Effective problem solving usually requires federal, state, and local governments to work successfully together, and often with the private and nonprofit sectors. Fragmented and fractious inter-governmental arrangements—characterized by slow bureaucratic processes, conflicting rules, competing objectives, organizational stovepipes, and overlapping programs—are significant impediments to meeting public needs. Fellows, John Bryson, Kirk Emerson, Daniel Feldman, Stephen Hamill, and John Kamensky discuss past, current, and potential efforts to combat these challenges.
It is worth looking at models for collaborative governance that are being developed in other countries. For example, New Zealand has developed a Toolkit for Shared Problems of when different collaborative governance approaches should be used, depending on the nature of the problem being addressed. For example, it describes structural solutions like joint-ventures (between agencies with overlapping service delivery), the use of executive boards (between agencies with overlapping policy objectives), and institutional leadership roles (for horizontal leadership of key functions and professions).
Also, New Zealand has legislation pending that institutionalizes its collaborative governance approach in law (see Part 2, Sections 21-39 of the pending legislation, to be voted on in early August by its Parliament). A contact in the New Zealand government told me that they consulted Academy Fellows in drafting this legislation, including Brint Milward, Don Kettl, and Bob Denhardt.
The future of government lies in the simple realization that government, operating alone, lacks the capacity to address and resolve grand public challenges-environmental sustainability, economic opportunity, health care, homelessness, immigration, infrastructure, and other challenges of equal severity.
The old order of vertical government hierarchies operating in tens of thousands of individual silos is giving way to new horizontal models of Shared Leadership with multi-sectoral networks of public, private and non-profit leaders sharing the responsibility for designing and executing new hybrid approaches and solutions:
An existing institutional mechanism that has been long-neglected and under-used is the network of Federal Executive Boards around the country that could be used to orchestrate intergovernmental and intersectoral solutions to regional challenges. This network of 28 boards was created by executive order in 1961 and could serve as catalysts for joint federal action at a community level.
The current trend of multi-sectoral problem solving is a focus of public administrators as they discern a roadmap to change, the future and new models to improve the effectiveness of public service:
The Summit and New Localism provide a bridge to the future. Each offer a sometimes similar and sometimes contrasting perspective on the current state of government, a vision for the future of government and the required skill sets for future public administrators to effectively lead and manage the needed future public service models.
The Summit and New Localism have a similar theme of declining federal capacity and dysfunction, New Localism relates the root cause to partisanship and the Summit cites general decay. While the Summit cites a lack of capacity trickling down to state and local government, New Localism provides an exception and power shift in favor of local government.
Moving forward, it is likely that there will be:
Practice and research tell us that such partnerships require trust and transparency among the partners. Not as much attention has been given to the broader climate of mutual respect and reliability that influences the workings and performance of partnerships. The external system context within which intergovernmental and intersectoral partnerships operate enables the behavioral, relational, functional circuitry of collaborative governance. When that circuit board is faulty or overloaded, such partnerships slow down and stall out. Mis- and dis-information, ethical transgressions and undue political influence, fray and break the essential circuitry of collaboration. This dysfunctional climate is currently hampering many partnerships depending on federal leadership or support. The system context will need to change in order to improve intergovernmental and cross-sectoral collaboration at the national level.
As Will Rogers said, when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. We can improve all sorts of aspects of government, including intergovernmental and intersectoral collaboration and partnership, by strengthening basic accountability processes:
The best way to develop talent for intergovernmental and intersectoral leaders is by providing experiential opportunities to work in the shoes of your collaboration partners via rotational assignments. This could be between agencies, between programs within an agency, between levels of government, between public and private sectors.
The mechanisms for doing this are generally available. For example, to be promoted to the executive level in the Intelligence Community, individuals need to have had a rotational assignment in another of the 16 agencies in that Community. And between levels of government, there is the Intergovernmental Personnel Act. And within the federal government, there are rotational and training opportunities to serve in a cross-governmental role as a CXO Fellow, or a White House Leadership Development Program Fellow.
The real challenge is cultural—many managers discourage rotational assignments by their best and brightest because of a fear of losing them or needing that talent right now to meet pressing mission demands. Top leaders need to impress on managers the importance of developing talent for broad collaborative leadership and not just narrow project management.
