Handbook of Collaborative Public Management
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Handbook of Collaborative Public Management

Edited by Jack W. Meek

This insightful Handbook presents readers with a comprehensive range of original research within the field of collaborative public management (CPM), a central area of study and practice in public administration. It explores the most important questions facing collaboration, providing insights into future research directions and new areas of study.
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Chapter 26: Collaborative governance under stress: limits, failure, renewal

Louise K. Comfort


Collaborative governance frameworks function well in stable environments, but fare less well in rapidly changing, urgent environments that affect multiple organizations, jurisdictions, and groups. The criteria for collaborative governance frameworks emphasize an agreed-upon formal process for problem solving, face-to-face meetings, and time for learning. These requirements contrast with actual conditions for decision making in urgent events that encompass a wide range of organizations, jurisdictions, and distance. An action framework for operational networks, grounded in legal authority but sufficiently flexible to adapt to a dynamic context and facilitated by multiple forms of information and communication technologies, is proposed as an alternative management approach. This framework is applied to the operational context of California’s response to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) in the first five months of 2020. The chapter concludes that governance under uncertainty requires an iterative process of review, reflection, and redesign to strengthen performance of multisectoral institutions under urgent stress.

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