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Metagovernance is governance of governance. It is a way of thinking, strategizing and implementing that goes beyond one single approach: it combines  hierarchical, network and market governance styles in a contextualised manner.

What is Metagovernance?

Governance has been defined in many ways, and often as a ‘beyond government’ approach. This is strange, because if there are ‘new governance modes’ (Heritier), there should also be ‘old’ governance modes like hierarchy. Therefore, a pragmatic definition of governance should include all modes and could be (after Meuleman 2008): “The totality of interactions in which government, other public bodies, private sector and civil society participate (in one way or another), aimed at solving public challenges or creating public opportunities”.

Three typical styles of environmental governance can be distinguished: hierarchical governance, market governance and network governance. These styles are seldom found in a ‘pure’ form, but usually appear in combinations. The design and management of such combinations is called metagovernance.

Metagovernance (Jessop 1997) is an approach aiming at combining and managing successful combinations of ideas from different gover-nance styles. It can be defined as an approach which produces some degree of coordinated governance, by designing and managing sound combinations of hierarchical, market, and network governance, to achieve the best possible outcomes from the viewpoint of those responsible for public sector performance. Metagovernance is not a super-governance style but an attitude and an approach that is expected to help overcome some of the typical failures of each of the governance styles and of their combinations (definition based on Meuleman 2008, PhD Thesis).

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