Ansell, C. & Gash, A (2008). Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 18(4), 543-571.
Over the past few decades, a new form of governance has emerged to replace adversarial and managerial modes of policy making and implementation. Collaborative governance, as it has come to be known, brings public and private stakeholders together in collective forums with public agencies to engage in consensus-oriented decision making. In this article, we conduct a meta-analytical study of the existing literature on collaborative governance with the goal of elaborating a contingency model of collaborative governance. After reviewing 137 cases of collaborative governance across a range of policy sectors, we identify critical variables that will influence whether or not this mode of governance will produce successful collaboration. These variables include the prior history of conflict or cooperation, the incentives for stakeholders to participate, power and resources imbalances, leadership, and institutional design. We also identify a series of factors that are crucial within the collaborative process itself. These factors include face-to-face dialogue, trust building, and the development of commitment and shared understanding. We found that a virtuous cycle of collaboration tends to develop when collaborative forums focus on “small wins” that deepen trust, commitment, and shared understanding. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications of our contingency model for practitioners and for future research on collaborative governance.