Collaborative Public Management and Democracy: Evidence from Western Watershed Partnerships

Public Administration Review, Volume 66, No. s1, 100-110, December 2006

William D. Leach, Research Director, Center for Collaborative Policy, 
California State University, Sacramento, 815 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

Abstract.  This article provides a framework for assessing the democratic merits of collaborative public management in terms of seven normative ideals: inclusiveness, representativeness, impartiality, transparency, deliberativeness, lawfulness, and empowerment. The framework is used to analyze a random sample of 76 watershed partnerships in California and Washington State. The study reveals the exclusionary nature of some partnerships and suggests that critical stakeholders are missing from many partnerships. However, representation was generally balanced. National and statewide advocacy groups were absent from most of these place-based partnerships; public agencies were the primary source of nonlocal perspectives. Deliberativeness was relatively strong, indicated by the prevalence of educational and fact-finding strategies and participants’ perceptions of respectful discussion and improved social capital. Half the partnerships had implemented new policies, and two-thirds of stakeholders believed their partnership had improved watershed conditions, indicating empowerment.

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