What Hat Do I Wear Now?: An Examination of Agency Roles in Collaborative Processes

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As collaborative approaches to resolving public disputes become more prevalent, agency officials are finding themselves in unfamiliar terrain. This article offers one conceptualization of agency roles in collaborative processes, drawing from the experiences of natural resource managers and enviromental regulators at the federal level. Based on an examination of 65 cases, the authors identify three distinct “hat” that effective agency officals wear in collaborative processes – leader, partner, and stakeholder. The objective and function of each role is assessed, along with the implications of agency facilitation. The most successful agency representatives were able to blend the three primary roles, and did not act as facilitators of the collaborative process.

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