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The Challenges of Collaboration in Environmental Governance

The Challenges of Collaboration in Environmental Governance

Barriers and Responses

New Horizons in Environmental Politics series

Edited by Richard D. Margerum and Cathy J. Robinson

Collaborative approaches to governance are being used to address some of the most difficult environmental issues across the world, but there is limited focus on the challenges of practice. Leading scholars from the United States, Europe and Australia explore the theory and practice in a range of contexts, highlighting the lessons from practice, the potential limitations of collaboration and the potential strategies for addressing these challenges.

Chapter 12: Collaboration across boundaries in the Indian Forest Service

Daniel H. Nelson, Rosemary O’Leary, Larry D. Schroeder, Misty Grayer and Nidhi Vij

Subjects: environment, energy policy and regulation, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation


The challenges of collaborating in the Indian Forest Service (IFS) include hierarchical structure, misalignment of interests, different organization cultures, clashing time horizons, numerous stakeholders, low accountability, complex political environments, frequent transfers of personnel, low trust, lack of transparency, inability to see collaborative advantage, lack of public service motivation, and lack of collaborative attributes or skills. To further understand these challenges, we surveyed 140 senior IFS officers and found that 91 percent indicate an effort to use collaboration as a management and leadership strategy to help them improve outcomes by leveraging resources and providing a catalyst for innovation. In an attempt to improve the success of these collaboration efforts, we developed a hypothesis for future research based on what we call the Need-Attitude-Skillset (NAS) theory. We conclude that collaboration can take place even in a highly regimented, hierarchical organizational culture, but not without significant challenges. More important than strong authority, pressure, and mandates is: (1) an articulated need to collaborate; (2) public service motivation coupled with an attitude that sees collaborative advantage; and (3) a strong collaborative problem solving-skillset that emphasizes communication.

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