Environmental Inter-Organizational Collaboratives and their Sustainability
Pp. 49-63 (15)
Public decisions are often inter-organizational by nature. Inter-organizational decision processes are
necessary in the planning and environmental domains in the United States at different levels (national, interstate,
regional, local) around public decisions and initiatives. The coming together of very different public and private
actors around specific problems is due to overlapping jurisdictions and mandates and to the interested parties’
realization that no unilateral action can either promote desired outcomes or prevent unwanted ones.
This chapter begins with a description of the kinds of collaborative processes seen in the American public
decision arena, and of how they function. It will discuss some criteria used to evaluate collaborative processes
and assess the success of their outcomes. It will then use an example of a public-private collaborative process in
Northeast Ohio to explore a double paradox that appears to characterize such efforts. It seems that, contrary to
what we might expect, even successful collaborative projects tend to be unsustainable. Moreover,
institutionalization of their management – one strategy that can help sustain them – can become a liability instead
of securing long-term survival.
Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University.