Research Awards

The Bedrosian Center funds several grants for USC Price faculty research on governance issues. Preference for the awards is given to research focused on collaborative governance, relationships between governance and planning, and government accountability issues. As a condition of the grant, each principal investigator is asked to give a presentation of his or her findings.

Improving Governance for Marginalized Older Populations: Evidence-Based Policy from an Experimental Study in Urban Mexico

Emma Aguila

Public governance plays an important role in the effective implementation of programs to ensure that no group is marginalized in social policy. With elderly populations dramatically rising, many countries are facing a governance challenge in how to effectively implement social policy targeting vulnerable and marginalized elderly. Dr. Aguila’s research examines the implementation design of a social security program for the elderly and will provide recommendations for creating equal access to social security benefits for marginalized elderly in a developing country. Specifically, she will identify barriers to entry for the most marginalized elderly and test if these barriers change when disbursements are cash transfers versus electronic payments. Her research uses longitudinal data from two randomized controlled trials conducted in urban areas in Yucatan, Mexico.


Banglatown in Rome: Negotiating the Identity of Diaspora in a Heritage District

Tridib Banerjee, with doctoral student Maria Francesca Piazzoni

Dr. Banerjee’s research investigates how the immigrants who occupy urban spaces of host nations present a challenge to existing socio-political orders. In particular, his research will explore (a) how Bangladeshi illegal immigrants who are employed as street vendors in Rome negotiate their cultural identity, (b) the politics of their belonging to a reluctant host country, and (c) how these phenomena inform new modalities of citizenship. U.S. studies on immigrant assimilation have typically focused on the impact of immigration, especially undocumented, on existing institutions of governance, especially their right to the city and citizenship. Looking at how European countries manage immigrants’ inflows in terms of legal and spatial policies will contribute to the discourses on immigrant assimilation from a comparative perspective.


Revisiting the Neighborhood Council System in Los Angeles: Is It Effective in Promoting Civic Engagement?

Terry L. Cooper, with doctoral students Hui Li and Bo Wen

Dr. Cooper’s research revisits the Los Angeles neighborhood council (NC) system, a significant institutional governance innovation established in 1999 with the intention of reducing citizens’ alienation from city governance and increasing public trust in city officials. His project will evaluate the effectiveness of the NC system in reducing alienation, promoting civic engagement, and improving local governance. He also aims to produce new insights on the relationship between participatory initiatives and urban governance, and examine whether a civic institution like this can channel citizens’ interests and improve city policymaking. Dr. Cooper will also provide recommendations on how policymakers can foster mutual understanding among citizens, elected officials, and agency administrators.

The Politics of Uninsurance Disparities

Pamela McCann

The Affordable Care Act is in full implementation mode with thirty states expanding their Medicaid programs and fourteen states running their own health insurance exchanges. By extending health insurance coverage to more people, the ACA offers the potential to decrease health inequities between subpopulations. State-level political actors play a critical role in both the success of the policy and the reach of public health programs, regulations, and services across a state. The different timing of ACA implementation and variation in these choices affords a unique opportunity to study the mechanisms by which political and administrative structures and processes influence policy outcomes. Dr. McCann’s research will consider how political factors and choices intersect with public administrators and the public health system to influence population health outcomes and, more precisely, health inequities. This project is co-funded by the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics.


Initiating Direct Citizen Engagement in Local Government

William G. Resh and Frank Zerunyan, with doctoral students Carmen Mooradian, Colin Leslie, and Bo Wen

While most local governments lack any specific legal or budgetary mandates to solicit public participation in policy implementation, public managers are often expected to develop and deliver participation arrangements that give citizens the opportunity to participate in the policy process. Drs. Resh and Zerunyan will examine how public managers are intrinsically and extrinsically motivated to initiate citizen engagement efforts, and how those efforts can result in individual outcomes such as job satisfaction or burnout. They hypothesize that (1) prosocial motivation leads to more individual initiative toward citizen engagement efforts; and (2) prosocial motivation, past citizen engagement, and positive performance interact to increase individual initiative. This research is the first to reverse the lens of citizen engagement and coproduction from the effects on citizen satisfaction to the effects on individuals’ job satisfaction, burnout, and continued work efforts.

