Engaging Citizens In Natural Resource Decisions, Part 2
This two-part article explores the lessons we have learned from our work helping citizens and decision makers engage in collaborative governance on land use, natural resource, and environmental issues. Part I described a range of natural resource problems and examined what makes some intractable, or ‘wicked’ and proposed a set of concepts, principles, and practices that constitute the most effective form of collaborative governance for responding to such problems. Part 2 offers three vignettes from practical experience. One illustrates problems arising when officials are not open to public engagement. A second suggests the challenges in using scientific and technical experts in working with citizens and possible solutions. And a third questions when it is of more value to work informally with social networks rather than to seek to create more formal groups or venues. These discuss some common problems and best practices for collaborative governance. Part 2 concludes with some implications for research, education, and practice. This article builds on more than 20 years of practical experience in designing and facilitating different types of processes to engage citizens and officials in shaping and implementing public policy. The intended audience is anyone who engages in, or wants to engage in, collaborative governance, including scientific and technical experts, elected and appointed officials, public administrators, advocates on different sides of public issues, and others who have an interest or stake in public deliberation on natural resource and environmental issues.
Keywords: Collaborative governance, problems and methods of public participation What Works in First Steps to Collaborative Governance
In the first part of this articts, principles, and practices that
underpin effective collaborative governance and the resolution of intractable, “wicked”
problems. There we argued that public processes that are inclusive, informed, and deliberative
are more likely to result in decisions that receive broad public support while they often save time
and money as compared to lobbying, litigation, and other ways of shaping public policy or
resolving public disputes. Such processes are often experienced by participants as an
exceptionally direct and meaningful form of public participation. They often succeed in
integrating social and political values with scientific and technical considerations where other
approaches have failed. When successful, they tend to make implementation easier because the
stakeholders have helped shape the proposed policy. The side benefits of collaborative
governance can be to imbue governance systems and institutional arrangements with greater
levels of transparency, accountability, and legitimacy. Finally, we suggested that the principles
and practices of collaborative governance outlined there can be applied in a variety of ways and
tailored to fit any number of situations. Indeed, the art of collaborative governance is in knowing
how to match the principles and strategies to the issue at hand and to the needs and interests of
Our purpose here in Part 2 is to offer three vignettes drawn from our more than 20 years of
practical experience designing and facilitating different types of collaborative governance
processes. These cases illustrate some of the factors that can arise in dealing with the “wicked
problems” described in Part I. The illustrations herein highlight the value of assessing the context
of each situation so that efforts are tailored to support, not abort, collaborative governance
efforts. The factors in the first case relate to determining who should participate in any given
process, beginning with how the issues are defined, and officials’ reluctance, in some situations,
to collaborate willingly. The second situation illustrates factors that arise when the issue is one
that is highly technical, to suggest realigning the role of scientific and technical experts in
collaboration and conflict resolution. The third situation suggests factors involved in knowing
when, where, how, and why to move from informal to formal approaches to collaborative
Following these analyses, we examine the way forward used in each situation. These include
the implications of the situations relative to some of the key principles of collaborative
governance, and offer some practical methods on how to address similar situations. After
presenting and discussing the implications of the cases, the conclusion summarizes the
contribution of this two-part article to our knowledge and practice of collaborative governance.
Who Should, and Will, Participate? The Situation
Fewer than 50,000 people live in this high, remote, and stunningly scenic 8,500-
square-mile valley nestled between two majestic mountain ranges. Tradition and heritage
are strong, rooted in more than 200 years of hard-won agriculture and the communal and
spiritual mores of the centuries-old hispanic culture embedded here.
