Skip to main content

Article Summary

Cigler, Beverly A. 1994. "Pre-Conditions for Multicommunity Collaboration." Pp. 39-58 in Toward an Understanding of Multicommunity Collaboration. AGES Staff Report 9403. Washington, DC: USDA, ERS.

Cigler argues that intergovernmental collaboration can build the capacity of rural local governments, which often lack the necessary resources and expertise to adequately provide government services or conduct policy decision-making activities. However, "truly collaborative ventures are system changing," (p. 41) and thus potentially threatening to existing government entities. Further, if one partner has an organizational or political weakness, it jeopardizes the success of the collaborative effort. Hence, though the results of collaboration can be positive, the conditions necessary to achieve it can be extensive. Cigler is careful to emphasize that there is a continuum of possible cooperative relationships between governments ranging from loose, flexible links often developed to share information or to begin moving toward a common purpose (networks and cooperation) to more formal links forged to perform a specific often complex task (coordinating and collaborating). Some intergovernmental partnerships begin as networks and evolve to a more formal, lasting, and essential relationship in response to increased needs or as trust between the partners grows.

Cigler examines three cases of rural intergovernmental collaboration through the framework of previously-observed pre-conditions to collaboration which she derived from previous case studies. The preconditions are:

  • a disaster occurrence,
  • a political constituency of cooperation,
  • supportive capacity building or incentives provided by external sources,
  • early and continued support by elected officials,
  • visible advantages of cooperation for participating governments,
  • existence of a policy entrepreneur,
  • early focus on visible, effective strategies, and
  • an emphasis on collaborative skills-building.

While none of the three cases presented in this text exhibited all of these pre-conditions, three did appear to be particularly important in all cases studied. These were: a disaster occurrence - either a recent or anticipated natural or economic disaster, visible advantages of cooperation for participating governments, and the existence of a policy entrepreneur.