Steinbach - Empirical Analyses of the Diffusion of Online-Participation in Public Organizations

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About the Ph.D. Project

The Ph.D. project of Malte Steinbach is focussed on how online-participation diffuses in public organizations with regards to their hybrid institutional context.

Background Information

Work on this project was started in November 2014, work on the Ph.D. thesis is still in progress (estimated submission: end of 2018). The advisory team includes Prof. Dr. Stefan Süß (business administration, main advisor), Assistant Professor Dr. Jost Sieweke (business administration), Prof. Dr. Katrin Möltgen-Sicking (public administration), and Claus Arndt (city of moers).


(Local) Public organizations such as municipalities or universities are central actors in the provision of public services. Against the background that public organizations face a growing dissatisfaction with their public decisions and delivery of public services, online-participation has been developed as one possible solution to tackle these problems. From the perspective of public organizations, participation and networking take place in a context of different expectations towards administrative action (administrative paradigms). Still, the traditional hierarchical, rule-bound, bureaucratic organization and new public management reforms focussing on efficiency and customer-orientation influence public organizing. How envisioned changes associated with online-participation towards greater participation and collaboration diffuse in this multi-layered hybrid context and eventually institutionalize is largely unknown. Thus, the aim of this dissertation project is to empirically address this lacuna and analyze the diffusion of online-participation in (local) public organizations with regard to their hybrid institutional context.


The dissertation is paper-based. The first article („The Diffusion of E-participation in Public Administration: A Systematic Literature Review with Jost Sieweke and Stefan Süß) systematized the interdisciplanary field of research regarding the diffusion of online-participation in public administration contexts. Building on these insights central research gaps get addressed. The second article („Institutional Aspects of the E-participation Innovation Process – A Qualitative Analysis of Institutional Logics and Institutional Work in German Municipalities“ with Stefan Süß) takes up some of these research gaps and analyzes the innovation process implementing online-participation in three German local public administrations. It especially reveals new insights about the individual and collective strategies for managing online-participation in the multi-layered institutional context (social rules, structures, or practices) of public administrations. In the third article („Innovative Entscheidungsprozesse in Universitäten: Eine qualitative Analyse der Anwendung von Online-Partizipationsverfahren“ with Kathrin Diekmann and Stefan Süß) online-participation processes in a faculty of a German university are in focus. The central result is that the implemntation and use of online-participation in decision-making processes does not necessarily lead to a fundamental change and an institutionalization of a participation logic. For the fourth and final article („Civil Servants‘ Professional Identities and Their Use of E-participation – A Latent Profile Analysis”) a survey study with municipal civil servants will be conducted in order to analyze their individual role perceptions (role identity) as members of a public organization that is a hybrid institutional context. To do so latent profile analyses will be conducted. Resulting profiles will be analyzed regarding differences in their individual perception and use of online-participation. Overall, the dissertation’s four articles and its application of current neo-institutionalist organization theories in public administration contexts contribute to a better understanding of the diffusion of online-participation in these organizational contexts.


Articles are currently under review and will be added after publication.