But the valley now attracts second-home owners, retirees, and people willing to trade
big-city incomes for the slower pace, peace and quiet, and privacy of life between the
mountains. All six counties in the valley report double-digit population growth during the
last decade, ranging from 10 to 49 percent. Large tracts of land have been heavily
subdivided. Although many of the lots remain undeveloped, officials can barely keep up
with the stream of building permit applications. Many long-time residents are concerned
about impacts to community services and infrastructure, scenery, water quantity and
quality, and their recreational opportunities on surrounding public lands. A particular
concern is non-compliance with building codes (or a lack of willful enforcement). In
some areas, derelict trailer shells and tar-paper pallet shacks are the homes of choice,
many without utilities or septic systems. (Job growth has not kept pace with population,
Residents are also concerned about congestion and unchecked commercial growth,
primarily resulting from the expansion of a ski resort on the western edge of the valley.
The two major highways are succumbing to strip malls and large “box” stores, and they
also funnel increasing traffic that is passing-through directly onto the main streets of the
Such changes threaten the region’s quality of life, but at the same time, people are
also desperate for jobs and better economic opportunities. Some argue that a regulatory
response to growth will hamstring job creation and trample private property rights.
Others say that modern concepts of land ownership and economic success clash with
local traditional values. Isolated from the outside world by topography and sheer
distance, valley residents are at once hungry for and wary of outside help and resources.
Valley residents and leaders invited us to help them engage in a dialogue about land
use planning and regional collaboration. As people explained their concerns and values,
beginning to name (or define) the issues, they also revealed rifts in their society. Decision
makers and local power brokers were not comfortable with the transparency of the
process—many would speak only anonymously if at all. They also voiced satisfaction
with the status quo and said existing government policies and processes would take care
of land use and growth management issues. But many landowners and conservationists
countered that local officials are afraid to stand up to developers, or are complicit in their
land speculation schemes. Officials, they said, moved too slowly or not at all to address
the problem. In other words, they viewed the decision makers (elected and appointed) as
barriers to improving the situation, as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Inviting landowners, conservationists, and citizens to participate in naming the issue
alongside decision makers gave them a sense of empowerment. But this conversation
only heightened the tension between people normally marginalized in the decision
making process and the decision makers themselves, who now appear to be more
determined to close ranks and take control. This common dynamic is one that the public
participation field and collaborative governance efforts need to learn how to expect and
address in collaborative ways. In this case, decision makers moved slowly before
outsiders interceded—they ground to a halt afterwards. It appears that local officials—in
a not uncommon scenario— prefer to name public issues and frame options to solve such
issues themselves. In effect, to date they have withdrawn from the dialogue. In such ways
may tradition and established social hierarchy often act as brakes on the pace of change,
and affect the tempo of possible corrective and other responses to change.
It is tempting to advise people to be patient, but the impacts of subdivisions are
happening now and promise to rapidly and cumulatively worsen. It is tempting to
encourage citizens to vote their consciences and remove the stonewallers from office, but
the electorate is closely divided and the power brokers—precisely because they broker
the power—are unlikely to be unseated. Both forms of advice suggest longer-term
stances and implications we do not discuss here. Currently in this community, however,
Two options appeared to present themselves at this point: (1) Local citizens can
continue to work with decision makers to address their concerns, hoping to bring them
back to the discussion. This will likely move slowly and take significant time and
resources, with no guarantee of success; (2) Local citizens can continue to name and
frame the issue and deliberate on possible ways to improve the situation without
participation from decision makers. This approach allows people to work toward timely
action, but without a clear avenue for ratifying or implementing that action through the
usual channels. As indicated by the following, however, another option developed that
has potential as a hybrid to transcend this apparent dichotomy. As indicated by its early
forms of activity, there may be potential to attract officials’ inclusion.
A Way Forward
Finding an answer to this dilemma hinges on some key questions. In a representative
democracy, who actually holds the decision-making reins? Who decides how decisions
shall be made? Who decides who is allowed to participate in naming and framing? What
practical options do people have when they are ignored or excluded? In short, what does
it mean in a democracy to be the decision maker, the decider? And what does it mean to
be an active citizen, to engage as one of “we the people?”
