Professor Keith Provan Memoriam & Legacy Panel

Tribute written by H. Brinton Milward, Friend and Colleague

Director of the School of Government and Public Policy

Keith and I have been friends for thirty years and research collaborators for twenty-six.  We met at a conference in Toronto, where those of us who studied networks could be counted on one hand.  To find someone else who studied networks of public and nonprofit organizations was like finding a needle in a haystack.  We were colleagues at both University of Kentucky, where we started our collaboration, and at the University of Arizona.

I had enormous respect for Keith’s incredibly high standards and his willingness to always assume that he, and we, could do better.  This made him a great collaborator and a great mentor for the many doctoral students who have now gone into the world and become successful scholars in their own right.  This was the part of his intellectual legacy that he was most proud of.  There are great young scholars at major universities in the United States and Europe that he trained and influenced, doing important research on how to understand, measure, and evaluate networks of organizations that are critical to how we govern an increasingly privatized state.  When you look at management today, much of the work on interorganizational networks and organization structure and design, are attributable to the influence of Keith’s scholarship.  Keith has great standing in the management discipline and was elected a charter member of the Academy of Management’s Journals Hall of Fame, one of only 33 scholars worldwide.  In the fall of 2013, Keith was elected as a “Fellow” of the National Academy of Public Administration.

Keith’s work with me, and other co-authors, on mental health networks has been important in establishing new intellectual insights in public management, organization theory and in health systems research.  This research on the study of public and nonprofit networks within the context of mental health gave us key variables that were new at the time but that are in common use today - network structure, resource munificence, and network effectiveness from a stakeholder perspective.  This was some of the earliest work on service implementation networks, a term he coined, and it is heavily cited in multiple fields as there are only a handful of studies that have actually measured the quality of service delivery to clients.  “A Preliminary Theory of Interorganizational Network Effectiveness” in Administrative Science Quarterly is Keith’s most cited and influential article and still one of the very few comparative network effectiveness studies ever attempted.  Just this week, I was notified that our article, “Do Networks Really Work?” had been chosen as one of the 75 most important and influential articles published in Public Administration Review’s 75 year history.

In articles in the best journals in both management and public management, Keith added new concepts like “network administrative organization,” “whole networks,” and “network governance” to our lexicon, giving us new ways to design and conduct network research on public and nonprofit organizations.   Keith’s work is consistently marked by careful attention to theory development, operationalization and empirical testing.   His network contributions are regularly cited in renowned national and international journals such as such as the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journal, and Public Administration Review.  His scholarly contributions to the network literature represent a breadth and depth rarely seen from a single scholar. In sum, Keith is among a handful of scholars who were present at the creation of our studies of management networks.  He has published some of the most influential articles in our field and his influence will be felt long into the future.

Keith will be remembered as a loving husband and father, a wonderful friend and colleague, and a great scholar.

Spring, 2014

Keith Provan’s Legacy and Continuing Contribution to Public Management Panel 

Public Management Research Conference-- June, 2015, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Over the course of a too short lifetime, Keith Provan was one of the most prolific and innovative scholars in public management.  He helped to pioneer the study of interorganizational networks within service systems like mental health and healthcare.  His works with colleagues on interorganizational effectiveness and on network governance are some of the most cited publications in public management.  Keith has been a major force in public management research for the past 30 years.  His greatest contribution is to bring organizational theory to the center of public management much of it through the pages of JPART. When you look at public management research today, much of the work on networks and organizations are directly attributable to the influence of Keith’s scholarship.  In addition he had great standing in the management discipline and was elected a charter member of the Academy of Management’s Journals Hall of Fame (one of only 33 scholars).  


Keith Provan Legacy Panel was chaired by his friends and collegues, H. Brinton Milward and Joe Galaskiewicz, faculty at the University of Arizona. Also represented on the panel were: Jörg Raab, Steven van den Oord, Patrick Kenis, Kim Isett, Kun Huang, Uday Desai, Julia L. Carboni and Robin H. Lemaire.