Policy Tools, Compromise, and Quarrels in the U.S. Congress

Pamela McCann and Daniel Magleby

Members of Congress support new bills for a variety of reasons, and the text of draft bills reflect these preferences, such as the needs of their constituents or the support of campaign contributors. The particular language used in bills provides insight about why House and Senate members prefer one draft over another and about the bargains struck between chambers as legislators navigate conflict and compromise to pass a mutually-supported bill. By analyzing iterations of draft bills throughout the negotiation process, Dr. McCann’s research aims to develop a political bargaining theory to explain the conditions under which one chamber might gain the upper hand over the other, when there might be greater policy consensus versus a longer negotiation processes, and the sequencing of House and Senate policy offers.

August 2015 – Research Update


In the Face of Failure: The Persistence of Pro-Social Motivations under Conditions of Negative Feedback

William G. Resh

Public management research has identified Public Service Motivation (PSM) as a common characteristic of individuals who choose to enter careers in public or nonprofit service (versus the private sector). Dr. Resh’s research tests the notion that individuals who are more PSM-oriented and who identify more strongly with the mission of their organization are more likely to persist in their work efforts even when their policy outcomes are viewed as “failures.” Dr. Resh also examines whether negative feedback creates conditions in which self-interest is more likely to crowd out altruistic motivation or PSM. The findings from this research will shape recommendations for how to better create public and nonprofit sector recruitment, retention, and personnel policies. Dr. Resh also aims to use this research to develop a theory of how context and feedback affect the motivation of people who implement policy.

August 2015 – Research Update


Improving Urban Governance through Community Development Agreements

Lisa Schweitzer and Jovanna Rosen

New forms of community development agreements called Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) and Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) have recently emerged in urban governance. These community development agreements represent a new way to manage urban development that supports dialogue between community stakeholders to create consensus for land use and policies. Dr. Schweitzer’s research will explore how these new agreements are being implemented and whether they achieve their stated goals using two CBAs and two PLAs as case studies. Findings from this research can be compared to traditional urban governance procedures to form recommendations for the best design and use of community development agreements.

August 2015- Research Update


Government Transparency Laws: Why Do Some Legislators Over Comply?

Abby Wood and Christian Grose

Dr. Wood’s research centers of government transparency requirements and the legal framework that holds officials accountable to the public. She has observed that in some cases, candidates for legislative offices have over complied with laws that mandate information disclosure, for example disclosing campaign contributor information even for contributors who gave less than the minimum amount required for disclosure. While these legislators might be trying to demonstrate a commitment to transparency and good governance by over complying, these acts might be viewed as a violation of privacy for contributors desiring to remain anonymous. Dr. Wood’s research will examine this phenomenon to see if legislators are more likely to over comply when they are in competitive races for reelection, using information requests and disclosures from the 2014 California State Assembly and Senate races.

August 2015 – Research Update

Constructing the Policy Agenda in Advanced Industrial Democracies

Anthony Bertelli and Diana O’Brian

Drs. Bertelli and O’Brien’s research explores how “women’s issues” are defined and represented by political parties in advanced industrial democracies. To conduct this research, they constructed a dataset on the presence of policy agendas related to women and the gender breakdown of the primary actors who construct party’s policy agendas. They also examined how party loyalists versus the general population influence policy and how parties use women’s issues to appeal to both core supporters and swing voters. One notable finding is that the presence of female actors within a party helps to explain connections between parties’ efforts to represent women and public opinion.

Bertelli and O’Brien presented a paper called “Partisan Representation of Women in European Parliamentary Democracies” based on their research to the European Political Science Association in 2014. A paper entitled “Parties, Gender, and the Representation of Citizens’ Priorities in Parliamentary Democracies” is also forthcoming.


