Previous PageTable Of Contents

Chapter 5
Mechanisms for coordination

Margaret A. Shannon


Policy actors are any individual or group that is directly or indirectly, formally or informally, affiliated with or affected by the policy process at any stage. They can include governments, businesses, NGOs, civil society organizations and communities as well as individuals. Policy actors seek to influence the outcome of a policy process through either direct or indirect action. For example, a policy actor may directly participate in the process of defining policy goals and evaluating possible means to achieve them. Or, a policy actor may be a civil society organization struggling to bring local voices into policy decisions made at higher levels. Policy actors may also be those affected, positively or negatively, by a policy process. Thus, the term policy “actor” refers to a very broad spectrum of groups and individuals that are linked through their relationship to a policy process and its outcomes.

Over time, policy actors can become strongly linked to specific policy sectors and specific programmes – they become very inwardly focused. When there is a system of relationships binding policy actors closely to specific policies as direct beneficiaries, then the degree of policy change or likelihood of policy beneficiaries desiring change is low. Thus, if policies are tightly held in place, then coordination across policy sectors can be very difficult for it is viewed as threatening to the current status quo. If policies are more loosely related to the interests of beneficiaries, the structural and ideological preferences of organizations and agencies and the shifting alignment of political interests, then it may be somewhat easier to pursue efforts to integrate policies across sectors. Often it is actors who are not policy beneficiaries that desire greater policy coordination to better realize their interests by reducing the control of powerful actors over policy processes. Thus, conflict, critique and resistance may promote policy coordination and improve policy integration as current beneficiaries seek to maintain their position and new actors try to gain new benefits.

The challenge for actors striving to improve cross-sectoral policy coordination may be summarized by two simple principles:

This chapter develops a conceptual framework for a participatory 1policy process aimed at improving the capacity of actors to coordinate and integrate their policy roles towards SFM. Issues of power and participation are considered within an iterative and emergent governance framework. The final section addresses the changes occurring and needed to build governance institutions that support participatory processes and ensure that decisions are accountable and legitimate within a political community.


The argument of this chapter is that policy coordination is by definition a communicative process and therefore taking a participatory approach is necessary. Policy processes are often thought of as linear: identify the problem, analyze different solutions to the problem, choose the best policy solution and implement it. In reality, of course, the process is much more complex. Indeed, it is often difficult to know if the process is moving towards a solution or to a better definition of the problem. This is because policy processes occur within policy communities. A policy community is composed of all the direct and indirect stakeholders in the outcome, all those with knowledge or expertise in the area, all those who are affected by the decision and all those who are interested. How does a policy community come together? The following discussions will look briefly at the different key steps (Box 5.1) in the formation of a policy community and policy processes within the framework discussed above.

Box 5.1 – Steps in policy coordination

- Identifying a public problem

- Actors and identities

- Role of conflict in actor identity and problem definition

- Understanding power

- Convening and facilitating: key roles for policy actors

- Building “communicative action” capacity in policy communities

Identifying a public problem: How easily we take for granted the existence of a “public” (Stanley, 1990). Yet, the essential need of democratic processes is the creation of a public that can undertake the formidable responsibilities of self-governance. However, as the global agreements and principles for sustainable forest management and sustainability have implicitly recognized, the public arises in response to a “public question”. And, a public question is one that was once private that is now open to public deliberation and the formulation of a public policy problem. It should be recognized at the outset that the creation of a public problem arises from many places: civil society, expert agencies, scientists, private enterprises or new political forms, and so on. One of the defining features of a democratic society is that public questions emerge through political discussions and lead towards revised social organization over time. Of course they also generally challenge the status quo, current distributions of power and wealth, accepted rationales for policy choices and unquestioned assumptions of fact and circumstance. Thus, public questions give a dynamic and fluid nature to democratic societies and are a key mechanism for change, adaptation and flexibility.

In order for the public question of “sustainable forest management” to emerge, political forums for discussion were necessary. UNCED brought wide attention to the need for increased political dialogue and resulted in the numerous different processes that provided opportunities for continued framing of the “problem of sustainable forest management”. This question has led to new policy frameworks for integration, such as nfps, as well as new private policy initiatives, such as forest certification. This chapter builds upon these discussions and the expanded definition of the “problem” of SFM by asking how to improve the cross-sectoral coordination capacities of policy processes.

Actors and identities: How are actors defined in policy processes? Typically, the identity of the actors is defined through either formal designation (governmental agencies, trade associations, business associations, etc.) or informal recognition of interest. However, this assumes that the actors are already well organized around specific interests related to the policy problem at hand. In the context of SFM, this is often not the case. Indeed the reason for public deliberation is to define new actors and to allow “old” actors to take on new roles. Figure 5.1 gives a general way of thinking about the relationship of the degree of organization of actors and the range of possible participatory processes.

