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Collaborative Policy

What is collaborative policy making?

Collaborative policy making is a process whereby one or more public agencies craft a solution to a policy issue using consensus-driven dialogue with diverse parties who will be affected by the solution or who can help to implement it. For detail on reaching consensus see: Reaching Consensus on Consensus.

Why use collaborative methods?

Decisions that are reached collaboratively can result in high-quality outcomes that are easier to implement, receive fewer legal challenges, make better use of available resources, and better serve the public. Simply, better policy can be made when decision-makers have more data and a deeper understanding of the interests of all those involved.

In addition, research has shown that collaborative processes often create a long term “network dynamic” of shared learning, improved working relationships, and better joint problem solving ability in the future.

What does collaborative policy making look like?

As practiced by the Center, collaborative policy making typically involves five stages: Assessment, Organization, Education, Negotiation, and Implementation. For detail, see the Five Stages diagram.

What conditions are needed to sustain a collaborative process?

The following conditions help to sustain collaborative processes:

  • Clear Role and Purpose
  • Transparency of Decision-Making
  • Interest-Based Decision-Making
  • Every Effort to Bring Affected Stakeholders into the Process
  • Stakeholders Represent Organized Constituencies
  • Upfront Exploration of Interests
  • Common Understanding of Problems and Joint Fact Finding
  • Policy and Technical Expertise
  • Respectful and Authentic Process
  • Transparency of Products
  • Resources

For more detail, see Conditions Needed to Sustain a Collaborative Process.

What do I give up by being a part of a collaborative process?

Nothing. All parties to a collaborative policy making process - agencies, public, private interests - retain all of their legal rights, responsibilities, and authorities. For the investment of time, all participants stand to gain insights, options, improved relationships, and opportunities.

When should a collaborative process be considered for public policy?

Collaboration is not appropriate for all decisions. It is not necessary or recommended to use a formal collaborative process for routine, simple, or urgent decisions. Collaborative processes are often effective when applied to complex policy questions that affect multiple, interdependent interests, where all the diverse parties affected have compelling reasons to engage with one another in a search for a joint policy or program outcome, and where sufficient time and resources are available to support the process. These conditions are identified for any specific situation by carrying out an Assessment. For more information, see Conditions Favorable to Initiating a Formal Collaborative Process.