Scholars have engaged in an ongoing dialogue about the relationships among management, politics, and law in public administration. Collaborative governance presents new challenges to this dynamic. While scholars have made substantial contributions to our understanding of the design and practice of collaborative governance, others suggest that we lack theory for this emerging body of research. Law is often omitted as a variable.
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Scholarship generally does not explicitly include collaboration as a public value. This article addresses the dialogue on management, politics, and law about collaborative governance. It provides an overview of the current legal framework for collaborative governance in the United States at the federal, state, and local levels of government and identifies gaps. The institutional analysis and development framework provides a theory that incorporates rules and law into research design. The article concludes that future research on collaborative governance should incorporate the legal framework as an important variable and collaboration as a public value.
Overall, the article attempts to encompass the complex relationship between management, politics, and public administration law. An effective balance of these aspects is critical in collaborative governance, noted as a public value. Scholarly analysis of collaborative governance should maintain the legal framework as a critical variable. Collaborative governance is a term that describes processes which include federal agencies working together with the public, civil societies, and the private sector.
The collaboration focuses on developing policies and programs that identify and find potential solutions to relevant public issues. Agencies are considered the fourth branch of government. It develops and enforces policies and regulations that supplement lawmakers. The other three government branches supervise agency function through management (executive), judicial review, and instruction (legislative). Law is underutilized in public administration.
The reintegration of law and management is necessary for preserving accountability and building civic literacy. It limits government power and helps to focus on democratic values. Collaboration must be included as a public value, having a basis in constitutional and administrative law, as it is in the interest of the citizens and agencies responsible for creating policy.
The policy continuum in collaborative governance consists of making, implementing, and enforcing the policy. The law is a set of rules that must be followed by management and political sides of collaborative governance to mold the decision-making arrangements. Public managers must negotiate across various collective organizations. There is a theoretical framework designed by Ostrom, which seeks to present the fundamental building blocks of institutions and rules to collaboration.
Administrative law in the US emphasizes values of accountability, transparency, participation, effectiveness, and collaboration. Congress, responsible for controlling administrative agencies, has created statutes that both inhibit and enable collaboration. The executive branch, for the most part, must comply. In practice, laws that affect collaborative governance rarely have a basis or include the upstream of the political continuum, including public engagement, dialogue, and deliberation.
Despite the US Code supporting public participation in multiple contexts, there is no accepted definition or medium of engagement across federal agencies. Collaborative governance, which is the process of involvement and engagement by external organizations in policy creation, is not anyhow included in the federal legal framework.
Meanwhile, technology tools allow for public participation in agency processes, which should be supported by legislation. State and local governments encounter similar barriers, with rare occurrences of any system of public participation. There are examples of local-level participation through neighborhood councils and community boards. However, on a larger scale, public comments become mostly irrelevant.
All levels of government lack the legal framework for effective collaboration. Starting on a federal level, there are significant discrepancies between administrative law and actual governance practices. This state of the legal system creates challenges for public managers and agencies attempting to institutionalize public participation and engagement. As it is a fundamental democratic value, it should be part of government function. Public managers should seek to innovate the system and challenge the legal frameworks by embedding collaborative governance as an independent public value. Future legislative models should give agencies the legal authority to engage public opinion in policy creation. Since the law is critical to governance, it should be continuously considered and included in scholarly research on public administration.
The article includes relevant points of suggestion for practitioners. It is highlighted that public managers should comprehend and utilize the legal framework in designing public engagements. There are nuances to constitutional and administrative law, and rules may change across various levels of government. Therefore, the law must be held in consideration of collaborative processes. However, it should not be a limitation as the public holds collaborative governance as a value, and innovation is encouraged if there are no legal precedents (Amsler, 2016).
Amsler, L. B. (2016). Collaborative governance: Integrating management, politics, and law. Public Administration Review, 76(5), 700-711. Web.