Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Governments are increasing their use of collaboration by: creating ad hoc networks in response to emergencies, and aligning governmental and nongovernmental organizations to work interdependently to achieve common goals.
Governments are increasing their use of collaboration by: creating ad hoc networks in response to emergencies, and aligning governmental and nongovernmental organizations to work interdependently to achieve common goals.

Over the past decade, government at all levels made much progress in building collaborative relationships. There are two areas in which government has clearly moved toward increased use of collaboration. The first is governments coming together to create ad hoc collaborative networks in response to emergency situations. The second is the creation of new networks which allow governmental and nongovernmental organizations to work interdependently to exchange information and/or jointly formulate and implement policies or programs throughout their respective organizations.

While these two types of collaborative relationships (networks in emergency situations and collaborative management networks) are still necessary and useful, the complex societal issues facing government will require new types of collaborative relationships to be forged.

Increased fiscal constraints will push managers to develop new ways of doing business with citizens, the private sector, and other government organizations.

The Need for New Collaborative Relationships with Citizens
There are an increasing number of examples of new relationships with citizens at all levels of government. Instead of going through intermediary organizations as in traditional public management networks, government will increasingly go directly to citizens. Examples of such direct outreach include:

  • Soliciting citizen input. The federal government has expanded the use of its website Regulations.gov. The website now describes itself as the citizen’s voice in federal decisionmaking. Citizens can share their knowledge and make their voice count. The website seeks comments from the public on the over 8,000 regulations issued annually by the federal government. Citizens can find, read, and comment on regulations. 
  • Identification of street-level problems. At the local level, there are numerous examples of new ways in which citizens participate in reporting street-level problems such as potholes, graffiti, and crime. With the increased use of mobile and GPS technologies, citizens now frequently submit real-time reports to local governments, which assist in the identification of problems or necessary repairs. Citizens are also now sending photographs of problems to local government. 

    Development and collection of community and social indicators. In the last decade, over 70 communities in the United States and Canada have launched community indicator projects in which citizens come together (often in collaboration with the local government) to select topics to address, select indicators, collect data, and disseminate the data collected.  

  • Participating in the delivery of services. In her report, Strategies for Supporting Frontline Collaboration: Lessons from Stewardship Contracting, Cassandra Moseley describes how the U.S. Forest Service developed stewardship contracting, which allows the agency to contract with local citizens groups and companies to perform restoration work in national forests.  

The Need for New Collaborative Relationships with the Private Sector

Just as governments at all levels are developing new relationships with citizens, government is also developing new relationships with the private sector. With tighter resource constraints, government organizations will need to develop new cost-effective approaches to accomplish their missions. 

Examples of such approaches are:

  • Creating collaborative voluntary partnerships. In The Promise of Voluntary Partnerships: Lessons from the Federal Aviation Administration, Russell Mills describes how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has developed a series of voluntary regulatory partnership programs in which industry and government work together to ensure industry regulatory compliance by exchanging information and ideas without fear of attribution. These voluntary partnerships, cautions Mills, should be viewed as complementary to traditional approaches to regulation, and not as a replacement for them.
  • Creating new co-regulation strategies. In their report, Food Safety—Emerging Public Private Approaches: A Perspective for Local, State, and Federal Leaders, Noel P. Greis and Monica L. Nogueira recommend that government begin to develop various forms of co-regulation in which government and the private sector work together to develop joint approaches.
  • Working with the private sector on capital projects. In Transforming Federal Property Management: A Case of Public-Private Partnerships, Judith Long recommends that government explore how it might more effectively work together with the private sector in areas such as federal property management. 

The Need for New Collaborative Relationships Within Government

Finally, government organizations will need to develop new collaborative relationships with each other. An example of such collaborative relationships is:

Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health data sharing initiatives. Over the last decade, DoD and VA have pioneered a series of health data-sharing initiatives. As VA and DoD health data-sharing capabilities continue to mature, there should be further opportunities to streamline and promote additional efficiencies.