Research Briefing, September 2015

blogimage_researchbriefingEach month, there is new, fascinating research emerging that provides practical insight into the intersector — the space where collaboration among government, business, and non-profit sectors enables leaders to share expertise, resources, and authority to address society’s most pressing problems. To keep our readers up to date, we compile a monthly briefing that captures the newest research on cross-sector collaboration and publish it on our blog, with a focus on practitioners, who may be interested in the research, but lack the time or resources to extract takeaways that are truly meaningful to their work.

This month’s briefing includes articles about:

  • collaborative policymaking groups,
  • acquaculture management,
  • issue-specific collaborations that bring together experts and non-experts,
  • the state of the field of research on cross-sector collaboration,
  • leadership,
  • trust in collaborative relationships,
  • and urban development.

Assessing Collaborative Policymaking Outcomes: An Analysis of U.S. Marine Aquaculture Partnerships,” The American Review of Public Administration

 Of interest to: those working in acquaculture policy, water conservation, or natural resource conservation. It is likely to be particularly helpful for practitioners who are designing or participating in collaborative policymaking groups at the state or local level — whether the issue is acquaculture or otherwise.

“Administrators and policymakers increasingly rely on collaborative policymaking groups to inform policy development,” write authors Saba Siddiki and Shilpi Goel, a trend they say is particularly common in the regulation of natural resource-based industries, which “requires the simultaneous consideration of an interrelated set of economic, technical, and social factors.” In this article, they examine outcomes of acquaculture partnerships— collaborative policymaking groups that are involved in informing state aquaculture policy. Using data collected through an online survey of 123 partnership participants, they also examine individual and procedural factors associated with partnerships’ influence on outcomes, as perceived by participants. The authors find that “participants’ ability to mobilize scientific and technical resources to achieve group objectives, perceptions of procedural fairness, and individual-level learning are all positively associated with partnership influence on policy and/or social outcomes.”

The “procedural factors” listed in the authors’ findings appear to speak to several of the tactics found in The Intersector Project Toolkit: “access to scientific and technical resources” highlights the importance of accounting for resources (whether expertise, networks, assets, or otherwise) in collaborative settings, committing to information sharing among partners, and demonstrating organizational competency and the ability to execute as a collaboration partner. “Procedural fairness” highlights the importance of establishing a governance structure for the collaboration and developing transparency of viewpoints among partners. Other, related resources include our recent Research to Practice post, “Designing collaborative councils to encourage diverse policy outcomes, which also looks at collaborative policy making groups, and “Building Commercial and Environmental Partnerships in Crystal Cove“, a case study from our library that looks at a collaboration that worked to advance conservation while also preserving the financial viability of commercial fishermen.

Designing and Implementing Cross-Sector Collaborations: Needed and Challenging,” Public Administration Review

 Of interest to: those interested in a bird’s eye view on the research advances made over the past 10 years in the field of cross-sector collaboration.

“Theoretical and empirical work on collaboration has proliferated in the last decade,” write authors John M. Bryson, Barbara C. Crosby, and Melissa Middleton Stone — the trio whose 2006 article on designing and implementing cross-sector collaborations is seen a valuable resource in The Intersector Project’s library. In this update, the authors review key theoretical frameworks on collaboration that have developed during the last decade, along with key empirical results. They conclude that the “research indicates how complicated and challenging collaboration can be, even though it may be needed now more than ever.” The authors provide a summary of areas where existing research offers “reasonably settled conclusions,” as well as suggestions for future research.

We’re assessing these suggestions at The Intersector Project for alignment with our Research Agenda, which aspires to produce practical knowledge for practitioners of cross-sector collaboration.

Negotiated Expertise in Policy-making: How Governments Use Hybrid Advisory Committees,” Science and Public Policy

 Of interest to: practitioners looking to design collaborative policy-making or -recommending groups that comprise both experts and non-experts — and those interested in the competing languages, cultures, and practices that can define those groups.

Author Eva Krick looks at state-level, multi-sector policy advisory committees, particularly those that include academics, state representatives, and societal stakeholders — groups the authors say “answer to a double challenge that governments face today: a need for technical knowledge and an increasing demand for public acceptance and accountability.” While much attention has been paid to committees that provide purely scientific policy advice, the authors write, little has been paid to these “hybrid advisory committees” that include both experts and non-experts. The authors look at four case studies of such hybrid committees set up by the German Federal Government with mandates in social policy and science and technology policy. The study draws on research in knowledge utilisation, theories of delegation, and decision-making and governance to develop an analytical framework for what the authors call “multi-source, negotiated expertise.” The study explores the committees’ governance potential and describes dynamics that shape the committees’ work.

For an example of such a collaboration from our case library, read “Creating an Environment for Healthy Lifestyles in Brownsville.”

Stakeholder-led Knowledge Production: Development of a Long-term Management Plan for North Sea Nephropsfisheries,” Science and Public Policy

 Of interest to: managers of marine resources, as well as leaders of multidisciplinary teams that include scientists, public administration professionals, and community members.

Authors Kari Stange, Jan van Tatenhove, and Judith van Leeuwen look at “how different kinds of knowledge are mobilised in interactions between the stakeholders, scientists, and bureaucrats” who play roles in European fisheries management. The article focuses on a pioneering initiative aimed at developing a long-term management plan for fisheries in the North Sea. The authors explore “the sharing of knowledge between the actors” with a special focus on what resources and efforts are needed “to allow knowledge sharing and knowledge production to occur.” Based on their findings, the authors suggest that creating a shared understanding among actors is a challenge “when both novelty and high stakes are involved.” After studying this new planning initiative, the authors question the feasibility of a “bottom up” collaborative process whose aim is to develop management instruments in an environment where stakeholders have competing interests.

