“Multi-level and collaborative governance are multifaceted concepts grounded in several academic disciplines, government orientations, and community-level experiences. This diverse foundation provides a rich and complex canvass for constructing and operationalizing ‘governance’. The fluid and organic definition of governance contributes to the diversified origins of the field of study. The theoretical ‘roots’ of governance studies can be linked to institutional economics, international relations, organizational studies, development studies, political science, public administration (Stoker, 1998).
Governance, whether in rural or urban areas, emerged principally from the criticism of large central governments’ inability to accommodate the preferences of diverse communities or regions (Hooghe & Marks, 2002; Newman et al., 2004; Rosenau, 1997). The multiplicity of opinions represented throughout rural communities in large jurisdictions, such as a province or country, has proven difficult for central governments to address. At the local and regional level, residents, community-serving organizations, and the private sector have sought new forums of decision-making. Woods (2005) describes governance as emerging from periods of paternalist and statist control.
Governance has been used to describe a wide range of processes and activities. Clarity on what is meant by governance is often missing, confusion subsequently often present. Jessop (1995) describes the arrangement of academic governance literature as being eclectic and disjointed. At the center of this ‘disjointed’ effort is the lack of a clear definition of the central concept of governance. The outcome has been ambiguity regarding the definition, practice, and activities of governance. The eclectic academic approach has been compounded by the multiple uses of governance by government and the popular media. Rhodes (1996) provides a frequently quoted description: ‘governance signifies a change in the meaning of government, referring to a new process of governing; or a changed condition of ordered rule; or the new method by which society is governed’ (p. 652-3).
Two further key characteristics of governance are the blurring of boundaries and internally imposed structure(s). Consistently within the literature on governance is the recognition that the boundary between the public and private sectors is blurred (Stoker, 1998). Arrangements of collaboration, partnership, or networking between the public and private sector serve to re-define previously static definition of roles. A second clear characteristic is the acknowledgment that the structure(s) of governance are internally created and sustained by stakeholders (Kooiman & Van Vliet, 1993; Stoker, 1998). Government, regardless of level, can not externally impose a structure or system of structures to generate new governance arrangements. Further, governance structures do not rest on recourse to the authority of government; rather, governance structures are accountable to stakeholders engaged in the process (Stoker, 1998).”