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What factors lie behind the current shift towards more Citizen Collaboration Models?
January 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm #149097
Five Challenges Accounting For The Emergence Of Collaborative Models
Collaboration literally means to co-labor, to work jointly with others. It includes “cooperating with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected”. This emerging governance model is increasingly being used to address complex resource and ecosystem management issues, and for strategic planning and development.
Growth in cultural diversity resulting from globalization; rapid technological change and increasing complexity, both of which create uncertainty; increased awareness of interdependence among players; and the need to find new ways to build trust in the face of these changes – these are all factors accounting for more demands in Collaboration.
First, new “spaces” are being created for governance. In traditional policy making the political space is based on government institutions in a hierarchy with clear roles and responsibilities. Each level of government has its areas of authority and responsibility, both geographically and substantively, and authority is carried out through a hierarchical, command-and-control oriented practice. Increasingly these traditional spaces for political decision making are being augmented by new spaces that include collaboration among traditional agencies and with institutions outside the traditional political realm. For example, many complex policy problems, such as environmental protection and transportation, transcend jurisdictional boundaries. Public agencies find they must collaborate with others to find solutions to these shared problems in the context of shared power. Similarly, new nongovernmental institutions are emerging alongside political parties and interest groups to influence policy making. These include such social movements as the environmental justice movement and new institutions of civil society. These new spaces create an important need for new ways of interacting, increased communication, a high level of trust, and new processes and rules for accountability.
In a second challenge for policy making, the complexity of contemporary society has created an increasing sense of uncertainty. To some extent, policy making has always been constrained by uncertainty. However, the failures of traditional government agencies have created a new awareness among the public of the unintended, and sometimes perverse, consequences of large-scale planning and the limits to centralized hierarchical control by government agencies. Yet policy must be made despite the lack of complete knowledge.
The third challenge results because society has become more culturally diverse. Solving policy problems now requires decision makers to deal with an array of publics with their own languages, values, perspectives, cognitive styles, and worldviews. The importance of difference increases the problem of communication and decision making both in the public and for public leaders seeking solutions for complex and controversial policy problems.
The fourth challenge is increased awareness of interdependence in policy making. Although diversity poses challenges of communication and understanding, interdependence creates the need to overcome these challenges. When publics and public agencies recognize they cannot solve problems alone, because they share the same physical space or because they share the same social or environmental problem, they recognize that a solution depends on collaboration. If traditional government agencies are unable to produce accepted solutions, then communities of the public must create the capacity to interact, share power, and find shared problem definitions with paths to solutions. Traditional government institutions may nurture this capacity.
Finally, arising out of all this is the issue of how the dynamics of trust have changed. Trust has always been a factor in politics. For traditional government, trust and confidence on the part of the public originates in the legitimacy of constitutional institutions. In the new context, though—in which actors must collaborate across institutional boundaries—trust can no longer be assumed. If problems can no longer be solved by traditional government practices and the public feels the need to address them, then new practices must be invented. Creating the dynamics of trust for these practices becomes a critical challenge.
Policy making is not simply about finding solutions but also creating processes for collective action and problem solving that generate trust among the actors. Success in establishing and nurturing trust is fundamental to public action, and trust needs to germinate from new practices in other collective problem-solving activities.
Credit to David Booher for the factor analysis.
What other factors can you think of?
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