Effective Service Delivery: Leveraging Private Resources for the Public Good

Raphael Bostic and Elizabeth Graddy

This research studies lessons learned over the past three decades about the impacts of the use of private organizations to deliver publically-funded services, and develops recommendations for using this knowledge to design more effective public-private governance arrangements.  Looking at data for refuse and solid waste collection, human services, and infrastructure, Drs. Bostic and Graddy reviewed the impacts of contracting and partnerships arrangements with private organizations, reporting findings on performance, service quality, and cost. They then explored the implications of these findings for public policy and management, and provided recommendations for improved public-private governance arrangements and the effective use of private organizations in public service delivery. This work also considered the sector of the private agent (business or nonprofit) as an important dimension of effective public-private service delivery. This research will be published in a forthcoming book.


Examining Strategic Sustainability Plans and Rigorous Sustainability Actions in California Cities

Shui Yan Tang and Myungjung Kwon

Recent California laws established regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the use of renewable energy and energy-efficient buildings. Drs. Tang and Kwon’s research assesses how cities are developing strategic sustainability plans to comply with these new regulations and standards. They surveyed over 25% of California cities to see how many have plans, what factors influence the design of city plans, and whether plans have been implemented and enforced. They found that the biggest challenge in developing a plan was a perceived lack of time, funds, or political interest. Drs. Tang and Kwon argue that state and federal government can encourage cities to develop plans by providing technical and financial support and encouraging knowledge sharing and collaboration between cities. Read more about Tang and Kwon’s research here.

View the full video here.

Comparative Public Policy Investment

Anthony Bertelli

bertelli-public-policy-investment-coverPolitical executives are often defined by their policy focus, such as Obama’s inextricable link to health care reform. But why do they prioritize one issue over the other, and what causes these priorities to change? Dr. Bertelli argues that the answer lies in how politicians seek to balance the policies that give them the best chance for re-election with pursuing policies that while essential, may be unpopular. Bertelli’s new theory, called the public policy investment approach, seeks to identify the factors that politicians use to balance these two policy objectives. He argues that government actors are like investors, trying to minimize risk and maximize returns on political capital investment. Using quantitative methods, Bertelli and his team demonstrate how risk and return can predict the prioritization of public policies both in the US and abroad.

Dr. Bertelli’s research on public policy investment in Britain was published in the British Journal of Political Science and can be read here. This research also led to his recent book “Public Policy Investment: Priority-Setting and Conditional Representation in British Statecraft,” published by Oxford University Press.


Public Policy Investment in Spain: A Comparative Analysis

Dr. Bertelli continues to research how the public policy investment model can explain why and how governments decide which policies to prioritize. He used this research grant to expand his research to include an analysis of Spain, looking at how recent economic events may have influenced Spain’s policy agenda. A paper on this research entitled “Conditional Responsiveness and the Spanish Policy Agenda” was presented at the American Society for Public Administration conference in 2012.


Institutional Constraints and Options for California’s Adaptation to Sea Level Rise

Hilda Blanco

Blanco-imageCalifornia faces significant coastal impacts from climate change due to rising sea levels. With three-quarters of California’s population living in coastal areas, current and projected risks due to coastal flooding are high. Presently, state and the local government entities lack the capacity to analyze climate change impacts and develop solutions that accurately take into account flooding risks. Local agencies also lack a clear sense of legal and other systemic constraints as they seek to tackle this issue. Dr. Blanco’s research examined the challenges facing local agencies and offered solutions for making these actors more effective in addressing sea level rise. Dr. Blanco’s research was presented to the Bedrosian Center in 2013.


