celebrate our 10th anniversary with us
At the historic Julia Morgan House and Gardens
3731 T Street, Sacramento
April 30, 2003
more information, click here
The Collaborative Edge
A quarterly newsletter of the Center for Collaborative Policy
To subscribe or unsubscribe
In the April news section, read about upcoming conferences, training, and funding opportunities across the USA as well as locally in the Sacramento / Bay Area. You’ll also find a brief update about goings on at the Center, including our 10th anniversary celebration, an April 25 seminar by visiting scholar Professor Lia Vasconcelos whose research is profiled in this month’s Success Story, staff transitions and accomplishments, and a new publication on deliberative policy analysis. Link to the Edge news by clicking here.
Collaboration helps to broaden and deepen democratic participation in public policy decision making, forges invaluable relationships within communities, helps parties in opposition to meet their vital interests and create wise policy together…all this and more! Yet, collaborative processes are not immune from criticism. Some would say that collaboration is really a smokescreen for co-opting the public. Read and react to some of the major criticisms of collaborative processes by clicking here.
Funders and participants in collaborative processes tend to look for real world, on the ground successes, such as breaking deadlocks, ending lawsuits, improving policy, and getting things built (or unbuilt) with community consensus. Yet, a growing chorus of voices urges us to enrich our analysis of success vs. failure to take into account the complexity of the highly-networked system of relationships in which we live. To wit, they argue that success can also be measured in terms of changes in people, institutions, and systems: the creation of social, intellectual, political, and institutional capital that leads to better policy making and problem solving long past the completion of the discrete collaborative endeavor. Professor Lia Vasconcelos of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Idalina Baptista, MLA, applied this thinking in a look at participatory local planning for sustainability in Portugal. Read about their findings by clicking here.
Discuss the status of collaborative policy making in Europe with Professor Vasconcelos at a seminar in Sacramento April 25. Get more information on the seminar by clicking here.
How many county supervisors can you put in a room before you have to invite the press? This is no joke. Love them or hate them, open meeting laws are an omnipresent consideration for anyone involved in public business. In the first installment of a two-part Edge series, we present a mediator’s summary of key provisions of California state, local, and federal open meetings laws. Get your handy reference table here.
Calling all critical thinkers…the Edge seeks your thoughts and feedback to improve this publication and contribute to the public conversation on policy collaboration. Link to the letters section by clicking here.
If you have a news item related to public
policy collaboration that you’d like to see published
in the Edge, please email
Upcoming Courses, Events, Funding Opportunities
POSTPONED! Working session on tools for community design and decision-making. PlaceMatters’ Tools for Community Design and Decision Making, Working Session V: Information Technology in Action, originally scheduled for April 24-26th in San Francisco has been postponed until December.
Visit http://www.regionalstewardshipmatters.net/TCDDM for more information.
Association for Conflict Resolution Environmental and Public Policy Conference (April, Washington, D.C.) The conference, “Moving Beyond Our Comfort Zone: Exploring the Edges of Our Field” has been designed to include a greater focus on urban and diversity issues in environmental and public policy conflict resolution. It will be held April 24-26 in Washington, D.C.
Visit http://www.acresolution.org/research.nsf/key/EPPconf for the conference program and registration information.
Engaging the Global City: Changing Civic Culture,
Building Civic Capacity (April, Los Angeles)
Location: Los Angeles, University of Southern California (USC)
Date: Saturday, April 26, 2003
Effective democracy relies on citizens to actively engage in the governance process by educating themselves about issues, voicing concerns, and holding government accountable for its actions. This conference, presented by the USC Neighborhood Participation Project and the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, will use the current neighborhood council reforms in Los Angeles as a starting point for considering the challenges to participation in a global city. Community leaders, government officials, and academic experts will address core issues. Workshops include: Improving Communications, Innovations for Community Participation, Changing Administrative Culture, and Incorporating Diversity.
For more information or registration: www.usc.edu/schools/sppd/events/npp/conference.html
for events taking place in MAY, JUNE, JULY 2003
Gala celebration! On
the evening of Wednesday, April 30 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM, we
will be hosting a get together to mark the Center’s
10th anniversary and new name and mission at the historic
Julia Morgan House and Gardens at 3731 T Street in Sacramento.