These are fundamental questions. They have come to the fore in many public issue
decisions (e.g., allocating water among competing uses, balancing development pressures
with endangered species habitat, or honoring private property rights while protecting
public health and safety). When public officials are given authority—even mandates—to
make decisions for diverse, perhaps divergent constituencies, and when any decision will
be unpopular, tensions over exactly what that authority entails are bound to arise.
A democratic system presumes that citizens and officials must work together to
resolve those tensions. But in the real world, this is not always the case. How we respond
determines the shape of governance to come.
In the end, we helped citizens in this valley acquire some tools and we encouraged them to
continue networking. A local planner bought a software program that enables the user to create
different development scenarios in 3-D, so people can see what their community will look like if
it is built out at different densities and layouts. As part of a comprehensive planning process, he
is using the program to draw several pictures of what one valley community might look like
under different development assumptions. We hope this will spark genuine deliberation among
all the diverse interests about what they want their community to look like in 20 or 50 years, and
how development in the valley should occur. In turn, that might catch the attention of town and
county planners and eventually allow some good, broadly supported ideas to bubble up to the
county commissioners and other elected officials.
Ideally, elected officials represent their constituents—the citizens who elected them. In any
decision-making process, they should remain accountable to the people they serve. Politically
appointed officials bear this same responsibility. In turn, accountability requires elected and
appointed officials to make transparent their assumptions about how policy questions will be
answered, in the context of whatever scientific or value-laden information is brought to bear on
the decision. In other words, the legitimacy of decisions made by elected and appointed officials
hinges on their willingness to be clear about their bases for decision-making.
Elected officials can (and arguably should) also take an active, leading role in fostering an
inclusive, informed, and deliberative decision-making process. They can invite and welcome the
participation of diverse interests, including hard-to-represent constituencies. They can gather and
provide access to the best available information. And elected officials can ensure that public
review and comment protocols are consistent with existing law and policy, in letter and spirit.
The above vignette shows the value of listening to the concerns and interests of a broad cross
section of the stakeholders—before wading in to form a collaborative group and begin solving
problems. Sometimes the issue at hand is not the biggest problem in the room; it has more to do
with clarifying the roles and responsibilities of citizens and decision-makers in defining
problems, framing options, and convening meaningful public dialogue. This part of the process
can surface resistance because it represents a change in the status quo, a natural reaction in some
settings and one that assessments do well to anticipate.
Realigning the Role of Scientific and Technical Experts The Situation
In 2005, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began a process to revise the
resource management plans governing more than 2.5 million acres in western Oregon.
Parts of the plans were controversial because they address the scientific and technical
feasibility of harvesting timber while protecting endangered spotted owls. Many
stakeholders were already divided on this issue, and tempers were running high.
The BLM asked a panel of experts in public participation and public dispute
resolution how to most effectively engage the public, particularly the most active
stakeholders. Several of the process experts noted that much of the controversy revolved
around the credibility (depending on one’s views) of the scientific and technical
information. To help build understanding and buy-in, the process experts suggested that
BLM professionals work side by side with stakeholders to gather, analyze, and interpret
the complex scientific and technical information. Hearing this idea, one BLM official
blanched, nearly fell out of his seat, and was speechless. Later, he and other BLM staff
said they did not see the value of such an approach or how citizens could contribute to
such a scientific and technical discussion.
Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science and executive publisher of Science, recently explained that
Many scientists argue that the solution to the tension between science and society is to
increase public understanding of science. But the problem is not simply a lack of
comprehension… scientists need to have a real dialogue with members of the public,
listening to their concerns, their priorities, and the questions they would like us to help
This sentiment is similar to the views of the Congress on Promoting Sustainability in the 21st Century, which concluded that it is imperative for future leaders and resource managers to
develop a working knowledge of how to integrate science and citizens in public decision-
making. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Geological Survey are working
together to document and evaluate joint fact-finding experiments, and to develop and refine the
theory of this important public process.
