“Collaborative governance”–the authors fire back!

OK I am dramatizing a bit. But John Donahue and Richard Zeckhauser each emailed responses to my sagely review.

Richard notes the changes in PDUFA to improve post-market surveillance. He also notes the role of the new law in assisting HIV/AIDS patients. No argument there. Regarding my comments about parks, he writes:

Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good. I agree that more parks — or better parks — in underserved areas would be good. But that is what Swidler Park is. The boat house was misdirected (with good intentions), but the park itself has been vastly improved. Spend some time in Central Park on your next visit to NY. It really does serve a very broad community…. If you wander around say even 75th street, you will hear many foreign voices of the recent immigrants, and Latin music alongside rap music and other music. Those enjoying themselves are hardly largely the elite and wealthy.

Donahue’s comments are similar:

I see collaborative governance as sort of a second-best. If government itself had more resources, popular legitimacy, and a larger share of the country’s talent (this last deficit the subject of my prior book) we wouldn’t have to rely so heavily on private capacity. But modern America is what it is. We’re not so great at formal government. So let’s do what we can to make government better–that’s my day job at the Kennedy School. Meanwhile let’s figure out how to harness to public purposes the immense capacity and real public spirit in the private sector. And to a substantial extent, at least for now, “making government better” means making it better at orchestrating accountable collaborations.

The Bette Midler episode, in my mind, is sort of a microcosm of collaborative governance. On balance she did the parks, including Swindler’s Cove, a lot of good. The boathouse itself was a lousy idea. But I fault not Midler but the NYC parks department for negligence with respect to their duty to (nicely) push back when a gold-star supporter has an uncharacteristically goofy enthusiasm The city’s park officials tend to be terrific at getting the best and heading off the worst from private involvement, which makes them a model for public management in collaborative settings (and makes this lapse rather glaring.)

I see their point. Yet as Richard himself points out, “it is the responsibility of the progressive never to say Dayenu.”

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

One thought on ““Collaborative governance”–the authors fire back!”

  1. This is a fascinating discussion, but alas, I have no idea why it is wrong to want poor people to have access to a boathouse (and presumably, boats).

Comments are closed.