Changes in the Field
The emerging term that encompasses this new, broader model of public policy collaboration is “collaborative governance.” A recent report by the Hewlett Foundation identifies three general types of collaborative governance activities:
- Forums for Public Deliberation—These forums can be used to educate the public, build stronger relationships, and promote cooperation and conflict resolution as well as provide advice for policy and action by public officials.
- Community Problem-Solving—These activities involve collaborations among community, government, and private groups who work to address problems together over an extended period of time.
- Multi-Stakeholder Dispute Resolution—This is “classic” conflict resolution, which typically brings together stakeholder groups representing different interests and points of view, such as environmentalists, businesspeople, and government officials, to negotiate in an attempt to settle their dispute.
One lesson we have learned is that in the world of politics, public leaders rather than professional mediators often need to play the essential convening role, bringing people to the table to engage in problem solving. When the dialogue proposes new policy, public leaders are best positioned to make the crucial link between these informal processes and official policymaking forums.
We hasten to add that there is still an important role for professional facilitators and mediators to play—particularly in providing assistance to conveners by conducting and managing the process and helping maintain the neutrality of the forum.
If collaborative governance calls for public leaders to play new roles, it also summons the participation of institutions that can serve as credible neutral forums where these processes can occur. In this and coming issues of E-News we will feature stories about public leaders, like Denver Mayor Hickenlooper, who are demonstrating this new approach and institutions that are assisting them.
Chris Carlson & Greg Wolf