Research group: Governance of Complex Semi-Public Goods

The project contributes to social science literature on governance where various gaps in literature of different disciplines exists.  Many goods provided by public and private sector are neither public or private. Often such goods are also complex as understanding the nature of goods and governance of provider of goods is not as straightforward as it seems.  Examples of such goods can include but are not limited to pension systems, housing associations, open source software development, digital governance, digital platforms, government venture capital, artificial intelligence and international trade. This project investigates governance of complex semi-public goods from a political economy perspective by focusing on institutional frameworks and entrepreneurial discovery processes. It focuses on institutional arrangements of good governance practice as well as trade-offs between institutional complexity, entrepreneurial discovery and rent-seeking. At least but not least, the project values societal relevance by investigating whether good governance practices can be transferred from one area to other areas as well as across different countries.


Investigation of the governance practice of what can be called complex semi-public goods requires going beyond traditional public administration, economics and management literature. Particularly, as dynamic of governance is strongly influenced by political economy where ideas, institutions and interests constantly interact.  The approach combines institutionalist theories as well as scholarship on entrepreneurial discovery as well as rent-seeking. The areas of research include governance of open source software projects globally, network neutrality in Europe, smart specialization, digital public governance and government venture capital and government grants in Estonia.


Economists divide goods neatly into private and public (and blub goods). At the same time, governance of these goods are either treated as black box at worst case scenario or overly stylized manner in the best case scenario. Management and public administration scholars can come to rescue but the former focus primarily on delivery of private goods by firms while the latter discuss how governments provide public goods.  Public administration scholarship has increasingly borrowed from management literature during the last decades. Emphasis have been increasingly on new public management (NPM) and network based governance (NBG) instead of traditional, hierarchical governance models. However, the NPM naively assumes that private sector practices can be transferred into public sector. Public goods can be delivered on the basis of same logic as private goods. While there are many interpretations of what these governance models imply and how they can be applied, they are best treated as ideal types, perhaps even as extreme ideal types.


The choice of research methods depends on availability of data and issue areas to be investigated. In some areas such as pension funds and international trade the combination of both quantitative and qualitative methods is applied. In other areas, the research may rely on qualitative methods and employ Qualitative Comparative Analysis (a la Ragin) or other appropriate methods. In any case, the research will be based on multimethod approach, and possibly, also on mixed methods.


Selected literature references of the research group:

  • Kitsing, Meelis (2017). Internet Banking as a Platform for E-Government. Annual International Conference Proceedings: 7th Annual International Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Ed. Geibel, Richard C. Singapore: GSTF, 99−107.
  • Kitsing, Meelis (2017). Political Economy of Government Venture Capital in Estonia. Annual International Conference Proceedings: 7th Annual International Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Ed. Geibel, Richard C. Singapore: GSTF, 115−124.
  • Kitsing, Meelis (2015). Nutika spetsialiseerumise analüüs. Majandus- ja Kommunikatsiooniministeerium.
  • Kitsing, Meelis (2011). Success Without Strategy: E-Government Development in Estonia. Policy & Internet, Article 5.
  • Kitsing, Meelis (2011). Network Neutrality in Europe. Proceedings: ICEGOV 2011. 5th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance. Tallinn, Estonia. September 26-28, 2011.. Toim. Elsa Estevez and Marijn Janssen. New York: ACM, 313−316.
  • Schweik, Charles M. ; Kitsing, Meelis (2010). Applying Elinor Ostrom's Rule Classification Framework to the Analysis of Open Source Software Commons. Transnational Corporations Review, 13−26.
  • Schweik, Charles M.; Kitsing, Meelis (2012). The OSGeo Case: An Example of the Evolving OSS Ecosystem.
  • Schweik, Charles M., English, Robert C.. Internet Success: A Study of Open-Source Software Commons (103−128).. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  • Vicente, Ricardo; Kitsing, Meelis (2015). Picking Big Winners and Small Losers: An Evaluation of Estonian Government Grants for Firms. Industry Studies Association Annual Conference, Kansas City, MO, USA, May 26-28.