Introducing the Missing Link: National Coordinators and Their Role for Sweden's Public Administration
This essay is dedicated to exploring the development of new roles for officials in public administration as a result of the tendency of governments to focus on deliberation, collaboration and network management in governance. The context of the study is the political-administrative system of Sweden, where the government's introduction of national coordinators and use of them as a policy instrument has led to new, flexible and free roles for the public officials who hold these positions. The questions explored in relation to this case are what roles the national coordinators have come to play in relation to other public actors as well as what their introduction implies for the relations and democratic processes of the public administration. Using interview material from a comprehensive audit undertaken by the Swedish National Audit Office in 2016, experiences and views of public actors on national, regional and local level are investigated, based on their involvement in the policy deliberation process around national coordinators. The role national coordinators play is found to be a mix of that which previous research has labeled 'entrepreneur' and 'politicized public servant'. Through a synthesis of these role types, the implications of introducing the national coordinators into Sweden's political-administrative system are analyzed. The conclusions reached are that national coordinators, in their synthesized roles, are able to constitute the 'missing link' between different levels of the public administration, in that they enable a direct communication between the local and central levels of government. From a democratic perspective, the introduction of national coordinators provide exciting opportunities for a development of democratic processes, while at the same time implying challenges for the neutrality, continuity and institutional learning of the public administration.