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Why Collaborate?

Why has collaboration become such a prevalent topic of conversation from the policy circles of Washington, D.C. to the community centers of rural America? While it sounds good and certainly was a virtue extolled in kindergarten, why does it make sense to collaborate in resource management today?


Collaboration is a process in which two or more individuals or organizations collectively address issues that cannot be addressed individually. Ecosystems defy geopolitical boundaries and landownerships. They ignore state, tribal, and municipal boundaries, private property lines, and agency jurisdictions. Collaboration is an approach to bridging the boundaries that subdivide ecosystems so that resource management decisions can be better informed and effective. Collaboration enables the solving of problems that one agency, landowner, scientist or group cannot solve alone.

Without collaboration, resource managers are in an impossible situation. They need to make decisions that rely on an increasingly large base of information and expertise, much of which does not reside within their agencies. They want to make “the right choices” but there are seldom clear technical solutions. They want to make credible and legitimate decisions that are understood and supported rather than contested, but can only do so through processes that actively seek to balance a broad range of public values. Managers also need resources and assistance to achieve on-the-ground management but are increasingly constrained by limited staffing, funding and expertise. Simply put, collaboration with community members, businesses, NGOs, and other state, federal and tribal representatives provides the most promising path to “getting the job done.”

Click here for a summary of benefits associated with collaboration and how collaborative approaches respond to the changing times of resource management.

Click here for a Conservation Biology in Practice article on Making Collaboration Work by Julia Wondolleck and Steven Yaffee also see Making Collaboration Work from Island Press.

Click here to view a presentation by Julia Wondolleck on "What Enables People to Overcome Differences and Begin Working Together?"

Variations in Collaborative Processes

“Collaborative processes are like snowflakes – no two are alike!”

-- A Wyoming CRMP Participant


Our fifteen years of assessment and evaluation of several hundred collaborative resource management processes has highlighted the tremendous variation that occurs among collaborative efforts. The issues addressed may be big or small; involve public and/or private resources; and can last a few weeks or up to a decade or more. Nonetheless, collaborative processes do share several important dimensions in common. They are open, inclusive, voluntary, involve face-to-face interaction and are focused on problem-solving.

Click here for a report that describes the many variations of collaborative approaches in resource management.

If you are interested in learning more about EMI activities in the collaboration realm, visit the EMI Collaboration site.

This site was developed by the Ecosystem Management Initiative through a partnership with the US Forest Service and the US Department of Interior. Read more.

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