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Collaborative Governance  

Joris Voets, Taco Brandsen, Christopher Koliba, and Bram Verschuere

Collaborative governance (CG) refers to a mode of policy and service delivery that shifts away from government- or market-centric settings to a setting in which public, private nonprofit, and private business actors are jointly involved in and accountable for policymaking and service delivery to create public value that could otherwise not be achieved. This mode has arisen as a result of societal issues’ becoming increasingly “wicked,” lacking consensus about what the exact nature of the problem is and what the appropriate solutions are (e.g., migration and refugees, climate change, poverty). These CG networks can often be fragmented and deprived of resources as part of increased fiscal stress, stimulating the search for cross-boundary arrangements for policy and management. Consequently, both practitioners and academics explore how more and better collaboration between semi-autonomous actors with different interests and resources can be achieved in efforts to tackle wicked issues. CG refers to a trend, an era, a practice, a paradigm, and a holistic framework. While there are variations in the way scholars conceptualize or define it as a model, some common features can be discerned. CG is about identifying/being aware of/dealing with the initial conditions of collaboration and the broader context or system in which cross-sectoral governance is situated. We seek ways of structuring and institutionalizing the collaboration in smart and effective ways that are deemed critical to achieving success and performance. The intentional and deliberative design and implementation of CG arrangements can result from deeper awareness of process and structure, as well as requiring active and smart management strategies and leadership roles to be used and played, while acknowledging the importance of being aware of downsides, risks, and constraints in doing so. Effective CG must be accountable, it must lead to public value and effective outcomes, and, in many countries, it must be democratically legitimate.


Governance Through Civil Society  

Jacob Torfing

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the role of civil society in public governance, defined as the process of steering society and the economy through collective action and in accordance with some common objectives. Civil society holds valuable experiences, resources and ideas that may be mobilized in support of public governance processes. The heightened interest in civil society has stimulated scholarly debates about the conceptualization of civil society that tends to be defined as an institutional realm of private associations, voluntarism, and active citizens. The theoretical perception on the role of civil society vis-à-vis public governance seems to have moved from mainly considering the governance of civil society and governance in civil society to focusing on governance with civil society through various forms of collaborative network governance and co‑creation processes. In other words, civil society is no longer perceived merely as a target for public governance initiatives promoted by state agencies, nor is it solely praised for its capacity for self-governance. Civil society has been re-casted as a competent and resourceful partner in processes of co-governance in which public and private actors create a common ground for joint problemsolving. The new research on co-governance prompts analysis of the conditions for engaging civil society actors in public governance, the potential benefits and problems of governance based on interaction with civil society, and the need for meta-governance of cross-boundary collaboration. Civil society is often associated with local, place-bound groups and associations, but it is equally important to consider the prospects for global governance to involve the emerging global civil society. The interest in how civil society can play a role in and contribute to public governance has come to stay and prompts us to reflect on future research avenues, including the key question of how we can create platforms for cross-boundary collaboration between public and private for-profit and non-profit actors. As such, the re-casting of civil society as a partner in the co-governance of society also seems to transform the state from an authority standing above society to an opportunity structure that promotes cross-boundary collaboration and co-creation of public value outcomes.


Citizens’ Assemblies and Democracy  

Antonin Lacelle-Webster and Mark E. Warren

Even as most citizens of electoral democracies remain strongly committed to democratic values, most electoral democracies are suffering from democratic deficits that are eroding their legitimacy. There are deficits of inclusion, as elected governments often poorly represent those who are less educated or less wealthy or who belong to ethnic, religious, racial, or other minorities. There are deficits of deliberativeness, as governments fail to learn from experts and everyday citizens alike. And, increasingly, there are deficits of collective capacity, often the result of governments that are gridlocked by polarization and unable to marshal the political resources to address tough problems, such as climate change and migration. Democracies do, however, reinvent themselves, often by supplementing the legacy institutions of electoral democracy with innovative ways of deepening democracy. Among the most promising innovations are citizens’ assemblies, a kind of deliberative minipublic comprised of lay citizens selected through near-random methods to represent a broader public. These bodies are typically tasked with learning and deliberating about a problem and providing recommendations. In contrast to sitting legislatures, citizens’ assemblies are typically convened for a single issue or purpose, and they are closely defined in their mandate. As of 2020, there were over 20 cases of citizens’ assemblies, covering a range of issues (e.g., electoral reform, climate change, abortion, and urban planning), enabling some generalization about their capacities and promise. Owing to their high degree of representativeness of ordinary citizens, their capacities to learn and deliberate, and their abilities to break through difficult or gridlocked issues, citizens’ assemblies have considerable promise to address democratic deficits and to deepen democracy when they are carefully inserted into the political ecologies of modern democracies.