A Way Forward
We then offered to conduct a situation assessment, to which BLM agreed, and we
interviewed hundreds of stakeholders and citizens. Our findings suggested that people
were eager to work together to resolve different priorities for managing federal lands and
resources. We also identified concerns about mistrust and lack of communication, how to
interpret the best available science to address competing demands, and engaging
unaffiliated citizens (the silent majority) in the process. The situation assessment jump-
started public involvement and interest in the issues and demonstrated to BLM officials
1 For more information on this project, see
that the public was more informed and scientifically savvy than they thought. BLM is
using the situation assessment to design its planning and public participation processes,
including mechanisms for exchanging information and recommendations between
Unfortunately, this example is more the exception than the norm, at least in our experience.
Thanks in part to their academic training and the culture of the organizations they work for,
technical experts often act as though more and better information will lead to the best (correct)
decision. As Daniel Yankelovich (1999) boldly pointed out some years ago, many experts simply
believe that non-expert citizens have little if anything to add to such debates. This belief (and the
associated behavior) suggests that experts do not appreciate that many natural resource issues
center not on technical questions but on values. Questions such as “Which use is higher—timber
harvesting or endangered species habitat?” or “What is the appropriate balance of open space and
development?” require more than technical, data-bound answers. These are value choices, and
even the science that goes into making such decisions is influenced by the values of its own
underlying assumptions. Experts can and should help citizens name these issues, frame options,
and evaluate the consequences of alternative ways to answer these types of questions, but the
questions themselves require a vigorous debate—among the stakeholders themselves—over
Clearly, we need to better align the important role of scientific and technical experts with the
equally important role of citizens in doing democracy’s work. This requires two steps. First,
experts need to acknowledge and be more transparent about the values and assumptions that
support their work. For example, in determining where to harvest timber and where to leave
stands intact for spotted owl critical habitat, it is crucial to begin from clear, unambiguous, and
well-founded definitions of things like old growth forest and critical habitat and even harvest.
What, for example, does “old growth” mean—forest that has never been harvested? Trees of a
certain age? A forest community of certain species composition and integrity? And what values
underlie the choices made in reaching a scientifically supportable definition?
Second, citizens need opportunities to learn about issues and the relevant science or expertise
needed to address them. They need to develop their own knowledge and understanding in a way
that conforms to scientific and technical principles even where it may differ in substance. This
public knowledge informs the value choices citizens must make and complements expert
knowledge. Education and information campaigns by agencies can help in this direction, but our
experience suggests that a more two-way exchange of ideas, questions, and information is more
effective at engaging citizens and enhancing their understanding.
The Role of Joint Fact Finding in Moving Forward
One method that encompasses both steps is called joint fact finding. This is a collaborative,
deliberative process where citizens and experts work together to determine what they know
about a particular issue; what they do not know; what they need to know in order to make an
informed decision; and how they are going to learn together. The purpose of such strategies is
not to mold citizens into scientific and technical experts, nor is it for experts to compromise their
role in shaping environmental policy. In the end, we want to integrate expert and public
knowledge and information to shape decisions that are scientifically credible, politically
legitimate, and relevant to the problem at hand.
The effort to jointly name and frame issues for land use, natural resource, and environmental
policy creates a broader sense of ownership and commitment. It allows stakeholders to generate
collectively the information that will be used in shaping policy, making decisions, and resolving
disputes. This not only tends to reduce suspicions stakeholders may have regarding the
credibility of information, but also allows indigenous or local knowledge to be integrated with
expert knowledge. People live and work in particular places, and they know those places in a
variety of ways. This ingrained knowledge and understanding is often a valuable source of
information that complements the data gathered by technical experts through well established
scientific methods. In this respect, joint fact finding allows technical and non-technical people
alike to learn more about the issues in question by integrating different ways of knowing.
