Collaborative Governance: Structure, Craft, and Changing Culture

Acton_Collaborative Governance-Structure, Craft, Changing Culture

In her study of the outcomes of collaborative processes on hydropower licensing, Ulibarri writes “For the purposes of effectiveness, ‘collaboration’ is more than simply having multiple people working together” (2015, p. 299). Indeed, over the past 20 years the concept of collaboration has taken off in the public sector in everything from policy making to implementation to service delivery (Emerson, Nabatchi, & Balogh, 2011). Collaborative processes, particularly collaborative governance, have become especially popular for cross-sector work aimed at tackling “wicked problems” that cannot effectively be addressed by a single sector (Ansell & Gash, 2007; Crosby & Bryson, 2010). However, while it has become increasingly popular, as Ulibarri points out successful collaboration is not a simple process and can result in equally complex outcomes. To better understand the role of collaboration in today’s public administration world this paper examines collaborative processes through the three lenses of structure, craft, and culture. It is discovered that successful collaborative processes are first structured around a partnership model that encourages a non-linear, cyclical process. Second, from this structure, well-designed collaborative processes encourage the development of a unique type of leadership style or managerial craft, one that is facilitative, transformative, and learning focused. Finally, a collaborative governance structure that has participants adopt this facilitative craft produces outcomes that are more than just holistic, effective, and efficient policies—participants get to enjoy the creation of a collaborative, trust-based culture not only between public sector administrators, but can also stretch across sectors, throughout organizations, and among traditional adversaries. With more attention on democratic deliberation and stakeholder participation, it is found that collaborative processes can possibly even encourage trust between everyday citizens and their government.