StudyCorgi Politics & Government

Intergovernmental Relations and Citizen Engagement


The relationship between local and federal government remains at a certain level of tension, due to existing problems that linger unaddressed. Intergovernmental relations (IGR) consist of a network, which allows the different parts of the government to interact both, vertically and horizontally with each other. With issues such as the engagement of citizens in local government and the attempts of these local governments to participate in policymaking on a larger scale than previously, intergovernmental matters remain acute.

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Citizen Engagement in Local Governments

Citizens requesting a more open approach not only to information but also to their government and its officials themselves have created a new precedent, with both sides taking the steps necessary for improvement. However, with more accessibility to government officials made feasible, “public managers need help to find ways to untangle the intergovernmental management web” (Kincaid & Stenberg, 2011, p. 6). While allowing for a more transparent relationship with the community, this approach demonstrates openly the difficulties of navigating IGR to the public, simultaneously increasing the workload of government officials working with citizens.

Even so, this system of integrating the community in local government affairs does not always work, with results varying widely and even some citizen-led programs failing. Research by Bhargava (2015) states that “a key lesson of what works in citizen engagement programs is that contextual conditions matter in determining the extent to which they succeed or fail” (p. 4). Most factors that determine failure rely on a lack of communication between government and community, and a lack of transparency in their relations. With existing research tackling both, the criteria for success, and their effect on IGR, the issue of community participation is something that retains the need for an examination. Citizen encouragement to participate in the community and a realistic approach solves most problems posed by the inclusion of the public in governance (Blakely & Leigh, 2017). The development of these areas of activity could not only lead to a flourish in citizen-led programs but also a cleaner version of IGR, if for the sake of public accessibility and opinion.

While feasible and executable long-term, the disentanglement of this issue requires a joint effort from both citizens and the federal government to achieve openness and receptiveness. Restructuring IGR is an accomplishment that cannot be accomplished over a short time-scale, but leaving matters as-is puts unnecessary stress on citizen-interacting government officials. Nevertheless, outreach to the public from the local government seems to lead to a more balanced situation within both, the IGR and the relationship between local communities and their government.

Local Governments on an Intergovernmental Scale

With local governments in the USA being the creations of their respective states, the extent of their recognition at the federal level mainly relies on party politics and needs. The evolution of IGR through different stages culminates in the current-day emergence of networks that include not only local governments but also third parties, such as non-governmental organizations (Agranoff & Radin, 2015). Hence, with no clear hierarchy within the system, IGR remains open to addressing concerns either side and allowing for a flexible system of interaction between different actors.

The interaction of local and federal governments leads not only to one-sided benefit but also to the adequate distribution and reallocation of resources. At the current state of affairs, “economic development is now set in an intergovernmental and intersectoral web of pulling and pushing, and governments can seldom deal with economic problems independently” (Blakely & Leigh, 2017, p. 122). With IGR resembling more diplomatic, than legal relations, the complexity of them does not cancel out the benefits and does allow local governments to pursue their genuine and actual goals (Phillimore, 2013). With economic development being one of the many issues a local government faces, it is unsurprising that the matter of funds, and through which ways they pass to their destinations remains an acute concern.

Hence, it is possible to conclude that local governments participating on a larger scale benefits both sides, even taking into account the difficulties that arise due to the unregulated creation of local governments. The further implementation of IGR in the USA could create a beneficial system for local governments, which in turn would support the federal system. However, the question of the extent of these benefits remains open to research, and the complexity of the system as mentioned above does not aid with the involvement of citizens on the local level.

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Overall, with new issues being posed and solved, IGR remains in the state of a dynamic and adaptable system, allowing actors within it to defend and pursue their interests. The flexibility of the structure of IGR grants its implementation and utility on different levels of governance, creating policies adaptable to regional specifics. The involvement of citizens in local government urges the need for a clearly defined, public-friendly structure, which in turn allows for better relationships between the different actors of the system. While many issues do remain unresolved, through the posing of problems and modern studies it is possible to study all the possible changes and effects that could be made to IGR.


Agranoff, R., & Radin, B. (2015). Deil Wright’s overlapping model of intergovernmental relations: The basis for contemporary intergovernmental relationships. Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 45(1), 139-159. Web.

Bhargava, V. (2015). Engaging citizens and civil society to promote good governance and development effectiveness. The Governance Brief, (23), 1-8. Web.

Blakely, E., & Leigh, N. (2017). Planning local economic development (6th ed.). Washington, DC: SAGE.

Kincaid, J., & Stenberg, C. (2011). “Big questions” about intergovernmental relations and management: Who will address them? Public Administration Review, 71(2), 196-202. Web.

Phillimore, J. (2013). Understanding intergovernmental relations: Key features and trends. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 72(3), 228-238. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Intergovernmental Relations and Citizen Engagement." December 27, 2020.


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StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Intergovernmental Relations and Citizen Engagement'. 27 December.

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