We invite our colleagues, stakeholders, and clients to join
us. If you have not yet received an invitation and wish to
celebrate with us, please RSVP to Carla Blanton at 916.341-3321
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the Julia Morgan House, visit http://www.foundation.csus.edu/juliamorganhouse/
Seminar on the status of collaborative policy making in Europe. On Friday April 25th, the Center will be hosting a seminar in Sacramento conducted by Professor Lia Vasconcelos, a visiting scholar from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal. Professor Vasconcelos will be speaking on the topic of collaborative policy making in Europe. Her research on public participation in the development of community action plans for sustainability under Local Agenda 21 in Portugal is featured in the Success Story article in this edition of the Edge.
This seminar, free and open to the public, will take place on the California State University, Sacramento campus from 1:30 to 3:30 PM in Eureka Hall, room 112. Directions to campus are available at http://www.csus.edu/pa/directions.html and a campus map can be found at http://www.csus.edu/scripts/asp/map/map.aspf Please reference http://www.csus.edu/utaps/map.pdf for a map of visitor parking. Free parking passes will be available at Visitor Information Booths #1 (as you enter on Carlson Drive from J Street) and Visitor Information Booth # 2 (on State University Drive South). This seminar is being cosponsored by the Sacramento State Department of Public Policy and Administration.
New faces, transitions. If you stop by or
call the Center, you may notice a few new faces or remark
upon a few that are missing:
• We would like to congratulate Ken McGhee on his new position as Environmental Justice Coordinator for the California Bay-Delta Authority. While Ken still works for the Center, he is on assignment to the Authority and can now be found at the new Authority offices at 650 Capitol Mall, 5th floor. We are excited for Ken and this opportunity for him to apply his talents to environmental justice work in this important statewide collaborative venue.
• The Center is pleased to welcome two new additions to our administrative team, Carla Blanton and Geraldine Nicholson. Carla and Geraldine join Carol DeWing as the first faces and voices you will encounter when you call or come to the Center, and we welcome the strengths and liveliness they bring to our team.
• No longer at the front desk but still with us are Teresa Pal and Jodie Monaghan, each of whom has been promoted to a new position within the Center. Congratulations to Teresa on her new assignment as Administrative Analyst / Specialist and to Jodie who is assuming programmatic duties for the Center’s Hewlett Project as well as assisting with other mediation and facilitation projects.
Staff accomplishments. The Center is pleased to announce that three of our own have been recently recognized for their achievements:
• This month, Senior Policy Advisor David Booher was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners in recognition of his lifetime career service to the community and to the advancement of collaborative planning.
• Senior Mediator Eugenia Laychak is participating in the Water Education Foundation’s Water Leader Program as a mentor to one of the class members, Jennifer Harder, attorney with Downey, Brand, Seymour and Rohwer, LLP in Sacramento.
• On February 27, Lead Mediator Sharon Huntsman received the Sacramento
League of Women Voter's Anne Rudin Scholarship to pursue her
M.S. in Community Development at University of California,
New publication. Cambridge University Press will be publishing a new title of interest this May, Deliberative Policy Analysis: Understanding Governance in the Network Society edited by Maarten A. Hajer and Hendrik Wagenaar.
“These striking essays rethink both the practice and the foundations of policy analysis in the face of conflict and complex networks, risk and uncertainty. For all those concerned with making governance work in the coming years, this collection makes a provocative and practical contribution. Policy analysts at last will say, ‘Yes, that’s what I have to do!’” John Forester, Cornell University.
Visit http://books.cambridge.org/0521530709.htm for additional information and reviews. Center Senior Advisor David Booher and co-author Professor Judith Innes, University of California, Berkeley, contributed the lead chapter entitled “Collaborative Policy Making: Governance through Dialogue” to this book. Professor Innes collaborates with the Center’s research program.
