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Collaborative Governance: A Guide for Grantmakers

This 47-page guide from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (2006) focuses on collaborative governance, an emerging set of concepts and practices that offer prescriptions for inclusive, deliberative, and often consensus-oriented approaches to planning, problem solving, and policymaking. Collaborative governance typically describes those processes in which government actors are participants and/or objects of the processes. Download it here.

Here is how Frank and Denie S. Weil, program benefactors of the Weil Program on Collaborative Governance at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, describe this field: “The essence of Collaborative Governance is a new level of social/political engagement between and among the several sectors of society that constitutes a more effective way to address many of modern societies’ needs beyond anything that the several sectors have heretofore been able to achieve on their own.”

This guide attempts to focus on the following questions:

  • What are the characteristics of collaborative governance and what is the current status of these ideas-in-action?
  • What specific case examples can illuminate these experiences and lessons learned?
  • What are some priority areas for further study, experimentation, and assessment in order to advance the knowledge and practice of collaborative governance?
  • What guidance can we give to funders interested in this emerging field that could inform their own grant-making?

Solving the most vexing problems that philanthropists address—from improving environmental quality to providing a quality education and strengthening disadvantaged neighborhoods—requires the collaboration and resources of many different players, including government, the private sector, community leaders, and other individuals.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has supported the theory and practice of collaborative problem solving and consensus building across sectors. This work takes a variety of forms, including deliberation and dialogue, collaborations between government and organizations, and public dispute resolution processes. Particularly important are efforts to strengthen civic and political engagement among those whose voices have often been absent from public decision-making.

This is the third of three guides commissioned by the Hewlett Foundation to share lessons learned from its twenty years of funding conflict resolution and public participation. The first two publications focus on conflict resolution and collaborative process in the fields of environmental protection and community development. This third guide highlights the emerging area of collaborative governance, which applies across a range of social and political problems.

Table of Contents


The changing relationship between citizens and government. The emergence of collaborative governance: what it is and why it’s important to grantmakers.

How Collaborative Governance Works

Categories and qualities of collaborative governance and civic engagement. Examples of collaborative governance in action.
A framework for understanding tools and approaches.

What Grantmakers Can Do

Suggestions for funders about helping communities design effective collaborative governance.

References and Resources

Doug Henton and John Melville (Collaborative Economics), with Terry Amsler and Malka Kopell (Hewlett Foundation)

Resource Link: http://ncdd.org/rc/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/CollabGov-GuideForGrantmakers.pdf

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