Joint fact finding can also lead to more creative decisions. When diverse stakeholders work
together to gather, analyze, and interpret information, they draw on one another’s expertise,
knowledge, and intuition. The exchange of ideas typically results in options that no single
individual could have generated alone. This process of learning together also makes explicit to
all participants that decisions are almost always made in an atmosphere of uncertainty. Joint fact
3 For a review of the literature, see, for example, Karl, H. A., et al. (2007). A dialogue, not a diatribe: Effective integration of science and policy through joint fact finding. Environment,49, 20-34.
finding allows people to acknowledge this uncertainty at the beginning and mitigate the impulse
to stall, and to cry, “We need more information before acting.” It allows participants to focus on
the more compelling questions of what people need to know in order to make well-informed
decisions, and, simultaneously, to create an expectation for ongoing learning and adaptive
management (Brunner, Colburn, Cromley, & Klein, 2002).
An Ad Hoc or Formalized Approach? The Situation
Currently, we are in the earliest stages of helping stakeholders and decision makers in
the Crown of the Continent region think about improving their capacity for collaborative
governance. The Crown is a 10-million acre region spanning southeast British Columbia,
southwest Alberta, and northern Montana. At the core of the region is Waterton-Glacier
International Peace Park, established by the U.S. Congress and Canadian Parliament in
1932 as the world’s first international peace park. Adjacent wildlands, mountain ranges,
and free-flowing rivers make the Crown one of the largest intact temperate ecosystems
remaining on Earth. The Crown is home to grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, cougar,
lynx, elk, moose, and a number of threatened or endangered plant and animal species.
The region also encompasses the jurisdictions of 21 federal, state, provincial, and
tribal/First Nations land management agencies. These agencies convene an annual forum
to share ideas and information, update one another on planning and management
activities, and learn about specific projects in the region. The most active agencies have
formed the Crown Managers Partnership (CMP), a self-described “voluntary partnership”
guided by a small steering committee. After seven years of informal cooperation, CMP
recently drafted a strategic plan, complete with vision and mission statements.
Another 50 to 60 non-governmental groups are active in the Crown, including
watershed councils, conservation groups, chambers of commerce, industry organizations,
tourism and recreation associations, civic groups, and cultural and historical societies.
Most of these groups include some sense of stewardship in their mission statements, and
many have voiced worries about how changes related to growth, development, and
energy extraction threaten the region’s quality of life. Most recognize that protecting the
Crown ecosystem is one way to sustain that quality of life, in environmental, social, and
economic terms. To date, these stakeholders have rarely sought each other out. Only a
few have engaged in joint projects, and then typically among only one or two other
CMP asked us to help them develop a regional communications strategy, focused
primarily on improving communications among the 21 government agencies.
Secondarily, CMP may consider outreach and other communications with the non-
governmental groups in the region. For us, that raised the question of exactly who these
other groups are, and what their interests around regional collaboration might be. We
interviewed CMP members in a mini-situation assessment, and began compiling profiles
During this reconnaissance phase, we were invited to a meeting of three neighboring
watershed councils. This was the first time these three groups had ever met, and they
wanted to learn about each other’s missions and programs. They also wanted at least to
start a conversation about the potential for collaboration. Timing, as they say, is
everything, so we used the meeting as an opportunity to announce a workshop on
networking in the Crown region that we hosted a few months later. The response from the
room was immediate and overwhelmingly positive.
Almost as immediate were the follow-up contacts from people at the meeting and
others around the region voicing concerns over moving too quickly to absorb groups into
some new umbrella regional organization, or into CMP. People were very clear that basic
networking might be useful, but no one was ready or eager to formally join forces and
risk relinquishing their organization’s individuality and sovereignty.
We assured them that the purpose of the workshop was simply to bring people
together to learn about what various groups are doing in the Crown, and to explore
whether they might benefit from being able to network. We then engaged stakeholders in
drafting a flexible agenda for the workshop and taking an inventory of all the groups in
the region who might be interested in attending. Even these tentative steps toward
reaching across lines of interest and sharing ideas raised concerns for some people about
formalizing relationships and communication channels.
