The generation and selection of diversity in collaborative processes: An evolutionary view

Lasse Gerrits, Robin Chang

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

1 Citation (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Successful collaborations in the public realm pivot on the ability of actors to coordinate and
reach some form of agreement over the contents of decision making. Much scholarly ink has
been spilled on strategies such as consensus building (e.g. Innes & Booher, 1999b) and joint
reframing (e.g. Margerum, 2011) as key means to effective collaboration (Healey, 1997).
These works highlight a number of strategies that have proven to be successful, such as, the
(re)framing of problem definitions and solutions decisions, and the alignment of goals and
stakes, even when they appear contradictory. What is also emphatically linked with these
observations, are ideal outcomes in which actors can see their stakes being respected in the
final package deal (Innes & Booher, 1999a, p. 415), despite the fact that it is not always
deemed possible or even appropriate to take the entire range of different stakes into account
(Innes, 2016). In (hypothetical) single-shot games, actors may simply use everything in their
power to get things their way while disregarding the possible long-term effects of imposing
an outcome on actors with different goals and frames. However, this may – and often does –
backfire in the long run as actors’ commitment to opportunistic strategies to promote their own
goals over those of others erodes collective benefit and trust in reciprocal exchange.
This chapter takes on a longitudinal view to better understand how diversity in actors,
problem definitions and solution definitions relate to one another. The central question for
this chapter is: how does diversity affect collaboration in the long run? We draw on insights
from biological evolution, in particular those about genetic variation, selection, retention
and survival, to map the interplay of cooperation and diversity at the micro level. Evidence
comes from case studies in collaborative planning processes in Switzerland and Germany.
The chapter concludes with some tentative recommendations about how collaboration can be
fostered better, as derived from the case materials
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Handbook of collaborative public management
EditorsJ. W. Meek
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781789901917
ISBN (Print)9781789901900
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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