Challenging Issue: Collaboration vs. Cooptation
As with any helping profession (indeed, almost any type of profession), there is a historic and ongoing public debate about the utility and ethics of doing the work of collaboration. In 1996, for example, Michael McCloskey, then Chairman of the Sierra Club, wrote an opinion piece, entitled “Collaboration has its limits,” in which he argued that locally-based consensus processes might simply skirt national rule-making and management decisions by federal agencies in favor of exclusive consensus groups that might make things easier for industry. (The article is available online at http://www.hcn.org/servlets/hcn.Article?article_id=1839) Daniel Luecke, a Colorado attorney with Environmental Defense, argued in 1999 that collaboration in the context of large ecosystem restoration processes had serious flaws. (See conference proceedings: Strategies in Western Water Law and Policy: Courts, Coercion and Collaboration, June 8-11, 1999, Natural Resources Law Center, University of Colorado School of Law).
Recent opinion pieces written by Sacramento-area individuals and groups sparked those of us here at the Center for Collaborative Policy to embark upon a thoughtful re-examination of the potential for intentional or unintentional cooptation of collaborative processes (or the appearance of cooptation). The recent opinion pieces we have seen challenge the legitimacy of collaborative processes on a variety of grounds, variations on the theme that collaborative processes exclude, improperly elevate, or work against the interests of certain parties. [E.g. see “Stakeholders: Special Interests in Sheep’s Clothing?” Mike Durant, Sacramento Bee. http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/forum/story/5812796p-6780977c.html and “Collaborative Consensus Building. Citizens Be On Your Guard.” Family Water Alliance. http://www.familywateralliance.com/consensus_building.htm].
In January the Center convened its practitioner network to discuss the concerns we have heard raised by members of the public from across the political spectrum about potential cooptation of collaborative processes, and to think about the ramifications for our practice. We discussed a number of specific cooptation-related issues that we find to have credibility among some constituencies:
•Participants in collaborative processes might feel
pressured to support or agree to decisions that favor the
view of the majority, or the most “powerful” interests.
•Collaboratives can tend to draw upon moderate participants who are predisposed to work together, excluding or marginalizing “trouble-makers.”
•Collaboration could be a way to legitimize selective representation of the public by powerful interest groups; it might not provide much recourse for the unorganized public.
•Collaboration could be used as a smokescreen for pushing the implementation of a pre-determined project or policy.
•Participating in collaboratives might dissipate the resources and dilute the voice of interest groups that potentially could make a bigger impact by pursuing other strategies.
•Collaboration could take public policy decisions away from public officials and dilute their accountability to their constituencies.
Recognizing that collaboration, like any tool, can be used or abused, some of these complaints against collaboration may be due simply to bad process; the public is reacting to problems with collaboration done poorly or cynically. Other criticisms strike more deeply at the heart of what collaboration is all about. Perhaps every practitioner in this field has wrestled with one or another of these questions in very personal way, for example trying to work with the client who indeed does have a predetermined agenda, trying to enable the participation of the stakeholder everyone loves to hate while not alienating others, or struggling with the impacts when a “deal-breaker” stakeholder wants to leave the table and fight.
These issues require a thoughtful response from those of us who use and promote the tools of collaboration. One such published response is Collaboration: A Guide for Environmental Advocates by Frank Dukes and Karen Firehock, available for download from the Institute for Environmental Negotiation’s website at http://www.virginia.edu/ien/ien_projects_past_feat.htm. This guide, developed in consultation with stakeholders who have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of collaborative processes, provides information and advice for potential participants in environmental collaboratives regarding whether and how to effectively engage in this type of process. It also includes an overview of collaboration best practices against which specific processes can be measured. Another significant publication, based on research into community collaborative watershed initiatives in major river basins of the West, is Douglas Kenney’s Arguing About Consensus, published by the Natural Resources Law Center of the University of Colorado School of Law and available for download at: http://www.colorado.edu/Law/NRLC/Publications/RR23.pdf. This essay examines many possible definitions of success and offers guidelines on how to evaluate collaborative processes.
