When Public Officers Take the Lead in Collaborative Governance

Anna Zachrisson, Therese Bjärstig, Katarina Eckerberg


Governments are investing considerable time and resources in the field of collaborative governance as it proliferates throughout many sectors, and how public officers choose to respond to these developments therefore becomes an important question. The increased public involvement that collaborative governance brings is often more costly than traditional forms of governance, while the outcomes are highly uncertain. For these reasons, it is important that collaborative governance is only used when really warranted, and the various forms that it can take should be carefully designed. In this study, we apply a typology of collaboration strategies to examine firstly, the circumstances under which leading officers at four county administrative boards in the Swedish mountain region decide to lead collaboration, and secondly what collaboration strategies they then apply. This study is based on 20 interviews with key officers, and 39 interviews with project leaders of public-private collaborations in the area of natural resource management in the region. We find that officers should take trust levels into account when designing collaboration strategies, not least the lack of official trust. Strategies are found to be not mutually exclusive but complementary, and officers employ several at the same time. Interestingly, the results of this study show that – somewhat counter-intuitively – distrust is a driver for officers to initiate collaboration, a conclusion which questions the common view that more trust unequivocally translates into more participation.

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Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2001-7405, E-ISSN: 2001-7413