Rapid social, technological and environmental change is transforming communities, bringing to the forefront conflict among interests and individuals with diverse and sometimes divergent needs and concerns. This change is coupled with chronic budget deficits; dramatic demographic change; increasingly polarized politics; diminishing resources from the federal to the local level; increasing responsibility for problem solving without adequate resources; and an increasingly frustrated and alienated public.
Fortunately, collaborative approaches have been successfully deployed to deal with a wide variety of issues including water management, affordable housing, human services provision, land use, budget priorities, and more. Nearly 20 states have or have had public or publicly supported offices to provide these services.
Collaborative processes bring stakeholders together with the assistance of a trained facilitator to define a problem, identify the core interests and concerns of all involved, and generate solutions that address these interests and concerns.
Makes efficient use of public and private resources. There are fewer federal, state, and local dollars available to deal with critical issues facing our society. Collaborative process engages a range of public, private, and community institutions, and leadership to bring a wider array of resources to bear on the problem.
Develops high quality solutions. As people learn about each other's views and needs, they learn more about the problem. In developing options together, they consider a wider variety of possibilities. In arriving at a plan or policy that reflects the concerns and ideas of all parties, they develop the best possible solutions.
Accelerates the pace of a project. Parties are less likely to block implementation if they understand that a plan or policy reflects their input and has been crafted to meet their basic interests. Parties involved in this process often have a high commitment to the success of the plan or policy.
Bridges differences. Collaborative process allows parties to better understand each other's interests, build trust, improve relations, work together, and find mutually acceptable solutions based on common interests.
Deal productively with shared power for decision-making. This process brings a wide array of stakeholders to the table to seek mutually beneficial solutions as a response to the reality that power has become widely and thinly distributed with many interests able to block the possibility of action.