The authors’ discussion of “reaching a common understanding” speaks to two tactics from The Intersector Project’s Toolkit: Build a Common Fact Base and Share a Vision of Success.

Strategic Management in the Public Sector: A Rational, Political or Collaborative Approach?,” International Review of Administrative Sciences

 Of interest to: operators, funders, and supporters of training, fellowship, or educational programs in cross-sector collaboration, as it provides rationale for the importance of the skills these programs aim to teach.

Responding to 30 years’ use of strategic planning and management within public organizations, authors Christophe Favoreu, David Carassus, and Christophe Maurel investigate the ability of these practices to improve public performance. Their purpose is to understand “the strategy formulation processes in the public sector and the type of strategic approach that best matches the characteristics of this sector.” The authors accomplish this by developing a “theoretical analysis grid, based on the three main approaches to strategy in the public sector” — rational, collaborative, and political. The authors then present a case study that illuminates a complicated strategic process that combines and alternates these three approaches. The authors share two key takeaways for practitioners. The first is “the need to combine different logics and approaches in the strategic control of public organisations: a rational logic, a political logic, and a collaborative logic.” The second takeaway is “the importance for public managers to build skills in the development and management of inter-organisational networks and interpersonal relationships.” Importantly, the authors find that “the ability to create interactions between a variety of stakeholders, both internal and external, to mobilise and channel collective intelligence towards the definition and implementation of public projects and policies is a key component of the strategic management of public organisations.”

For more on programs like this, see The Intersector Project’s recent posts on the Arizona Public Service Academy, the Portland State University course on the Foundations of Collaborative Governance, and the Presidio Cross Sector Leadership Fellows program.

Partnership Networks for Urban Development: How Structure is Shaped by Risk,” Policy Studies Journal

 Of interest to: practitioners of cross-sector initiatives in which mistrust presents a barrier to collaboration.

Authors Ryan R. J. McAllister, Bruce M. Taylor, and Ben P. Harman write that “governments worldwide increasingly partner with diverse sets of stakeholders” in delivering public policy. While this practice may distribute risks among partners, it also “introduces new risks related to trust in relationships,” particularly when stakeholders have divergent agendas. The authors used mixed methods to study “networks of local and state government, developers, and consultants” focused on “joint-venture partnerships for developing new urban, residential projects.” They used risk hypothesis, which “distinguishes between networks for ‘cooperation’ problems, where partners have high individual payoffs for uncooperative behaviors, and ‘coordination’ problems, where partners subscribe to a common goal and uncooperative behaviors are less rewarding.” The authors find that among the partners in development projects, “only state governments displayed structural patterns associated with solving ‘cooperation’ problems (rather than coordination),” suggesting they are most exposed to risky relationships in which other partners have high payoffs for uncooperative behavior. Despite this finding, the partnership networks studied for this research “reported very low levels of conflict.” The authors conclude that the ways in which “state governments structure interactions in response to risky relationships leads to an overall network characterized by trust.”

This research contributes to the discussion of trust in collaborative relationships — a topic popular among researchers and practitioners alike. For further discussion of trust from practitioners’ perspectives, see our past blog post, “Assessing and building trust in intersector relationships.” The Intersector Project Toolkit articulates several tactics that can be helpful in building trust, including Establish Transparency of Viewpoints and Demonstrate Organizational Competency and Ability to Execute.

Analyzing Policy Networks Using Valued Exponential Random Graph Models: Do Government-Sponsored Collaborative Groups Enhance Organizational Networks?,” Policy Studies Journal

 Of interest to: government leaders and policymakers considering collaborative management groups in order to create coordination and cooperation within networks.

Author Tyler A. Scott investigates “collaborative management groups from the perspective of policymakers seeking to increase coordination within a policy network.” The author writes that “governments often support collaborative groups as a tool to address perceived network failures such as a lack of coordination,” but the net impact of these government-supported groups is unclear. Scott uses valued exponential random graph models (ERGMs) to “model relationships of varying strength among a regional network of organizations involved in 57 collaborative groups.” This methodology makes studying “the interplay between numerous groups and organizations within a large-scale network” possible. The author’s findings suggest that “participation in collaborative groups does motivate coordination and cooperation amongst individual network organizations.” However, this motivation is strongest for two types of organizations: “organizations that are not already members of another group” and “organizations that do not have a preexisting tie.”

The Imagined Self-Sufficient Communities of HOPE VI: Examining the Community and Social Support Component,” Urban Affairs Review

 Of interest to: practitioners working in housing and community support initiatives.

Authors Deirdre Oakley, James Fraser, and Joshua Bazuin look at the physical redevelopment of Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE VI) communities and accompanying initiatives to change the lives of their residents. “Through a variety of community and supportive services (CSS) programs, residents are offered job training, homeownership classes, and support to develop savings accounts with the goal of moving them toward fuller participation in the private housing market,” the authors write. The authors examine how CSS programs have been offered in Nashville and Atlanta and argue “that HOPE VI has had limited impacts in its people-based goals” of “remaking” residents because of a core program focus on “driving residents to participate more fully in labor and housing markets.” The authors conclude “supportive services are insufficient in scope and resources to buffer the effects of the market on residents, except for a small number who come into the program already well positioned to succeed.” The research identifies HOPE VI’s failures as problems of design and conception, as opposed to a problem of implementation.

For another example of a cross-sector community redevelopment project, see our case study on the East Lake community in Atlanta, “Building a Neighborhood of Economic Opportunity in Atlanta.