Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name



Political Science

First Advisor

Jered B. Carr


In recent times, the US has undergone significant changes in how regional governance is conceptualized and the focus has shifted from government to governance and from governmental consolidation to problem solving (Barnes and Foster, 2011). Policy makers' quest for interjurisdictional responses to the financial crisis and the recession has rekindled interest in the topic of regional governance. However, the economic, social and technical changes of the recent decades, which have now assimilated in US urban regions, fundamentally challenge existing dominant ways of thinking about regional governance and call for more useful analytic frameworks (Bollens, 1997; Barnes and Foster, 2011). This dissertation is essentially an answer to such calls for newer approaches to regional governance. Its prime purpose is to examine the use of epistemic communities (ECs) as a means to confront the wicked problems of urban America.

In this context, I have developed a framework for identifying and analyzing epistemic communities. The three-part framework developed in this dissertation is flexible/adaptable to various governance settings (transnational, national and regional) and a wide variety of policy domains (from economic development to public welfare); the framework also helps generate testable hypotheses on the EC concept. This dissertation has not just developed the EC framework, but has also tested several elements of the framework it has built. For this, it has, for the first time, developed a replicable, network-based, four-step process for identifying the existence of epistemic communities. With this process, it is possible to simultaneously identify multiple ECs that exist within a policy domain, regardless of their policy contributions; essentially, a more systematic, efficient and comprehensive approach to identifying ECs than single issue case studies.

Using archival document analysis, the snowball sampling technique, data collected from 100 structured interviews, a four-step EC identification process, and social network methods such as network mapping, exponential random graph models and quadratic assignment procedures analysis, I identify and analyze the municipal finance ECs that exist in Michigan. I examine the composition, interaction patterns, motivations for interactions, and functional performance of these communities which are involved in Michigan's municipal finance reform efforts.