Managing Cities Post Conflict: Exploring the hidden dynamic of organizational change within conflict and peace building

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


It is increasingly recognized that societies moving out of conflict often struggle with the legacies of violence and segregation. Cities often exemplify an intensification of these pressures and can present extreme examples of ongoing division and the innovative management of such division. Public managers perform the complex role of interpreting policy and implementing it within a contested political space and place, while working through conflict and peace building attempts. This often involves the implementation of considerable, and frequently disputed, change. This paper seeks to better understand this challenging endeavour, and for the first time expose the obscured peace building mechanism of public sector change in conflict transformation processes. These extreme environments and the exceptional pressures they place on administrative leaders are outside ‘ordinary’ management experience and therefore present an original, rarely exposed and interdisciplinary contribution to scholarly knowledge and public practice. Focusing on the contested political environment of Belfast before and after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the paper adopts a contextual processual approach to best understand the unique historic circumstances and the intra-organisational, social, political and economic conditions that draw public managers into conflict management processes. Utilising both in-depth individual interviews and group ‘witness seminars’ as the main data collection methods, the paper draws on the experiences of present and past managers and leaders within established bureaucratic structures. Publicly available media and organizational documentation represents an additional data source. Two central questions are addressed: a) How do public managers who are operating as organisational leaders in environments of violent conflict, manage administrative and policy priorities during that conflict?, and b) How do these leaders contribute to or engage in, peace building as conflicts move through resolution phases? The second question will specifically focus on critical events including the 2012-13 Flags dispute (Belfast). The focus on past conflict and recent unrest provides a manageable lens of analysis to explore public administrative leadership in both conflict and transition and will provide sufficient data to establish the contours of the wider theoretical, political and organizational potential of this area of work.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2017
Event21st International Research Society on Public Management Conference - Budapest, Hungary
Duration: 19 Apr 201721 Apr 2017


Conference21st International Research Society on Public Management Conference
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