Changing Market-Values? Tensions of Contradicting Public Management Discourses – A Case From the Danish Daycare Sector

Plotnikof, M.
International Journal of Public Sector Management 29(7), 659-674.


The purpose of this study is to examine initiatives by two municipalities to develop new quality-management methods inspired by collaborative governance. The author explores how practices related to New Public Governance (NPG) emerge and influence collaborative initiatives simultaneously with other management discourses. Overall, New Public Governance can be described as a movement towards more network-based, hybrid forms of governance which include cross-sectoral collaboration and partnerships with civil society and the private sector. New Public Governance differs from New Public Management (NPM), where focus is more on market mechanisms, competition and hierarchical structures.


The author indicates that when practices related to New Public Governance emerge, for example through collaboration initiatives within the daycare sector, they do not constitute a clean break with the previously applied governance forms inspired by New Public Management. In contrast, discourses from New Public Governance and New Public Management collide in the two municipalities' attempt to introduce new methods of quality management. According to the author, the discursive collision leads to changes in market conditions within daycare, where the NPM values such as governance and competition are woven together with NPG ideals about collaboration, dialogue and trust. For example, the daycare market place reflects ideals about trust, dialogue and authentic communication, at the same time as being a place where individual daycare centres can promote ("sell") themselves and compete against each other. In this way, the study suggests that the shift towards New Public Governance does not remove the existing marketisation; the market is only reshaped into a place where collaboration, trust and authenticity are linked together with more subtle elements of competition.


The article is based on a case study in connection with work by two municipalities on collaborative governance within daycare. The municipal initiatives comprised networking and partnerships between various stakeholders as well as development of a so-called daycare market place, in which the stakeholders met and discussed daycare quality. Stakeholders included politicians, managers, daycare leaders, daycare teachers, parents, children and union representatives. The purpose of the market place was to change the way in which daycare quality had previously been addressed through cross-cutting dialogue between various stakeholders, and presentations of the pedagogical work of the daycare settings in other forms than the usual written quality reports.

The empirical material includes participant observations, sound and video recordings, documents and interviews with daycare teachers and staff from the municipal administration (individually and in groups). The analysis was conducted on the basis of a discourse-theoretical perspective.


Plotnikof, M. (2016). Changing Market-Values? Tensions of Contradicting Public Management Discourses – A Case From the Danish Daycare Sector. International Journal of Public Sector Management 29(7), 659-674.

Hvid & Plotnikof (2012): "Nye Muligheder for Samarbejde i Styring og Organisering af Dagtilbud". Endvidere skal nærværende studie kobles til et andet studie af samme forfatter, som indgår i dette års kortlægning: "Letting go of managing? Struggling over managerial roles in collaborative governance".

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Part of the data collection was supported by an independent grant from the Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators.