Collaboration and the Ecology of Democracy
Collaboration is a proven approach to building agreement and resolving conflict over natural resource and environmental issues. This article moves beyond this conclusion and explores the degree to which collaboration—particularly citizen-driven collaboration— offers an alternative theory and practice of democracy applied to the governance of natural resources. Using complexity theory, we argue that collaboration should be considered as one species within the ecology of democracy, which also includes direct, representative, participatory, and deliberative forms. Collaborative democracy is defined as citizen-initiated processes that emerge organically outside the established system of public decision-making.While this form of democracy faces a number of challenges in theory and practice, it tends to result in outcomes that are well-informed and widely supported—largely because people with a stake in the issues being addressed play a central role in framing the problems and solutions. Natural resource managers can be more effective by understanding the complexity of the democratic environment within which they operate.