From Subjects to Citizens: How Homeowner’s Participation Transforms Local Governance in Beijing

Terry Cooper

Cooper-imageDr. Cooper’s research is one of the first attempts to study the behavioral consequences of civic participation in an authoritarian context. Prior to economic liberalization, Chinese citizens had limited political freedoms and property rights. Now, more Chinese are homeowners and are seeking to organize themselves to protect their property rights from unlawful developers or property managers. Dr. Cooper’s research demonstrates how these Chinese homeowner’s associations are a rare example of self-governing civic organizations and have contributed to a rise in citizenship behavior in China. He found that participation helped homeowners acquire democratic skills, increased awareness of property and political rights, and created informal networks for future social and political mobilization. He also found that this increased citizenship is causing local agencies to be more responsive to citizens and changing the state-society relationship, which may have political implications for the authoritarian national government. Dr. Cooper’s research is currently being reviewed for publication.


Intersectoral Governance in Community-Based Organizations: Prevalence, Challenges, and Best Practices

Howard Greenwald

Many observers today regard intersectoral collaboration among public, private, and nonprofit actors as the key to achieving success in pursuing institutional or policy change, particularly in areas related to disadvantaged communities and historically marginalized populations. However, it is uncertain how often intersectoral governance actually takes place, even amongst organizations where this collaboration is encouraged or mandated. Dr. Greenwald’s research aimed to understand the challenges associated with intersectoral governance, how often and to what extent these challenges are faced, and potentially effective methods for overcoming these challenges. With this objective, Dr. Greenwald surveyed 23 community-based organizations in California that are engaged in collaborative solutions to community problems such as health or education. He used this data to develop a scale that measures the degree of success organizations have had in establishing collective governance and the factors that have fostered or impeded successful collaboration. Dr. Greenwald’s findings were presented to the Bedrosian Center in 2013.


Designing for Capacity: Performance Management as a Governance Challenge

Juliet Musso and Christopher Weare

musso-weare-imagePerformance management systems at the state government level are typically established in one of two ways: by a central authority figure from the top-down or by mid-level agency administrators from the bottom-up. Often the top-down approach exercises authority but suffers a lack of information, while the bottom-up approach is better positioned to obtain information but lacks authority. Drs. Musso and Weare examined California state agencies to see how bottom-up performance management initiatives have improved state government performance and what institutional conditions help these succeed when central authority or support is lacking. Using their findings, Musso and Weare identified strategies and model practices employed by mid-level administrators to overcome these constraints and improve governance.


Measuring Behavioral Attributes for Federal Agencies Across Time

Anthony Bertelli, with Jennifer Connolly, David Gastwirth, and Dyana Mason

Many characteristics of public organizations are difficult to directly measure, and are equally difficult to measure in a way that can be compared across time or between organizations. Dr. Bertelli and his research team created a statistical model for measuring meaningful attributes, such as employee job satisfaction, across time and organizations. Using survey data from the Office of Personnel Management and Merit Systems Protection Board, they measured three attributes- employee autonomy, job satisfaction, and intrinsic motivation- for 71 federal agencies from 1998 to 2010. Dr. Bertelli used this information to create a database that can have many uses in quantitative public management research as well as a statistical model that can be adapted to other data sources. To provide an example of this tool, his team also demonstrated how analysis of this data can be used in assessments of organizational design.

Dr. Bertelli’s research was published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory in the article “Measuring Agency Attributes with Attitudes Across Time: A Method and Examples Using Large-Scale Federal Surveys” and can be found here. A second article, “Bureaucratic Perceptions of Discretion in the U.S. Separation of Powers: Evidence from Cabinet Departments,” is forthcoming in Public Organization Review.


Recurrent Governance Failures in Los Angeles County

Richard Callahan

The recurring challenges of gang violence and homelessness in Los Angeles County are often identified as criminal justice, community engagement, or mental health challenges. Dr. Callahan argues that these challenges should be recognized instead as failures of governance that can be addressed by working across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to create organizational responses. These issues meet the criteria of governance challenges because they cross political jurisdictions, the cost of failure is high, they are pressing issues, and they result in depleted intellectual capital. By looking at these issues from a broader governance standpoint, Dr. Callahan sought to shift away from conventional thinking to find new solutions that engage the broader governance community from all three sectors and between levels of government.  Dr. Callahan’s research was presented to the Bedrosian Center in 2011.

