The Creative Work of Collaborative Governance: Actor Networks and Watershed Park Planning

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Conference Proceeding


“Ways of Knowing” is a policy approach that acknowledges different ways of understanding, engaging with, and addressing public issues. It draws on the insights of Actor-Network Theory (ANT), in particular the claim that non-human actants play important organizing roles in structuring social knowledge (Latour 2005). Ways of Knowing is a valuable perspective to bring to collaborative governance (Feldman, Khademian et al. 2006), helping to capture and characterize the discrete but interlocking patterns of sense-making and work-doing that coalesce around seemingly singular public policy issues. This paper presents four Ways of Knowing that are involved in urban watershed park planning, as well as three of the non-human actants that span them. It does not argue that one way of knowing can or should emerge as the “best” one for understanding urban rivers and waterfront parks. Rather, it shows that because different ways of knowing are in a continual process of being enacted and renewed, they are also able to engage with and inform one another, coming to hybrid policy outcomes around particular issues and sites. This analytical move is carried forward and held together by non-human actants, an insight facilitated by the ANT approach. The creative work of collaborative governance (Healey 2004) is to continually approach policy issues - such as urban watershed management – as actor-networks of implicated participants, and to bring their various ways of knowing into sustained episodes of interaction (Healey 2007), with each other. Non-human actants such as rivers, plan documents, and narratives can be understood as agents of inclusivity and strategy-making, knitting together different ways of knowing. As such they play important translation roles for inclusive managers striving for democratic, effective policy outcomes.

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Conference Papers -- American Political Science Association 2007 Annual Meeting

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