A Way Forward
This experience reminds us that many people see a number of advantages to ad hoc
collaboration, even when it comes to matters of governance. Informal, ad hoc processes can be
more adaptive, more flexible in their design and goals, more fluid in membership, less costly,
and less cumbersome. Perhaps most importantly, ad hoc processes are not as likely to be seen as
obligatory. People feel freer to choose whether to participate and at what level. This makes it
easier for some groups to maintain a low profile while still representing their interests.
We are keeping our eyes open, however, and see some possible downsides to such ad hoc
processes. It may be difficult to create long-term commitment and enthusiasm for an ongoing
mission such as ecosystem sustainability without some more permanent, structured system for
collaboration. Also, it seems more difficult to identify and keep track of all the various
players—people come and go, groups form and disband, and there no overarching system for
newcomers to plug into. Finally, a few people have suggested that foundations and
philanthropists are increasingly more interested in funding large, cohesive, ongoing initiatives
rather than one-off, temporary efforts. This remains to be tested.
We find that our ongoing work with the stakeholders and decision makers in the Crown of
the Continent focuses substantially on communications needs, opportunities, and challenges.
Interests in this region hinge on stewardship, regionalism, and collaborative governance.
Communication will be the cord that brings these interests and all the players together.
The Value of Communication
One common theme that runs through the case studies, and indeed throughout all of our
work, is the need for people to communicate. The nature of collaboration is multiple individuals
and organizations working together across their differences to address problems or issues that
they could not resolve on their own. The work of collaboration is done through communication
(from the Latin, communicare, to share). And this communication must occur both internally
(i.e., among the participants in a collaborative governance process), as well as externally (i.e., to
4 For a recent review of the literature on formal systems of regional governance, Gerlak, A. K. & Heikkila, T. (2006). Comparing collaborative mechanisms in large-scale ecosystem governance. Natural Resources Journal, 46, 657-707.
In the first instance, participants must develop and employ the basic communication skills
needed for effective multi-party dialogue: listening, asking the right type of questions to clarify
interests, reframing multiple interests into packages, and carefully checking in with constituents
on a regular basis to make sure the process and outcome are going in the same direction. As a
collaborative process unfolds, the participants typically learn to communicate better with each
other. They become adept at describing their interests (rather than merely stating positions), and
often learn to frame other people’s interests in helpful ways that move the conversation forward.
Most multi-party dialogues benefit from the skills of a facilitator or mediator—a neutral third
party well versed in the principles and process of collaboration. The facilitator also models
constructive communication skills and ensures participants have a chance to be heard.
One critical communication channel that must be developed by collaborative groups is with
decision-makers and policy-makers. In other words, what is the most effective way for a
collaborative group to communicate its proposals to the appropriate decision-maker? Most often
it is most useful have the decision-maker – or at least a representative of the decision-making
body – engage in the collaborative process. When this is not possible or desirable, the
collaborative group must create a link or build a bridge to the formal decision-making system.
This requires careful thinking about the audience, the message, and the delivery mechanism (in
terms of how the message is delivered and by whom
At some point, a collaborative work group eventually finds itself interacting with the news
media. Either the group wants to tell its story or air a proposal, or the media recognizes that the
group’s work is newsworthy. Increasingly, collaborative groups hire or consult with
communication professionals to improve the strategic effectiveness of their efforts. But many
groups also reach out to the media directly. An emerging concern we are hearing in our work is
that many of the media are no longer local or regional. Our news is increasingly provided by
large, distant corporations with little understanding of local interests and culture, in turn fed by
even more distant news services, with an eye on the bottom line and the shareholders’ dividend
apparently more than compelling local or regional stories and investigative journalism.
This trend makes it all the more imperative that people working to address natural resource
issues learn to work with a variety of media to engage audiences and move them to act. A
5 For more on this topic, see Susskind, L. E. & Cruikshank, J. L. (2006). Breaking Robert’s Rules: The new way to run your meeting, build consensus, and get results. Oxford University Press.
collaborative regional group in central Florida, for example, hosts a communication committee
comprised of print, radio, and television media professionals from four counties to help guide the
organization’s communications campaign. They meet quarterly, finding the simple act of
meeting like this helps build bridges across interests and jurisdictional boundaries. Other groups
focus on local and regional media outlets—the so-called “alternative” or independent media.
