Call for Papers special session: ‘City and Regional Deal-Making, Intergovernmental Contractual Relations and Multi-Level Governance’, RSA Australasian Conference, July 2017, Sydney


Special session of the Regional Studies Association Second Australasia Conference 2017, Fragmented Regional Worlds: Inequality and Populism in a Globalising World, 3rd-5th July 2017, The University of Sydney


Lee Pugalis, Institute for Public Policy and Governance, University of Technology Sydney


S1. City and Regional Deal-Making, Intergovernmental Contractual Relations and Multi-Level Governance

The evolutionary project of city and regional development could be approaching a ‘contractual turn’ characterised by multilateral parties negotiating place-based deals. Regional Growth Agreements, Growth Deals, Regional Contracts, Territorial Pacts, Territorial Development Contracts, Devolution Deals and Rural Contracts are some of the policy terms coined in different countries to describe initiatives that are intended to accelerate the growth and development of particular urban, rural and regional places via a deal-making approach that seeks to orchestrate the activities of diverse sectoral interests and multiple tiers of government. Throughout Australia, the contractual turn is exemplified through recent moves to implement City Deals, and Regional Jobs and Investment Packages. This follows in the footsteps of international practice, such as the successive waves of French State Regional Plan Contracts developed since the 1980s.


The notion of place-based deals refers to a wide range of relational and transactional contractual mechanisms, repertoires and practices utilised in the negotiation and agreement of bespoke ‘settlements’ intended to work with the particularities of place. Place-based deals are, thus, a tool for policy alignment and coordination, local empowerment and capacity building, collaboration and communication, and learning.  Concoctions of customised and generic incentives and conditionalities are deployed to encourage the realisation of policy objectives, such as, vertical and horizontal coordination, multi-actor cooperation, co-investment, and collaborative governance.


The content of deals or agreements is open to immense variation, although most tend to include funding packages and access to finance. Moreover, some new forms of deals, such as Devolution Deals in England, put more emphasis on the decentralisation of responsibilities, enhanced policy flexibilities and personalised fiscal tools subject to an acceptance of central government conditions, such as democratically elected leadership arrangements. The geography of deals also varies significantly. Some are based on a single municipal boundary (e.g. Liverpool Mayoral City Deal), whereas others are sub-regional/sub-metropolitan (e.g. Western Sydney City Deal) and regional (e.g. the Canada-Manitoba Economic Partnership Agreement).


In theory, place-based deals exhibit the potential to fold together separate powers, responsibilities, funds, programmes and expertise into a cohesive ‘package’ tailored to the needs and capabilities of a particular place. Proponents suggest that this reconciles top-down objectives and bottom-up preferences which can engender place-based policies, although critics point to the imbalances of power in negotiating deals which can devolve risks, disguise central control and manipulation, and exacerbate spatial disparities.


The purpose of this session is to bring together an internationally diverse group of researchers and policy-makers to investigate the process and implications of place-based deal-making. Conceptual, empirical and policy perspectives that consider the following topics, amongst others, are welcomed:


·         The framing, logic and nature of place-based deals and geohistorical antecedents.

·         The role of place, national and subnational differences, and comparative analyses.

·         Place-based and space-blind characteristics of deals.

·         Contractual relations, including the crafting, negotiation, agreement and unravelling of deals.

·         Deal-making brokers, anchor institutions and place-based leaders.

·         The content, stability, flexibility, adaptability and operation of deals, including incentives, conditionalities and contractual mechanisms.

·         The geographies of deals and asymmetric policy-making.

·         The politics and governance of deal-making, path dependency and track records.

·         Participation, transparency, commercial confidentiality, scrutiny and accountability of deal-making.

·         The role of independent oversight and de facto regulators.

·         The capacities of actors, information and power asymmetries, and intergovernmental and inter-organisational relations.

·         Metagovernance and power relations.

·         Cooperation and contestation between coalitions of public, private and voluntary actors.

·         Deal-making innovations, diffusion and replication.

·         Contracting as a learning process.

·         Policy outcomes, risks and repercussions.

Anyone interested in participating in the session should submit their abstract/register for the conference before 28th April 2017 by visiting:


This special session will connect with debates at the ‘Place-Based Deal-Making’ special session of The Great Regional Awakening: New Directions RSA Conference, 4th – 7th June 2017, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.


A selection of papers will be considered for chapter contributions for an edited book on place-based deal-making scheduled for publication in 2018.




Lee Pugalis

Professor of Urban Studies

World Social Science Fellow

Editor of Local Economy

Editor of Regional Studies, Regional Science


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