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A Framework for Assessing Power in Collaborative Governance Processes


Jill M. Purdy is associate professor in the Milgard School of Business at the University of Washington Tacoma, where she also serves as academic director of the Center for Leadership and Social Responsibility. Her research focuses on the intersection of private enterprise, the public sector, and society at large. Current research projects examine social entrepreneurship and the social practices of multinational corporations internationally. She serves on the editorial board of Negotiation and Conflict Management Research.


The growing use of collaborative methods of governance raises concerns about the relative power of participants in such processes and the potential for exclusion or domination of some parties. This research offers a framework for assessing power that considers authority, resources, and discursive legitimacy as sources of power and considers the participants, the process design, and the content of collaborative governance processes as arenas for power use. A case study of a collaborative governance process is presented and analyzed using the power framework. Implications for the design of collaborative governance processes are discussed, including the benefits of a multidimensional definition of power, tools for managing power imbalances among participants, and strategies that participants can use to participate more fully in collaborative governance processes.