Practitioners here at the Center for Collaborative Policy will be writing responses to some of the specific issues raised above, for publication in future editions of the Edge. We also hope with this introductory article to open a broader dialog. In the spirit of contributing to a learning community, the Edge invites our mediator and facilitator colleagues to write a letter to the editor or short article describing your thoughts about issues of cooptation, or telling the story of how you have handled such issues in the past to fulfill the promise of collaboration. We also invite our colleagues who have experience with collaboratives in a non-mediator role (convener, staff, participant, observer) to write a letter or article to discuss your experience and thoughts. Can collaboration really be cooptation? What can we do, as mediators and as participants, to prevent or manage such potential distortions of collaborative intentions?
In 1992, delegates at the UN Conference on Environment and Development—popularly known as the Rio Earth Summit— adopted Agenda 21, a global action plan for sustainable development. Reinforced by subsequent conferences (three European meetings on sustainable towns in Aalborg, 1994; Lisbon, 1996; and Hanover, 2000; as well as the Rio +10 Summit in 2002), Agenda 21 advocated pushing sustainable development planning down to the local level and called for communities to develop their own Local Agenda 21 (LA21) plans in response to local priorities.
Since then, thousands of cities, towns, and counties in over 100 countries across the globe have been working with community stakeholders to develop local community actions plans for sustainability, implement sustainable development activities, and measure their progress in meeting community social, economic, and environmental needs. (For more information on the challenges and successes experienced by the LA21 efforts worldwide, see background paper prepared by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives regarding their 2002 international survey of LA21 efforts: http://www.iclei.org/rioplusten/final_document.pdf)
One of the hallmarks of a Local Agenda 21 process is that it is structured to include bottom-up, participatory and interactive engagement of diverse citizens. Not relying solely on traditional public hearings, LA21 planning includes methods such as consensus-building, visioning, and interactive public workshops. In Portugal, over two-dozen local governments have actively engaged their communities in a Local Agenda 21 process. There is no legal mandate in Portugal for LA21 planning; those communities who have initiated an LA21 process have done so in response to their own priorities and constituencies. As in the United States, participatory citizen involvement in planning is on the rise in Portugal though still far from the norm. Thus, local Portuguese governments have had to adapt and innovate processes for citizen engagement as an integral part of their LA21 efforts.
The Research Project
Professor Lia Vasconcelos and Idalina Baptista, MLA, have been analyzing interviews (conducted by Dr. Teresa Henriques while completing her Master’s thesis at the Universidad de Nova Lisboa) of individuals who participated in Portuguese LA21 workshops. Selecting two municipalities in Portugal with relatively greater use of interactive workshops as compared to other cities, Henriques conducted semi-structured interviews of ten participants in LA21 interactive workshops per municipality. For each municipality, two interviewees were selected for each of the following interests: politicians, technical experts, business interests, NGOs, and residents. While the format of the workshops in which the interviewees participated varied from place to place, workshops in the study sample followed the same basic pattern: they usually began with a presentation of workshop purpose and expectations, entered into small group facilitated discussion and brainstorming, and ended with the large group reconvening for presentation of results and open discussion.
Rather than focusing on traditional outcomes which may take
many years to come to fruition—e.g. plans completed
or actions implemented—Vasconcelos and Baptista’s
evaluation research has an eye toward identifying some of
the more immediate successes in terms of “more subtle
influences and intangible indirect results at the level of
the participant’s attitudes and behavior.” Through
qualitative analysis of the interviews, they searched for
evidence of “changes operated in the participants…as
a consequence of their active participation in these processes…how
these methodologies affected the way the participants see
the world, their ideas, their ways to act….the way they
relate…” The researchers looked for evidence of
the creation of social, intellectual, political, and institutional
capital, which they defined as follows:
• “Social capital relates to the form of trust, norms of behavior and networks of communication which are the basis of an environment where serious discussion is possible.
• Intellectual capital relates to the form of commonly shared and accepted information which creates a framework for the discussions among stakeholders to move towards agreement.
• Political capital creates the possibility of turning agreements into meaningful action.
• Institutional capital [is] ‘systematic institutional design’, i.e. the introduction of new rules and roles.”
For more detail and citations / literature review supporting this research, request from the Center a hard copy of Vasconcelos and Baptista’s paper entitled “Evaluating Participation at Local Level: Results from Implementing Sustainability,” presented at the 2002 Annual Conference of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning.
