Collaboration and the Criteria for Success: A Case Study and a Proposed Framework for Analysis

Published date01 April 2022
AuthorDaniel McCool,Marian L. Rice
Date01 April 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Administration & Society
2022, Vol. 54(4) 714 –740
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00953997211042564
Collaboration and the
Criteria for Success:
A Case Study and a
Proposed Framework
for Analysis
Marian L. Rice1 and Daniel McCool1
There is a voluminous literature devoted to identifying factors that affect
the success of collaborative processes. Our first research goal was to
develop a list of 13 elements of effective collaborative procedural design,
which could then be applied to a case study of an innovative water policy
collaboration. The case study indicated that the design of that collaborative
process embodied significant limitations, and those imperfections provided
valuable insights into how to design a successful collaboration. Our second
research goal was to utilize what we learned from the case study to propose
a typology for designing a successful collaborative process.
collaboration, decision-making, planning, stakeholders, Utah, water policy
Collaboration is at the heart of many contemporary approaches to resolving
conflict, especially in regard to conflict over natural resources and the envi-
ronment. Inherent in the collaborative approach is the assumption that the
1The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA
Corresponding Author:
Marian L. Rice, Department of Political Science, The University of Utah, Carolyn and Kem
Gardner Commons, Suite 3345, 260 South Central Campus Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84112,
1042564AAS0010.1177/00953997211042564Administration & SocietyRice and McCool
Rice and McCool 715
most just, fair, and equitable solutions can often be found via a negotiating
process that involves people working together toward a shared goal (Benson
et al., 2015; Emerson & Nabatchi, 2015; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
2014). The multi-stakeholder approach asserts that influence and the right to
be heard are based on each stakeholder’s unique perspective and expertise
(Hemmati, 2002, p. 7). Collaboration is not a panacea, but it does have the
potential in many situations to reduce conflict, achieve buy-in from a wide
array of stakeholders, and lead to solutions that are widely supported and
can be sustained in the long run (Lenton & Muller, 2012; U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers, 2014; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2008). Although
some collaborative efforts operate for a short period of time, most address
ongoing long-term issues (Margerum, 2007, p. 135).
Collaboration has been relied upon to resolve many of the world’s most
pressing natural resource conflicts (Cosgrove, 2003; Gallego-Ayala, 2013,
p. 628; Lenton & Muller, 2012; Margerum, 2007; Shabman & Scodari,
2012; Taylor & Sonnenfeld, 2017; United Nations, 2014; United Nations
Environment Programme, 2012). But there are limits to what can be accom-
plished through collaboration. In this study, we set out to accomplish two
goals. First, we develop a set of criteria with which to assess an innovative
attempt to resolve a pressing set of problems through a uniquely designed
collaborative process called the Water Strategy Advisory Team (WSAT). For
our research, “Success” is defined as meeting the goal or mission for which
the collaborative body was established with the approval of a wide variety of
affected stakeholders. There is a voluminous literature on collaboration,
which has established many standards for the successful design of the col-
laborative process. The purpose of this research is to present original research,
thus we confined the literature review to what is directly relevant to the
WSAT. We extract from that literature 13 prominent criteria and apply them
to the WSAT to assess whether it can serve as a model for other collaborative
efforts. Second, based on our experience with the WSAT, the existing litera-
ture on collaboration, and the results of our survey, we propose a typology
that we hope will serve as a useful guide to subsequent attempts to evaluate
collaborative processes and improve their design.
Literature Review
Collaboration is central to nearly all models of conflict resolution. For exam-
ple, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Environmental
Justice (OEJ) utilizes the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-
Solving Model (CPS Model) to bring together multiple parties from various
stakeholder groups to develop solutions to address local environmental and/

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