Aug 19 2015 Foundations of Collaborative Governance: a new online course at PSU to improve collective decision-making
By Steve Greenwood, Deputy Director of Oregon programs at the National Policy Consensus Center
A few years ago, I was helping a group of stakeholders address water policy in the Northwest, but the group seemed stuck. When I asked one of the key players to identify what she hoped to gain from the process, she seemed flummoxed by my question and could not identify even a single way her group might benefit from working with the others. Another party, one of the farmers, was frustrated because the environmental groups wouldn’t commit to what he thought was a reasonable proposal to use more water for irrigation. “What do they [environmental groups] need from this agreement?” I asked. “How will they credibly describe your proposal in a way that would please their supporters?” Again, a blank stare.
It then struck me that many people participate in, or even lead, collaborative processes without understanding the fundamentals of what constitutes true collaboration; what the benefits of working across organizational boundaries might be or how to realize them. The result can be long, demoralizing meetings that seem to lead nowhere and leave so many potential benefits on the table.
Many people participate in, or even lead, collaborative processes without understanding the fundamentals of what constitutes true collaboration; what the benefits of working across organizational boundaries might be or how to realize them.
It doesn’t have to be that way. I remembered a similar group I’d worked with years earlier, a municipality that wanted to develop a park around a set of abandoned ponds but didn’t have the necessary funding. When I suggested inviting more than 20 other public and private sector organizations to join them around the table, City staff were initially wary about losing control of the project. But, after receiving more than $6 million in additional funding and resources from those other partners, the park became a regional showcase, and their next project — an even bigger success — was conducted through a similar partnership with the community. One City staffer enthused, “You’ve helped us think about our jobs in a new way.” For them, collaboration was a truly transformative experience. A world, someone once said, “in which almost anything is possible.”
What makes the difference? After several decades as a practitioner and trainer of collaborative processes, I’ve come to believe that the road from stalemate to transformative experience is not that long. What it requires – like any discipline – is an understanding of and attention to fundamentals. Understanding, for example, the ways others can help you reach your goals, but only if you can also help them reach theirs; that your outcome is not only dependent on their actions, it is also dependent on their outcomes. I have seen that when people understand these fundamental principles, it significantly changes their ability to work together.
After several decades as a practitioner and trainer of collaborative processes, I’ve come to believe that the road from stalemate to transformative experience is not that long.
So I am excited to be working with my colleagues at the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University (PSU) to develop a new, online Graduate Certificate program in the emerging discipline of collaborative governance. The first course, Foundations of Collaborative Governance, will be offered this fall, starting September 28.
I am doubly excited to be co-teaching this new online course with Professor Craig Shinn from the Hatfield School of Government at PSU, who is one of the leading authorities on new governance models and practices. Dr. Shinn has authored or co-authored many books and scholarly articles on the subject, most recently the text “New Public Governance.”
My own experience spans several decades helping people work across organizational boundaries to accomplish things they otherwise couldn’t, from forging win-win agreements between federal agencies and fishing interests in the Columbia River, to bringing the collective impact of multiple agencies to address early childhood learning. The National Policy Consensus Center (NPCC), where I am Deputy Director, is a leader in this emerging field, serving as the national headquarters for the University Network on Collaborative Governance (UNCG) and Kitchen Table Democracy (formerly the Policy Consensus Initiative).
NPCC has conducted more than 150 separate collaborative projects over the past 10 years, and in that time we’ve come to learn that simply bringing people together is not enough (though it’s certainly a good start). It matters, for example, who invites the parties to the table, how issues get framed, and how a group makes collective decisions. In Foundations of Collaborative Governance, we will explore the lessons learned from those 150 collaborative projects and provide the societal (macro) context for collaborative governance in today’s political and institutional setting, as well as the personal (micro) context about the elements of trust, cooperation, and group decision-making that are critical to success.
It matters who invites the parties to the table, how issues get framed, and how a group makes collective decisions.
The certificate program will be designed for those who wish to initiate, participate in, or facilitate collaborative processes. Beginning with this first course, Foundations of Collaborative Governance, we will utilize state-of-the-art online learning techniques that will provide an interactive, multi-media educational experience intended for aspiring and existing pubic managers, public leaders, practicing mediators or facilitators, and graduate students in a wide variety of academic fields. We’ll emphasize real-world applications of theory and best practice, including examples from students’ own experience.
We have designed this first new online class to provide the understanding and skills that will help you turn your next collaborative project into a transformational, energizing, and successful experience. For details on how to register for this 3-credit fall class and to learn more about this developing certificate program, visit our website.
Steve Greenwood is the Deputy Director for Oregon programs at the National Policy Consensus Center, with more than 35 years of public service at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as a brief time in the private sector. He has been at Oregon Solutions and the National Policy Consensus Center at Portland State University since 2003 and teaches a graduate-level class, “Foundations of Collaborative Governance”, at PSU.
Steve has led numerous collaborative processes on issues such as Oregon’s urban-rural divide, water allocations in eastern Oregon, and Columbia River sediment management. He has been a frequent speaker on collaborative governance at conferences and seminars around the country, holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and received a Fulbright fellowship to assist the government of Portugal on solid waste policy in 1991. He is also the 2007 recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the University of Oregon’s Planning, Public Policy and Management program.