We need to continue and extend our leadership skills training in collaboration and conflict resolution skills. This is, however, not sufficient. Intergovernmental and intersectoral leaders must understand and navigate the ethical challenges and tensions that abound in collaborative governance regimes. They need to demonstrate integrity of purpose and process and live up to the ethical commitments required of them as collaborative partners. Collaborative partnerships, networks and systems work when they are able to build and maintain trust and internal legitimacy. As leadership instructors and trainers, we need to more effectively and explicitly connect ethics training to governance training.
Public administrators of the future will need to be intentional about the resources and contributions required of private partners to achieve P3 goals and objectives. Greater accountability and oversight are necessary as are new data analytic skills to measure progress against established metrics of success. Internal government management skills will be enhanced by the external knowledge and skill to lead and manage private partners. Future Public Administrators must understand and ensure public and private values are aligned and the government’s core values are achieved by the P3.
Similarly, future public administrators will require the knowledge and skills to provide an affirmative vision that clarifies, inspires, and serves as a catalyst for improved community economic, social and public vitality. Serving as a “connector” by recruiting and engaging the public, private and civic leaders necessary to achieve an affirmative vision as a working team is essential. They will need to establish metrics and track multi-sectoral impacts to create evidence based governance. They will need skills and capacities to build a culture of collaboration.
The most difficult impediments in laws, regulation, and policy are at the program level, whereby individual statutes tend to operate in isolation from the broader scope of a particular policy issue. Providing statutory authority to braid and blend funding from different programs so they can be orchestrated at the front line—say, in child welfare, or housing, or education—is a goal. But that may not be readily achievable given existing constraints. Maybe a more achievable approach might be to allow blending and braiding of administrative support expenditures to create a common IT, data management, and analytics support framework that would allow separation of programs but a sharing of information and resources in a way that would allow greater collaboration.
As part of the Academy’s Election 2020 project, the Working Group on Public Governance and Engagement recommended that:
OMB should direct specified agencies to commit in their strategic planning to a cross-agency performance (CAP) goal to improve the delivery and effectiveness of services to individuals and families through collaboration across multiple human service areas. Lead agencies would use national strategy maps to create personalized services for each area of opportunity. National strategies have been developed and used successfully in past administrations, primarily to guide national approaches in national security cybersecurity, counterterrorism, and pandemic responses, but could be used in human service areas as well.
The types of changes implied by the recommendation require intentional and systematic processes to collaboratively create strategies that are bigger than individual agencies, programs, grants or organizational missions. Developing and managing the details of these strategies involves techniques that are different from running and evaluating individual programs. The use of strategy management and measurement systems creates a strategic framework around with government and non-government organizations can systematically work to achieve greater progress on the key drivers of the desired outcomes. In short, alignment across and among government programs at different levels and public, business, and nonprofit organizations at different levels does not just happen. Silo walls do not just crumble without major cross-boundary work.
Strategy mapping is an established tool for effective strategy management. Strategy mapping and strategy maps help elevate the discussion from the merits, funding and impact of individual programs and organizations to the system of intentional changes—the strategic objectives—that are most important for achieving significant and sustainable progress on complex social challenges. The strategy mapping approach helps prompt teamwork and catalyze innovation around how the strategic objectives can best be accomplished.
Effectively managing strategic change—instead of hoping to be lucky—necessarily requires at least a reasonable understanding of causal, or means-ends, relationships. Strategy mapping is a causal mapping process. A causal map is a statements-and-arrows diagram. The arrows indicate how one idea or action leads to another in a means-ends relationship; in other words, an arrow means “might cause,” “might lead to,” “might result in,” or some other kind of influence relationship. The term causation is thus being used loosely, but is still meant to indicate a plausible understanding about how to change some aspects of the world. (Note, however, that a means-ends or cause-and-effect relationship specifically maps out influence, not chronology.) In a strategy map the statements represent potential actions that, if taken, are presumed to cause a given outcome(s). Each action in turn is informed by actions that support it as explanations (in-arrows), and each action may be an outcome (consequence or out-arrow) of earlier actions. As a result, statements on a map can be both an action (explanation) and an outcome (consequence).
