At the national level, the connection between the public and government seems broken. Trust in government has been declining for decades, and in the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer survey, only 43 percent of Americans say they trust their government “to do what is right,” 10 percentage points lower than it was only five years ago. More than 60 percent of US voters think the country is on “the wrong track,” even at a moment of near full employment.

The story reflected in polls is bleak at the national level, but in our cities and towns, we find different story: a rich vein of experimentation with more collaborative forms of public engagement, aimed at allowing people outside and inside of government to work together in designing policy. This is collaborative governance—also known as “co-governance”—and it seeks to disrupt the rigid dichotomy between those “in power” and those “outside of power.” A new name for something that has been emerging in practice over several decades, collaborative governance shifts power and builds trust by enabling government officials and advocates to see each other as collaborators with unique capacities and perspectives that support the other’s interests and positions.

Here are three key principles that are integral to co-governance:

  1.  Co-governance grants people an authentic seat at the table and imbues the public with actual decision-making power.
  2. Co-governance not only grants the public decision-making power but follows through on allocating resources. 
  3. Co-governance promotes a long-term vision, building momentum and relationships that outlast one-time policy wins.

Read the full article about collaborative governance by  Hollie Russon Gilman and Mark Schmitt at Stanford Social Innovation Review.