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Collaborative Governance in Action

Government: one participant amongst many

In a previous post we highlighted the need to go beyond voting for robust democratic participation. But if that's the case then the question becomes - how? Where do we create places for collaboration, discussion, and dialogue surrounding key issues facing our communities?

One possibility is to set up opportunities for collaborative governance. Now remember, governance is distinct from government; governance refers to decision-making practices and structures, and also the broader systems in which decisions about our communities are made. A government is a specific entity endowed with decision-making authority over something.

Collaborative governance simply refers to decision-making where multiple different organizations are involved. In these forums, governments are one of the participants amongst many, as opposed to being the sole arbiter over final decisions. Decision-making takes place between both state and non-state entities, and authority is shared horizontally across all participants, whether they're government participants or not.
Where these collaborative tables are set up, they enable information sharing and coordination over complex policy areas. Notably, community issues that impact multiple organizations, and that are beyond the scope of any single entity, can be tackled collectively by multiple partners.

Examples of collaborative governance in the lower mainland of BC include:
All of the above efforts are collaborative tables with a wide range of participants, created to tackle complex problems. For example, Our Place is a collaboration of residents, community-based organizations, and service providers committed to ensuring that Vancouver's inner city children have every opportunity for success.

For these to work, participants have to demonstrate a high level of trust, and even some degree of vulnerability so that open sharing and dialogue can take place. Where these forums are effective the results can be powerful. One study found that 50% of the policy decisions made by a collaborative effort produced decisions that would never have been put forward in an alternative, conventional, bureaucratic approach

This finding goes beyond effectiveness. It suggests that, for some issues, the development of effective policy approaches requires places for collaborative governance to happen. 

Are there places in your community where collaborative governance is happening? If so let us know in the comments, or by email:
We want to support these efforts - and share the successes and challenges! 


  1. Some examples from similar efforts in the US.


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