And others emphasize direct citizen involvement—encouraging citizens to become the media
through editorials, weblogs, and listservs. Blogs are particularly popular in some arenas, and
contrary to the conventional wisdom that blogs compete with mainstream media, they often
provide a welcome conduit between activists and journalists, with each relying on the other for
Future Directions in Research, Education, and Practice
Collaborative governance, particularly as it applies to land use, natural resources, and
environmental issues, is an emerging field with many experiments underway. While many
observers are excited that these experiments are creating new ways to make democracy work as
it should, there is still much to learn and do.
Several learning networks—such as the Alliance for Regional Stewardship, the Policy
Consensus Initiative, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, the National Coalition for
Dialogue and Deliberation, the International Association for Public Participation, and the
Kettering Foundation, among others—support the development and testing of effective
approaches to collaborative governance in general. One future direction along these lines might
be to create a network specifically designed to share, synthesize, analyze, and transfer lessons on
the use of collaborative governance in land use, natural resources, and environmental policy.
Perhaps the Congressionally chartered U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution
might be a logical catalyst and coordinator for such a network.
In addition to sharing lessons learned from practice, there is an ongoing need for research to
better understand when collaborative governance is or is not appropriate, how it can or should be
applied at different scales (e.g., local, regional, national, and international), and which methods
are most effective for a particular set of objectives. There is also an interest among some scholars
and participants to evaluate the merits of collaborative governance relative to other approaches to
shaping and implementing land use, natural resource, and environmental policy.
Another important direction for future research and experimentation revolves around the
question of how and when to institutionalize collaborative governance – to move from informal
to more formal systems. During the past 35 years, the methods of collaborative governance have
been applied largely on a case-by-case basis. If we accept the premise (or conclusion) that these
methods make democracy work as it should, a logical question is how to integrate these
approaches into the standard operating procedures of making and implementing public policy—
while sustaining if not enhancing the qualities that define this particular approach to democracy.
In The Western Confluence (McKinney & Harmon, 2004), we trace the evolution of such
attempts in land use, natural resource, and environmental policy. Daniel Kemmis (2001) and
others have repeatedly called for pilot projects, particularly on federal lands, to further these
Last, but certainly not least, we need to prepare future leaders in the art and science of
collaborative governance. As a sampler, we mention here several resources and programs that
are aimed specifically at this goal. The Collaborative Democracy Network—coordinated by the
Center for Collaborative Policy at California State University-Sacramento—provides a valuable
menu of information on books, articles, and academic courses focused on collaborative
governance. The newly emerging Collaborative Governance Initiative coordinated by The
Maxwell School of Syracuse University is designed to gather, house, and distribute syllabi,
cases, simulations, videos, and other teaching materials related to collaborative governance.
Finally, the University Network on Collaborative Governance provides a forum for policy
centers in colleges and universities that promote and support collaborative governance to
7 For a recent article that reviews the literature on this topic, presents a simple framework to evaluate the effectiveness of collaborative governance, and provides some empirical evidence on the value of collaboration, see McKinney, M. & Field, P. (2008). Evaluating community-based collaboration on federal lands and resources. Society and Natural Resources, 21, 419-429. 8 See also McKinney, M. Van de Wetering, S., & Field, P. (2007). Responding to chronic land use disputes: Practical strategies for planners, decision makers, and stakeholders. Policy Report # 5, Public Policy Research Institute, The University of Montana. For a review of attempts to institutionalize “alternative dispute resolution” in federal government, see Nabatchi, T. (2007). The institutionalization of alternative dispute resolution in the federal government. Public Administration Review, 67(4), 646-661.
exchange ideas, learn from each other, and to explore possibilities of working on joint projects.