Initial findings from the research include the following
changes in participants. Supporting quotations below are direct
statements of workshop participants as captured during interviews
and reported in Vasconcelos and Baptista’s paper entitled
“Evaluating Participation at Local Level: Results from
• Increased motivation to participate. “[The workshop methodology] surprised people, they became enthusiastic; at the beginning people were hesitating to intervene, but after a while all (people) wanted to participate more and more; each person felt important because they were allowed to give their opinion.” (politician)
• Increased value placed upon citizen participation. “It [citizen participation] is indispensable in the area of environmental management; it results from the assumption that it is necessary to share responsibilities.” (technician)
•Improved ability to value and integrate different kinds of knowledge. “…We were able to attain equilibrium between technical language and lay language, which broke down the barriers and allowed from free communication…the intelligence and creativity of each participant was taken into account…” (NGO representative)
• Creation of social and information networks. “This process was important because it has a radiation effect; the group of people present represent part of the city; these people agreed on a certain matter and that will be radiated to the outside of the workshop to their network of contacts; information is radiated and it might bring new consensus.” (business representative)
•Emergence of shared vision. “…[T]he methodology used in the working sessions leads all participants attending to think about the problem and try to find the solution. A joint vision emerged, a consensual vision about the theme being considered.” (resident)
•Personal change. “[T]he enthusiasm on the discussion changes our mental structure; there are new ways, different from the traditional ones, to think about the issues at stake; that’s why I was so motivated.” (technical expert)
• Expectations of institutional change. “All this experience did not signify a cut, a revolution, but the expectations for a change are no doubt positive.” (technician); “It would be great if the Municipality would put this workshop methodology to work in other areas of its responsibility (not just the environment), involving citizens in the decision-making process.” (politician)
Opportunity to meet with the researcher
To hear directly from Professor Lia Vasconcelos and discuss
her research and findings, please join us for a seminar April
25 at California State University, Sacramento. This seminar,
entitled “Status of Collaborative Policy Making in Europe”
is free and open to the public. Link here for time, place, and driving directions. Contact the Center
at 916.445.2079 for more information.
Toolkit: Open Meeting Laws
For consensus-building, open meeting laws can be a blessing or a hindrance (or both at the same time). Open meeting laws are designed specifically to ensure that the public is aware of upcoming policy decisions, has some opportunity to provide input, and is privy to the workings of governance—all goals that are completely in alignment with the values of participatory, collaborative decision-making. On the other hand, some argue that the way groups comply with open meeting laws can actually scuttle decision-making or encourage the creation of more private venues when parties are uncomfortable discussing issues in the public eye.
This article is the first of a two-part Edge series on open meeting laws. In this April edition, we are pleased to present a summary of major provisions of open meeting laws applicable to the United States as a whole and to California, compiled by Center Senior Mediator Eugenia Laychak. Please note that the reference table linked below is by no means exhaustive, nor can it substitute for appropriate legal advice on the application of law to specific processes. The purpose of the chart is to provide an overview of open meeting requirements generally applicable to public groups formed by federal, state and local governmental entities. The reader is urged to seek specific guidance from legal counsel.
In a subsequent edition of the Edge, the second part of our series will report on the research the Center is undertaking on the tricky issues surrounding the practical application of open meeting laws and their impact upon collaborative consensus-building in California.
Click a link:
We deeply appreciate the letters we have received complimenting our publication and / or requesting subscription to the Edge. We encourage you, our readers, to send responses to our articles, opinion letters on relevant topics, suggestions for subsequent editions of the Edge, and the like for publication in this section.
The Collaborative Edge is one of a package of efforts undertaken by the Center for Collaborative Policy with the generous support of
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
for the purpose of building the capacity of the state of California
to use collaborative methods in service of
improved public policy outcomes.
Information Sharing Policy
We welcome and encourage you to freely pass along the articles you find here. Please ensure that all such transmissions are appropriately credited to the article author if given, and the Collaborative Edge, a publication of the Center for Collaborative Policy.