Read the paper, here.


Collaboration and Culture: Organizational Culture and the Dynamics of Collaborative Networks

Christopher Weare and Nicole Esparza

Fissure within a Housing Advocacy Coalition
Fissure within a Housing Advocacy Coalition

Inter-organization networks and cross-sector collaboration are receiving increasing attention in public administration research, sparked by the rise in network-based policy implementation, increased reliance on public-private partnerships, and the devolution of implementation responsibilities to local actors.

Scholars have recognized that social structures, and not just the characteristics of actors, are important for determining organizational behavior and performance during collaboration. Professors and Bedrosian Center affiliates Weare and Esparza went even further to examine the influence of organizational culture on these inter-organizational dynamics, arguing that organizations with different cultural viewpoints have distinct and predictable biases in terms of their expectations and preferences toward collaboration. Using this research, Weare and Esparza developed a theory about how organizational culture can promote or inhibit different types of inter-organizational collaboration. To demonstrate their theory, they provide a case study of an affordable housing network in Los Angeles.

To read more, check out our research update on this project. Drs. Weare and Esparza’s research was also published in the Policy Studies Journal and can be read here.


Collaboration and Civic Engagement through Partnerships in National Parks

David Suárez

SuarezResearch on the use of cross-sector collaboration in the public sector has focused predominately on contracting and the cost benefits of privatization. Dr. Suarez’s research instead focuses on how the public sector can collaborate with nonprofits and private companies through a steward relationship. Dr. Suarez uses management of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) as an example of the stewardship approach to management by exploring how the GGNRA has worked with a nonprofit “steward” partner to manage the park and create substantial public value. He argues that the GGNRA’s nonprofit partner helped implement physical improvements to the park through successful fundraising and marketing as well as expand stakeholder involvement through volunteer recruitment and the encouragement of civic engagement. He also found that while the stewardship model had many successes, it also raised issues of autonomy and control.

Dr. Suarez’s research formed the basis for two forthcoming papers with Dr. Nicole Esparza: “Collaboration and its Limits: Tensions and Opportunities in Public Nonprofit Partnerships,” and “Public Management in an International Context: Government Funding for Development NGOs.”


Analyzing the Performance of the LA County’s Transportation Agencies

Richard Callahan

Between 1978 and 2002, three newly created public agencies built regional rail projects in Los Angeles County. These new agencies, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority, were experiments in regional governance. Dr. Callahan’s research explored how fiscal and institutional mechanisms of cooperation can solve collective action problems, such as public transit, at the regional level. His four major findings were: (1) conflict is inevitable; (2) public agencies can succeed despite the problems of politics; (3) successful regional solutions are intensely local; and (4) cooperation emerges from supply-side mechanisms that create new resources rather than from allocation of existing resources.

Dr. Callahan’s research was published in an article entitled “Governance: The Collision of Politics and Cooperation” in the Public Administration Review. To read the full article, click here.

Callahan 2006-2007 award


The Determinants of Effective Public-Private Service Delivery Collaboration

Elizabeth Graddy

Dr. Graddy argues that although the potential benefits of public-private collaboration have received considerable attention, the determinants of effective collaboration are often poorly understood. Her research project examined the determinants of effective partnerships in public-private collaborations that deliver publicly-funded services. Using data on 138 partnerships that provide children and family services in Los Angeles County, Dr. Graddy found that service delivery is positively impacted when roles and responsibilities are contractually defined, when partners are viewed as trustworthy, and by the extent to which decision making, information, and resources are shared. She also found that more sector diversity within the network is often associated with less effective service delivery, but the actual effect of sector diversity is mixed.

This research was published in the International Review of Public Administration in the article “Cross-Sectoral Governance and Performance in Service Delivery.” Access the full article here.

