Seeking the Approach of Collaborative Governance

Hi everyone! This topic starts from my major, urban planning, which is a form of public policy aiming to achieve a better social, economic and environmental development in a certain area, mainly by allocating its spatial elements. Given the high urbanization level in developed countries and the rapidly growing urbanization rate in developing countries, we see increasing territorial, economic and social cohesion of urban areas in recent decades. Many relevant concepts come into our sight: city-county consolidation, metropolitan governance, regional planning, etc. All of them point to the concept of ‘collaborative planning’, originally proposed by Patsy Healey in 1997. She indicated that the diverse stakeholders face ‘the challenges of co-existence in the shared spaces of the dynamic, complex and conflict-ridden local and regional environments of our contemporary world’. After learning different planning systems, I find the challenges faced by planners in different countries are much the same: 1) the feasibility and sustainability of the plan; 2) the effectiveness and efficiency of its implementation; 3) and the consideration of citizen participation and stakeholder involvement in the planning-making process. To make good plans responding to these challenges, we need to build a good system of planning.

Moreover, we need to be fully aware of the inevitable connection between the planning system and the structure of the government. When I exchanged to the U.K. as a Chinese student, I found it quite difficult to understand their planning system without sufficient knowledge of the British government. These days, as I’m learning the various European planning systems from two French professors, I finally realize that whatever new planning system we try to understand, the first thing is to figure out the structure of the government which supports those systems.

Corresponding to the necessity of collaborative planning, collaborative governance is widely advocated. In the U.S., city-county consolidation dates back to nineteenth century such us Boston (1821), and more recently, we witnessed a significant interest in metropolitan reforms after 1960s. Most of the reforms were imposed by state legislatures but usually failed for different reasons. Even the councils of governments (COGs) in metropolitan areas, fostered by the federal government, failed to reach effective consensus among their local governments. Therefore, I’ll research whether we should enhance the roles of the President and the federal government in achieving planning at a regional level, and how the Congress could legislatively support the collaborative governance.

Noticeable challenges of my research are 1) the unique context of each State; 2) the large scale of the country. But I find that in China we face very similar problems 1) among diverse provinces; 2) in a larger demographic scale. Even the European countries with much smaller scales, still constantly have the first problem at their local levels. Thus the most exciting part lies in the challenges: to seek the approach of collaborative governance from but not confined to the institution of Presidency and Congress, in order to achieve better development of regions, and to build better lives for people who live in there.

I look forward to your comments and to meeting you all in the Fall Conference.

Meicheng Wang, Nanjing University

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