From the Great Barrier Reef to the wilds of Wisconsin, the emphasis is on decision-making that works.--
Reaching consensus may be a popular goal, but all too often collaborative efforts fall short of execution. A new book by University of Oregon Associate Professor Richard Margerum uses more than 60 case studies to walk readers through successes and failures in topics including natural resources, land use and transportation.
Much of Margerum’s focus in Beyond Consensus: Improving Collaborative Planning and Management (2011; MIT Press; 368 pp; $27 paperback), goes beyond consensus-building phases to focus on implementation.
“A lot of the collaboration literature focuses on building consensus – how does a diverse set of stakeholders reach an agreement,” Margerum says. “There is a lot of excitement when you get loggers and environmentalists, for example, to agree on a plan to restore a watershed. However, in my research I found there was not enough focus on whether these plans or agreements get implemented and the factors that are likely to make that successful. So, half the book is really focused on moving beyond consensus to implementation.”
Judith Innes, University of California, Berkeley, professor of city and regional planning, notes that Beyond Consensus is “an invaluable reference for anyone who seeks practical ways to resolve complex and controversial (issues).”
Margerum brings ample experience to the arenas of natural resource management, urban planning and environmental policy. “This has been the focus of my research for the past 15 years,” he says, “but lately I’ve been trying to push the theory and evaluation frameworks to allow more critique and analysis of collaboration.”
Beyond Consensus draws on extensive case studies in the United States and Australia to show how collaboration is not just about developing a strategy but also about creating and sustaining networks that support collaborative implementation.
Margerum is uniquely qualified to write from an international perspective, using a postdoctoral Fulbright award in 1995 to research collaboration efforts in Australia. “Besides the U.S., they were one of the countries that had been most progressive in implementing this kind of an approach.”
The book outlines a typology of networks and collaborative efforts, then uses these typologies to identify factors that can be used to improve or evaluate collaboration efforts.
Margerum is chair of the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management at UO.