Managing critical services through hybrid arrangements


  • Sandro Cabral Federal University of Bahia, Institute of Education and Research
  • Claude Ménard University of Paris 1, Panthéon Sorbonne



Public-private partnerships, Hybrids, Critical services, Prisons, Defense


Purpose – Building on the literature of hybrids in the context of public organizations, this paper aims to discuss under which conditions hybrids can adequately provide “critical services”, a subset of public services characterized by their simultaneous exposure to externalities, socio-economic cohesion and legitimacy concerns. Design/methodology/approach – The authors collect indications from two stylized examples, prisons and defense, to develop propositions as a step toward assessing the potential role of hybrids as alternatives to direct public provision or full privatization in the delivery of critical services. Findings – This paper examines the conditions under which hybrid arrangements outperform the polar cases of public bureaus and full privatization in the delivery of a specific subset of public goods that the authors identify as “critical services”. Originality/value – The authors suggest that there might be comparative advantages in relying on hybrid arrangements rather than the usual solutions of fully private or fully governmental provision. However, they also submit that these advantages are conditional to the capacity of hybrids to reconcile competing interests to achieve socio-economic cohesion, to combine capabilities dispersed among partners to benefit from positive externalities and to satisfy legitimacy concerns with respect to the role of government


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Conceptual paper