Research Handbooks on Impact Assessment series
Edited by Angus Morrison-Saunders, Jenny Pope and Alan Bond
Chapter 16: A deliberative collaborative governance approach to sustainability assessment
This chapter is aligned with the understanding of sustainability assessment as a process that aims to ensure a proposed development delivers a positive contribution to sustainability, which we consider to mean increased resilience and the potential to deliver enduring human wellbeing. However, within this broad goal, sustainability remains a contested concept, and such high-level definitions can disguise the inherent dynamic tensions between the social, cultural, environmental and economic dimensions that are specific to a particular context. When these context-specific dynamic tensions are being addressed, power relations are critical and must be managed. We argue, therefore, that empowering participation, which is inclusive or representative, deliberative and influential, is vital to every step of sustainability assessment. The kind of engagement that is required goes well beyond what is typically undertaken in impact assessment (see the critique in Hartz-Karp and Pope, 2011). The purpose of this chapter is to explore the potential of emerging forms of decision making and governance to contribute to the evolving theory and practice of sustainability assessment. Specifically we explore the concept of deliberative collaborative governance (DCG), which is a logical hybrid of two fields, deliberative democracy and collaborative governance (Gollagher and Hartz-Karp, 2013). The DCG model, the key tenets of which are described in section 16.2, illustrates how shared responsibility, authority and power, coupled with a pragmatic, problem-solving orientation to wicked problems that emphasises deliberative analysis, fact finding and policy evaluation, can direct decision making towards sustainability.
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