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What do You Expect?: Assessing Whether A Situation Is “Ripe” For Collaborative Governance
“Collaborative governance” has emerged as a ubiquitous term in the United States and elsewhere, in both the public and private sectors. It has recently received more specific definition from scholars as it applies to multiparty, consensus-seeking processes, often facilitated or mediated by a third party, that are intended to resolve particular public policy challenges. But both theory and practice have shown it is not appropriate in all situations. So, practitioners have identified conditions they look for in assessing the likelihood of initiating and sustaining a successful collaborative process. Borrowing from international relations, they often refer to this assessment as “ripeness.” Building from experience gained during practice, we propose an additional condition for assessing ripeness—whether initiators and supporters are open to the proposed process resulting in a range of outcomes and solution sets. We provide a question that can be asked of those who are interested in initiating the process, to help practitioners assess this new condition: “Do you expect that the result of the collaborative process you are interested in initiating will be that others realize the solution you currently favor is the correct one?” We explain why this simple question about expectations can shorten lengthy lines of inquiry; make explicit the differences between partnerships, coalitions, and collaborations; and help parties better understand their priorities and process needs. The intent of this article is to encourage practitioners to experiment with this new question and condition, and researchers to formally evaluate its utility.