Graddy 2006-2007 award


From Virtual Spaces to Real Places: Information Footpaths and Neighborhood Councils

Eric Heikkila

The project examined whether virtual networks, such as online community groups, might foster more robust community networks that physical neighborhood groups. Specifically, Dr. Heikkila’s research focused on the development of Information Footpaths, online forums of the Neighborhood Councils (NCs) in Los Angeles. Dr. Heikkila compared NCs with online Information Footpaths to those without to see if these virtual spaces enhanced the social capital of those communities and generated greater civic participation. Dr. Heikkila’s preliminary research was presented to the Bedrosian Center in 2007.

Heikkila 2006-2007 award


The Emperor’s New Clothes: Governance, Planning, and Participation in the L.A. River Revitalization Process

Clara Irazabal, Siri Eggebraten Champion

A critical examination of governance and planning in the LA River Revitalization Master Plan (LARRMP) process revealed it to be deceptively non-participatory. In fact, Irazabal and Champion’s research revealed the governance structure to be top-down, expert-based rational planning that failed to address existing problems of environmental injustice, displaced marginalized populations, and failed to meet ecosystem restoration goals, even when there appeared to be public input. Irazabal and Champion’s research looked further into this process to see what factors influenced why this policy-making effort failed to take an inclusive and citizen-participation approach. This study identified the broader need for governance and planning to be more participatory and suggested ideas for new reforms, particularly increasing transparency and regulating planning processes through “meta-participation,” a system of benchmarks, supervision, evaluation, and accountability to ensure citizen participation.

Irazabal 2006-2007 award


Local Governance and National Institutions: A 14-Country Comparison

Jefferey Sellers

This research addressed the question, “are there vertical state-society ‘synergies’ that link the influence of higher-level governments to influences from local civil society on policy issues, or are these two mutually exclusive?” To answer this, Dr. Sellers examined the extent to which the nature of civil society is taken into account in national models of local governance. He analyzed a survey of 4,000 local officials in fourteen OECD countries to explore which combinations of national and local models foster stronger roles for higher-level governments and civil society in local governance. Findings showed that higher-level government influence corresponds to civil society influence in the area of economic development and when the government model allowed for local actors to be more involved in national processes.

This project built on previous analyses of how government relations vary internationally.  Dr. Seller’s research was published in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research in an article entitled “State and Society in Local Governance: Lessons from a Multilevel Comparison.” Access the article here.

Sellers 2006-2007 award


Collaborative Governance in Education: Lessons from K-12 Schools

Priscilla Wohlstetter, Chuan Ally Kuzin

This study looked at research on collaborative governance in K-12 public and charter schools in order to form a deeper understanding of how partnerships are developed and sustained between schools and community actors. Dr. Wohlstetter found that many school and partners formed partnerships for the purpose of solving a problem of mutual concern, often student performance. These partnerships developed on the basis of resource exchange; in other words, on the idea that each party would gain from the collaboration, whether it be a financial, physical, or brand awareness gain. The study also found that collaborative partnerships tended to last due to two factors: reciprocity, where both organizations were gaining from the partnership, and leadership, where leaders existed to make key decisions that led to the accomplishment of both partners’ goals. This research was presented at a Bedrosian Center event in 2007.

Wohlstetter 2006-2007 ward


A Political Consequence of Contracting: Organized Interests and State Agency Decision Making

Susan Webb Yackee

Dr. Yackee’s research started with the hypothesis that government contracting for public services presents a new way for organized interest groups to lobby public managers. In recent years, the administration of public programs and services in the United States has changed rapidly as many public services are now being delivered by third party companies through government contracts. As public managers begin spending more time overseeing government contracts, they spend more time interacting with private and nonprofit companies, giving these companies greater opportunity to bring attention to their own agendas, whether they are shifts in programming, budgets, or policy priorities. Using data for all 50 states, Dr. Yackee found that the influence of organized interests over agency decision making is driven, in part, by whether the agency contracts out for public service delivery.

Dr. Yackee’s research was published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory in 2008. Read the article here.