Certificate program in collaborative governance to begin this summer
Sacramento State will launch a new graduate certificate program in collaborative governance this summer aimed at teaching students of policymaking how to build consensus among often competing interests to resolve complex public policy issues.
The certificate program, believed to be one of the few of its type in the country, builds on the master’s degree program of the Department of Public Policy and Administration. It will offer students advanced skills in collaborative methods for dealing with public policy issues that have no clear solutions and that can involve multiple government agencies, nonprofit organizations, the private sector and the public.
“Public policy issues today such as economic redevelopment require the input and agreement from many different parties, so policymakers need to know how to get people and agencies to collaborate to solve problems,” said Ted Lascher, chair of the Department of Public Policy and Administration and one of the architects of the program. “You need to have certain skills for successful collaborative governance and many people want to learn how it is done.”
Collaborative governance, often referred to as deliberative and participatory governance, calls for active participation of advocacy groups, businesses, non-governmental organizations and citizens in government decision-making. Experts in public policy are calling the emerging field of collaborative governance an important new development for the health of democracy.
The certificate program, developed in association with Sacramento State’s Center for Collaborative Policy, grew out of a grant from the Hewlett Foundation for the development of collaborative governance courses in the department.
After input from students and planning by faculty, two graduate courses were created. One class covers an introduction to collaborative policy-making and includes discussion of interpretative policy analysis, public participation and resolution of policy controversies. The second class focuses on the practice of collaborative policymaking and covers topics such as multi-party consensus building.
Beginning this summer the department will offer a third course, which will cover advanced practice in collaborative policy. The students, most of whom will be mid-career professionals, will learn about conflict analysis and assessment, collaborative policy- making methods and techniques, and even working with the media. The course will be presented in an intensive format with monthly Friday and Saturday class meetings.
Lascher said that most of the students taking the courses initially will come out of the department’s graduate program. Alums who already have a master’s degree in public policy can take the courses and earn the certificate to add to their skills as policymakers. Graduate students from other departments can enter the program by completing prerequisite courses. Those from outside the University can earn the certificate by taking the classes through the Open University, provided they also have academic training similar to that provided by Sacramento State’s Master of Public Policy and Administration degree program.
David Booher, a top policy expert at Sacramento State’s Center for Collaborative Policy, said that students of public policy have been eager to learn about the difficult task of getting different parties to cooperate for the good of an entire community. “Public policy issues today are diverse and filled with fragmentation, complexity and uncertainty. Our students want to know how they can put these theories and practices to work right now,” said Booher, who helped develop curriculum for the certificate program. “These skills have application in dealing with environmental issues, transportation issues, health issues and in other areas. We want to bring all these folks together at the same table and go forward.”
Booher, who provides strategic consulting to the center on research, education and policy issues, said that many government agencies today hope to have at least one person in-house who has skills in collaborative governance.
An example of collaborative governance process, Booher said, was the center’s work with the Lower American River Task Force. Sponsored by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency and the Water Forum, the task force developed the consensus-based River Corridor Management Plan for the lower American River that was formally endorsed by 40 federal, state and local agencies and partnerships, environmental groups, commercial fishing groups, recreation groups and community groups.
Lascher said the certificate program reflects the new dimension of public policymaking. “For many issues today, no one group is entirely in charge,” he said. “But you can forge a new form of governance among varied groups as they begin to collaborate. It can be a very powerful tool in public policy-making.”
Booher said that as the program develops it is expected to attract students of public policy who want to learn about collaborative governance because of Sacramento State’s location in the state’s capital and the University’s reputation in the field of public policy. “The certificate program serves as a sort of validation that these students will have the necessary training and will be able to meet the challenges of leadership in policymaking,” Booher said.