.

Public and private forms of financial and social control. There can be different types of control systems applied to systems of service delivery. In general, forms of control may include, for instance, the regulatory control of markets, professional self- (or clan-) control, and customer-driven market control within a single system of service delivery. In fact, it is difficult to distinguish public forms of control from private ones. Instead, modern control systems are defined by the simultaneity of different dimensions of control. Private business firms are controlled by public institutions, whereas public agencies may be controlled by private firms operating in the markets of public sector audits. Instead of having a public vs. private mentality, it is probably more important to understand whether control is exercised by an external or internal party. In hybrid settings, we argue, forms of control are usually mixed. These organisations and arrangements are influenced by multiple pressures of control from both inside and outside forces.