Building cliques and alliances as practices to 'make things happen' in complex networks

  • Lidia Gheorghiu

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The Roma population has become a policy issue highly debated in the European Union (EU). The EU acknowledges that this ethnic minority faces extreme poverty and complex social and economic problems. 52% of the Roma population live in extreme poverty, 75% in poverty (Soros Foundation, 2007, p. 8), with a life expectancy at birth of about ten years less than the majority population. As a result, Romania has received a great deal of policy attention and EU funding, being eligible for 19.7 billion Euros from the EU for 2007-2013. Yet progress is slow; it is debated whether Romania's government and companies were capable to use these funds (, 2012).
Analysing three case studies, this research looks at policy implementation in relation to the role of Roma networks in different geographical regions of Romania. It gives insights about how to get things done in complex settings and it explains responses to the Roma problem as a „wicked‟ policy issue. This longitudinal research was conducted between 2008 and 2011, comprising 86 semi-structured interviews, 15 observations, and documentary sources and using a purposive sample focused on institutions responsible for implementing social policies for Roma: Public Health Departments, School Inspectorates, City Halls, Prefectures, and NGOs. Respondents included: governmental workers, academics, Roma school mediators, Roma health mediators, Roma experts, Roma Councillors, NGOs workers, and Roma service users. By triangulating the data collected with various methods and applied to various categories of respondents, a comprehensive and precise representation of Roma network practices was created.
The provisions of the 2001 „Governmental Strategy to Improve the Situation of the Roma Population‟ facilitated forming a Roma network by introducing special jobs in local and central administration. In different counties, resources, people, their skills, and practices varied. As opposed to the communist period, a new Roma elite emerged: social entrepreneurs set the pace of change by creating either closed cliques or open alliances and by using more or less transparent practices. This research deploys the concept of social/institutional entrepreneurs to analyse how key actors influence clique and alliance formation and functioning. Significantly, by contrasting three case studies, it shows that both closed cliques and open alliances help to achieve public policy network objectives, but that closed cliques can also lead to failure to improve the health and education of Roma people in a certain region.
Date of Award4 Jun 2015
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLouise A Knight (Supervisor) & Michael J Butler (Supervisor)


  • bridging actors
  • cliques
  • network receptivity
  • social entrepreneurs
  • Roma policy
  • implementation in Romania

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