Carey Doberstein’s (PhD, UofT) research interests and publications traverse several core domains of political science and public policy and administration in a Canadian context, but is united by a focus in studying both the democratic and policy implications of collaborative forms of governance that include citizens and civil society actors in policy planning and decision-making, with a particular focus on urban or local government issues. He also maintains a research programme using experimental methods, including surveys of citizens and public servants, as well as participatory planning simulations related to urban development, housing, and homelessness.
Doberstein is Associate Editor of Canadian Public Administration, where he leads the Book Review and New Frontiers sections.
He holds a SSHRC Insight Grant (2018-2023) for designing and evaluating collaborative governance through experimentation.
Doberstein’s work is focused primarily on governance in Canada, with special attention to the relationships between public servants, civil society actors, and citizens in governance arrangements that are decentred, multi-level, and networked. In this context, he is interested in questions of representation, expertise, accountability, and the policy implications of these governance patterns, which most often appear at the local level. To examine these areas, Doberstein maintains three related research programs.
- Institutional analysis of governance
- In his first book, Building a Collaborative Advantage: Network Governance and Homelessness Policy-making in Canada (UBC Press, 2016), Doberstein conducted a comparative institutional analysis of eight homelessness governance networks in three Canadian cities over a 15 year period, identifying key structural patterns of governance that associated with policy innovation and policy coordination. He sought to identify the policy implications of different institutional configurations.
- In a SSHRC-funded (2015-2018) project, Doberstein examined health care governance at the local level by focusing on the democratic and accountability features of such institutions. He looked at Ontario’s fourteen Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), which have a provincial mandate to provide more opportunities for citizens and stakeholders to deliberate and influence health care policy and investment decisions. Doberstein’s central question asked, despite providing more opportunities for citizen deliberation and influence, are LHINs democratic? He discovered that while popular criticisms of LHINs are in fact misplaced, the democratic “system” of local health care governance is indeed plagued by severed connections among the various layers of deliberation and policy-making. His research has been prepared as a monograph entitled Distributed Democracy: Health Care Governance in Ontario (with University of Toronto Press, 2020).
- New work examining the growth and evolution of arms-length agencies in Canada is in progress.
- Expertise and how information is sought and used in policy-making
- Doberstein has published experimental studies involving public servants in Canada in which they were presented with policy research and analysis from various sources—academia, think tanks, advocacy groups—and with the authorship/source of these articles altered to isolate how powerful the source, rather than the content, is in shaping how the public servants assess their credibility.
- Doberstein is working with Étienne Charbonneau from the Université du Québec to create a panel of thousands of Canadian public sector professionals in partnership with IPAC to run more survey experiments with this population in the coming years.
- How citizens engage with government as part of local consultations and public engagement, which is a phenomenon where expectations are high and satisfaction often low
- These are too often opportunities that do not make citizens feel genuinely heard, but also do not encourage citizens to take a broader view of the competing pressures faced by policymakers. This SSHRC-funded (2018-2022) agenda connects to Doberstein’s earlier research by examining group processes that involve stakeholders and citizens (research area 1), but through experimentation (research area 2). In particular, Doberstein is exploring how role-playing (in identities different from their own) within traditional consultation methods, for example, around housing and land-use policy, can nudge people into new and unfamiliar territory as they reflect and deliberate these issues.
For publications, see my Google Scholar page.
Fall 2020: POLI 405c/504e: Urban Governance and Policy in Canada
Winter 2021: POLI 101: Government of Canada