By using a few simple but important rules for formulating statements and creating links, strategy mapping makes it possible to articulate a large number of ideas and their interconnections in such a way that people can know what to do in an area (issue) of concern, how to do it, and why, since each chain of arrows (where the chain details a linked argument) indicates the causes and consequences of an idea or action. The maps then help focus dialogue and deliberation on which possible statements would or should be chosen and classed as important values, mission, goals, strategies, actions and underlying assumptions. In other words, the logic structure of a visual strategy map is the same as that of a strategic plan – the difference being that the strategy map details the logic that holds the statements together typically in considerable detail. The map outlines the lines of argumentation leading from actions through strategies to goals and mission.
The creation of Cross-Agency Priority Goals via the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 has provided a statutory mechanism to institutionally address cross-agency problems. These goals are established once every four years, with progress being tracked and reported quarterly. A 2016 study by the Government Accountability Office found that the process has been institutionalized and works as envisioned. Overseen by the Office of Management and Budget, the most recent update was released in early July.
The Office of Management and Budget streamlined governmentwide grants management guidance in 2014, creating the Uniform Guidance. It offered opportunities for greater flexibility but few grantees took advantage of them. According to a recent study of administrative burden in university research grants, a key reason for the lack of willingness to adopt these flexibilities – which would reduce compliance costs and shift the focus to outcomes – was a fear that agency inspectors general would disallow grant spending that used these flexibilities. OMB is currently reassessing the Uniform Guidance in order to reduce the burden of compliance costs and focus on outcomes. However, based on recent studies, changes may also be needed in the Inspector General community. It may need to come together and agree on common audit methods for assessing these grants so the grantee community (especially when grantees may receive grants from more than one agency) has more certainty as to what to expect, especially since the inspectors general in different agencies sometimes interpret the same regulation differently.
In the short-term, intergovernmental and intersectoral partnerships that depend on federal agency leadership and engagement are faltering. Intense cross-boundary collaboration is in evidence, however, in every community in the country that is fighting this public health challenge. In some states, this is being achieved through local/state/tribal/regional cooperation. The conditions that drive collaborative governance regimes – interdependence, uncertainty, salient consequences of inaction, and emerging leadership- are fully apparent across the country, despite the fatal absence of leadership and abundance of extreme partisanship at the national level. Further, there is no doubt that furious medical and scientific cooperation (as well as competition) to find effective treatments and vaccines is occurring across public, private and non-profit institutions here in the US and internationally.
Over the longer-term, these dispersed lessons in collaboration will redesign and fortify more robust and resilient systems in public health delivery and financing. I am hopeful that over time we will learn from this catastrophe (though sadly at great human cost) and one of the central discoveries will be about our essential connectedness as people and institutions. I predict there will be a seismic demand for stronger intergovernmental and intersectoral governance as well as for more accountability and transparency in governing; for higher enforceable ethical standards for elected and appointed government officials; for greater expertise and professionalism in public service; for science-informed governing; and for public education in democracy, law and science.
The pandemic has brought into sharp relief the importance of having in place institutional arrangements and experienced individuals to work collaboratively across agency, program, intergovernmental and intersectoral boundaries. It also shows the importance of increasing citizens trust in government and engaging them in their communities to join together to address the health, economic, and social challenges raised by the pandemic.
The Academy’s Election 2020 Working Group on Public Governance and Engagement recently released a report outlining a number of actions that can be taken, including:
State and local governments tend to already be closer to the people and have good models of public engagement, but they, too, can take a leading role in improving their relationship with their citizens. One way to do this is through the expanded use of participatory budgeting—a democratic process whereby community members decide how a portion of their community’s public budget will be spent. Typically, this is done at a neighborhood level. This is practiced in over 3,000 communities around the world, including about 700 communities in the United States.
Public engagement is critical to the development of workable solutions to today’s most pressing social and economic challenges. By creating new ways to work together across governmental and sectoral lines, the nation can lay the ground for a more collaborative governance model that will enhance public trust, social connectedness, and government performance.