We have used these and other resources to create what we believe is the first and only
graduate-level certificate program in Natural Resources Conflict Resolution in North America.
As we complete our third year directing the program, we have attracted more than 30 students
from geography, forestry, conservation, economic, environmental studies, public administration,
law, and public health. It requires students to take a series of core courses in dialogue,
deliberation, multi-party negotiation, and conflict resolution. Our aim is to foster a new
generation of natural resource managers, experts, and decision makers who understand the
principles and tools of collaborative governance and can apply them in their careers. Graduates
have gone on to assume leadership positions in conservation organizations, consulting firms,
government agencies, and universities, and are working with Congress, state legislatures,
community groups, and a myriad of other individuals and organizations.
This two-part article offers five diverse contributions that we believe are valuable for
building the knowledge and practice of collaborative governance. First, it articulates a
comprehensive set of principles that not only capture lessons learned through research and
practice, but also resonate with people as “common sense.” Whether or not the principles offer
any new insight on our collective knowledge about collaborative governance, we hope they
improve the practice of collaborative governance by providing some easy-to-understand
guidelines of what to do, and what not to do, and why.
Second, both parts of this article have emphasized the need for “homegrown” public
processes. The success of collaborative governance depends on the willingness and ability of
citizens, experts, and decision-makers to adapt the principles to particular places and issues.
Designing each process from the ground-up allows interested individuals and organizations to
determine jointly who should participate, how to define the issues and frame options, and
whether an informal or more formal approach is necessary.
Third, we have emphasized the need to realign the role of scientific and technical experts to
facilitate effective collaborative governance. Experts need to continue in the invaluable role of
9 For more information: Collaborative Democracy Network, ; Collaborative Governance Initiative, iversity Network on Collaborative Governance, .
scientific learning – helping citizens and decision-makers frame questions based on the best
available information, evaluating the consequences of alternative public policy choices, and
monitoring and evaluating social, economic, and environmental systems to determine if the
chosen policies are having the intended effect. But experts also need to do a better job facilitating
public learning – helping citizens and decision-makers develop a common understanding of
Finally, in addition to addressing several angles of communications issues that play key roles
in collaborative public work, we sketched future directions in research, education, and practice,
accompanied by resources for more information.
We recognize that institutionalizing collaborative governance is not only about how, when,
and where to integrate the principles and methods of collaborative governance into the very
fabric of how our government works. In recent conversations with Daniel Kemmis, we have
come to appreciate that collaborative governance offers the possibility of a different type of
democracy. It is different from representative democracy and direct democracy. Elements
discussed throughout this two-part series may be helpful for others to develop pragmatic ideas
about how these disparate models relate to one another, beyond our scope here to address.
Making democracy work as it should is not only about imparting the necessary skills, but
also instilling a worldview consistent with the principles and practice of collaborative
governance. We hope our contribution joins other early efforts to build a framework to further
articulate definitions, principles, and practice of collaborative governance, along with processes
to understand and apply such a framework. The challenge is to grow this field, in both concept
and practice, so that the skills we bring to public participation are adequate to realize this new
Brunner, R. Colburn, C., Cromley, C., & Klein, R. (2002). Finding common ground: Governance and natural resources in the American west. Princeton, NJ: Yale University Press.
Leshner, A. (2006). Science and public engagement. Chronicle of Higher Education53, B20. Kemmis, D. (2001). This sovereign land: A new vision for governing the west. Chicago: Island
McKinney, M. & Harmon, W. (2004). The western confluence: A guide to governing natural resources. Chicago: Island Press.
Yankelovich, D. (1999). The magic of dialogue: Transforming conflict into cooperation. New
____________________________________________________________________________ Az Internet az egészségügyben Készült a Technológiai Előretekintési Program (TEP) Élettudományokkal és Egészségüggyel folalkozó munkacsoportjának felkérésére Készítette:Dr. Kovács Gábor címzetes egyetemi tanár az MTA doktora Budapest, 1998. November _______________________
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