Collaborative Governance gives all parties with a stake in a public problem a say in how to resolve it.

Gridlock impossible at ‘kitchen table’

WHEATLAND, WYO. AND PORTLAND, ORE. – One issue still lingers from the polarized presidential elections: How might we return to more civil discourse, especially among our public leaders? Our fellow citizens aren’t interested in a blame game. Leaders: It’s up to us to change things.

We’d do well to start at home, in our states and communities, whether we are Democrat, Republican, or of another stripe. It’s time for public leaders to make a real effort to draw fellow citizens to the kitchen table, where America has traditionally found its most durable solutions, and begin to make progress together. Absent this, the polarization that now grips our land can only continue.

One approach is "collaborative governance." That’s a fancy name for getting everyone – every agency, citizen, community – with a stake in a particular issue to come together to talk about what ought to be done. This is different from your typical town meeting, which is too often just a one-sided exercise in appearing to listen. And, it’s different from a public hearing, often attended only by policy experts or by those with vested interests to promote. Instead, collaborative governance takes as its starting point the idea that truly working together creates better solutions to public problems, solutions that more people can live with.

By James E. Geringer and John A. Kitzhaber

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