Working to understand and improve collaborative governance effectiveness, outcomes, and impacts in order to create more equitable and sustainable systems to manage natural resources.

Issue

Over the past three decades, the concept of collaborative governance has been increasingly touted as a process and mechanism that allows greater democratic management of natural resources and more effective environmental outcomes. At its core, the concept recognizes that multiple institutions and stakeholders (public, private, and nongovernmental) have a role in managing natural resources, and all stakeholders’ perspectives are to be incorporated into management decision-making. In opposition to traditional, top-down, regulatory, or adversarial approaches, collaborative governance is seen as more effective and efficient when the issues transcend socio-political boundaries, involve multiple private actors, occur within complex socio-ecological systems, and/or require adaptability or flexibility to local context. Collaborative approaches are justified in terms of morality (incorporating stakeholders is the right thing to do), process (it is a more efficient use of resources), and outcomes (final decisions are likely to be more effectively implemented).

Collaborative governance approaches have substantial promise to lead to more equitable and sustainable management of natural resources. However, to understand the effectiveness, outcomes, and impact of collaborative approaches, there are a number of dimensions that require further research. These themes include, for example:

  • The effects of scale, system characteristics (resilience, capacity, feedbacks), socio-political institutional boundaries, and ecological complexity on management of environmental issues, processes, and outcomes;
  • Effectiveness and outcomes of stakeholder engagement and shared discovery processes;
  • Extent to which stakeholder engagement incorporates equity, justice, and deliberative democracy;
  • Organizational, legal, administrative, and ecological conditions that facilitate or constrain collaborative approaches;
  • Integration of multiple types of knowledges (e.g., scientific, technical, local, administrative) into stakeholder engagement and policy-making, known as co-production;
  • Participatory research approaches that integrate biophysical and social sciences for effective assessment and analysis of environmental conditions (e.g., collaborative modeling, citizen science);
  • Identification of relevant, achievable, and measurable outcomes and measures; design and assessment of performance-based policies and accountability systems.

Extension and outreach opportunities in this area could involve education and training programs that enhance skills for participating in and leading collaborative approaches.

Convener

Kathryn J. BrasierPh.D.
Professor of Rural Sociology
Director of Graduate Studies

Associated Members

Associates

Lara Fowler*
Senior Lecturer, Penn State Law & Assistant Director IEE

Matthew Royer*
Assistant Research Professor, Director Agriculture & Environment Center

Affiliates

Ted Alter
Professor,  Agricultural, Environmental & Regional Economics

Rachel Brennan*
Associate Professor, Environmental Engineering

Paige Castellanos*
Assistant Research Professor

Anil Kumar Chaudhary*
Assistant Professor, Agricultural & Extension Education

Guangqing Chi
Professor, Rural Sociology, Demography & Public Health Sciences

Jill Felker
Lecturer, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Carolyn Lowry*
Assistant Professor

Allyson Muth 
Assistant Research Professor, Private Forest Management

Nathaniel Warner
Assistant Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Hong Wu*
Stuckeman Career Development Assistant Professor in Design

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