As noted in the report from the Election 2020 Working Group on Public Governance and Engagement, technology can be an important mechanism in more meaningfully engaging Americans on policy issues and program implementation. This has already been done and can be done more to a much greater extent. In 1999, the non-partisan Americans Discuss Social Security initiative launched a series of forums that engaged more that 50,000 Americans in all 50 states and created dialogue with elected officials and policy experts on the topic of Social Security reform. These town meetings and the collective decisions of the participating public gave policymakers in both the Senate and the House crucial input and political cover that influenced their debates, culminating in the decision to raise the annual cap on payroll taxes. More recently, artificial or machine intelligence is now being used to facilitate wide-scale surveys and policy deliberations. In 2015, when Taiwan was wrestling with whether and how to allow the ride-sharing company Uber to operate, the government turned to an outside facilitator who used a tool called pol.is to engage thousands of citizens and stakeholders and then generate a series of recommendations around broadly agreed upon principles. The government bundled those into a new regulation.
Deliberative forums can be convened by third parties on behalf of individual members of Congress to participate in deliberations with a representative sample of their constituents on policy issues under consideration. This could be done using technology. High-quality non-partisan information and briefing materials would inform the discussion. This effort could be organized via the House and Senate Committees on Administration, possibly with a non-partisan organization taking the lead.
John Bryson. McKnight Presidential Professor of Planning and Public Affairs, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. Former positions with the Humphrey School: Associate Dean; Director, Master of Public Affairs Program; Director, Master of Planning Program; Director, Reflective Leadership Center; Collegiate Program Leader, University of Minnesota Extension Service.
Kirk Emerson. Professor of Practice, Collaborative Governance School of Government and Public Policy, University of Arizona; Principal, Kirk Emerson and Associates. Former positions with University of Arizona: Environmental Policy Faculty Associate, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and the Institute of the Environment; Research Associate, School of Government and Public Policy; Assistant Researcher, Visiting Scholar, Coordinator, Environmental Conflict Resolution Program, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy. Former Faculty Affiliate, Program for Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration, Maxwell School, Syracuse University. Former positions with Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs: President; Vice-President. William J. Donlon Distinguished Visiting Professor of Environmental Communication, Department of Environmental Studies, College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, State University of New York; Director, U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, Morris K. Udall Foundation; Senior Advisor, U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, Morris K. Udall Foundation. Former positions with Indiana University: Assistant Instructor, Research Assistant, Adjunct Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs; Research Consultant, Planning and Mediation, PennACCORD and the Eastern Pennsylvania Mediation Service. Positions with Bucks County Planning Commission: Director, Countywide Planning; Environmental Planner, Housing Planner. Consultant, American Institute for Architects, Public Education Program.
Daniel Feldman. Professor of Public Management, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. Former Positions with Office of the State Comptroller, New York: Senior Counsel, Special Counsel for Law and Policy; Executive Director and General Counsel, New York State Trial Lawyers Association; Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General of New York; Member of Assembly, New York State Legislature; Committee and Subcommittee Counsel, Investigations Committee , New York State Assembly; Adjunct and Visiting Teaching, American Law and Government, Ethics and Jurisprudence; Executive Assistant, U.S. Representative E. Holtzman; Associate, Olwine, Connelly, Chase, O'Donnell & Weyher.
Stephen Hamill. CEO and Founder, Public Purchasing Exchange, LLC; Principal and Founder, Shared Leadership Group, LLC; CEO and Founder, HB Capital Resources, Ltd. serving as Founder and General Manager for U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance and California Statewide Communities Development Authority (CSCDA); Attorney, Hamill Law Offices; Assistant County Administrator, Alameda County, CA.
John Kamensky. Associate Partner, IBM Global Business Services; Senior Fellow, IBM Center for the Business of Government. Former Deputy Director, National Partnership for Reinventing Government; Assistant Director, U.S. Government Accountability Office; Staff, Texas Constitutional Convention; Staff, Texas House of Representatives.
 For more information on different kinds of strategy mapping, see:
Fran Ackermann and Colin Eden (2011) Making Strategy: Mapping Out Strategic Success. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Bill Barberg (2017) Implementing Population Health Strategies. In Ron Bialek, Leslie Beitsch and John Moran, Eds., Solving Population Health Problems. New York: Routledge, pp. 296 – 329. See also: https://vimeo.com/398352113/72ee431c34
John M. Bryson, Fran Ackermann and Colin Eden (2014) Visual Strategy Mapping. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.
Robert Kaplan and David Norton (2004) Strategy Maps: Converting Intangible Assets into Tangible Outcomes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Instructional video on how to do Visual Strategy Mapping for Groups: https://hubertproject.org/hubert-material/402/