Figure 5.1 - Typology of actor organization and definition of public problems

In the case of problems being well defined and actors well organized, then a representational approach to participatory processes is possible. This situation generally occurs as a public problem “matures” over time through political dialogue in the policy process. Actors slowly coalesce and organize around perceived interests, as the nature of the problem, viewed from different perspectives and with different possible outcomes, grows clearer. Thus, representational participation tends to be limited to those public problems where actors have previously defined their interests, already have clearly defined and distinctive roles and can identify solutions that promote their desired outcomes. Nonetheless, this situation is often taken to be the general one in policy formulation and leads to some of the frustrations and inefficiencies often associated with participatory processes.

Looking at the opposite end of the spectrum, we see problems that are diffuse and not well defined and interests that are loosely organized or perhaps just nascent. In these situations, participatory processes are clearly communicative action, where the objectives of the communicative process are two-fold: define the public problem and simultaneously define the actors and their roles. While understanding that all participatory processes entail communicative action, it is useful to recognize that in the situation where problems are being defined and actors are forming or changing their roles, the essence of the participatory process is communicative action. By this is meant that the degree of instrumental or strategic policy development is low since there is not a clear public problem or organized social interests. Indeed, one can expect that this part of the policy process may extend over years as the nature of the public problem is slowly understood and a shared understanding emerges through dialogue among actors.

The dialogue that has occurred around SFM is an excellent example of this type of participatory policy process. The problem of sustainability in forests has gone through many different kinds of definition with many different attempts to apply policy solutions. Today, most actors would say that SFM is still not a well-defined public problem and that actors are only slowly organizing or recognizing the need for new roles. The initiation of forest certification processes by industrial associations (sustainable forest initiative of the American Forest and Paper Trade Association), non-governmental interests (Forest Stewardship Council) and a loose association of actors in Europe (Pan-European Forest Certification) are excellent examples of the processes of both defining the public problem, organizing the actors within a policy community and developing new institutional arrangements (Meidinger, 2003b). As these different approaches are tested, the actors learn more about the nature of the problem and each other and they shape and re-shape their roles. The role of consumers and sellers of wood products in terms of the problem of SFM was completely redefined by FSC in 1993. By engaging consumers, NGOs and enterprises as a policy community engaged in public dialogue about how to ensure SFM globally, FSC is an example of generative deliberation and shows how this leads to defining problems, actors, information needs and possible solutions.

In some cases, problems become better defined but actors remain only loosely organized (Figure 5.1 upper right hand quadrant). For these situations, participatory processes move towards collaboration with a strong emphasis on communicative action processes. In this situation, the collaborative process contributes to defining the actors by engaging a broad and diverse policy community in public deliberation (Bennis and Biederman, 1997). Thus, the communicative action leads towards a better understanding of the problem, recognition of the actors, stakeholders and interests and why they are associated with this problem (Finger-Stich, 2003). For example, for a long time the problem of unsustainable forest management was considered to be one of population pressure. Thus, places with low population were not considered to be central in developing policies for SFM. Today, however, it is widely accepted that the forces of globalization, leading to practices that extract forest resources from areas with low population often with impunity due to a lack of protective policies are at least as much of a contribution to unsustainable forest management as population. Thus, new actors are forming with respect to this new understanding of the public problem and old actors are redefining their roles as a way to achieve SFM.

The other type of collaboration illustrated in Figure 5.1 occurs when the interests are fairly well defined, often in response to other problems, but the new public problem is still diffuse. Global warming and its contribution to problems of sustainability is an example of this kind of situation. There are numerous actors organized around issues related to global warming and these actors are now working together to better understand sustainability of forests within different scenarios of climate change. Research is under way on this topic and actors are rethinking their roles in terms of the need to have a global-scale political dialogue. So a collaborative approach is occurring wherein actors - bringing their different perspectives, information sources, knowledge contributions and capacities to address elements of this large problem - are working together.

One way of using Figure 5.1 is to diagnose the stage of problem definition and level of actor organization in order to develop an appropriate participatory process. For example, when representational processes are possible, then deliberative processes can focus on the missing key elements of information. When there is consensus on overall objectives, the deliberative process can focus on expert deliberation. When there are multiple objectives but information is relatively well known, then the focus is on political or negotiated deliberation. When both are clear - consensus on goals and information is available - then forms of procedural “deliberation” may be sufficient. Another way is to identify the nature of the problem based on consensus on values and the state of information and knowledge. Then, based on the type of deliberative process that is most appropriate, one can consider the degree to which there is a well-defined problem and the level of organization among actors. The more problems are still diffuse and actors loosely organized (if at all), the more generative deliberation is necessary with a strong recognition of the need for communicative action to lead to greater social organization and better problem definition.

While these conceptual approaches oversimplify some aspects of the situation, they are useful for diagnosing the kind of participatory process most suited to a situation and to explain why a participatory process is working or not working. Thus, they provide practitioners and researchers alike with a window into understanding the always complex and confusing social world.

The role of conflict in actor identity and problem definition: Missing from the discussion so far is the recognition of the importance and contribution of social conflict in political discussion. Often conflict is viewed as a destructive force that should be reduced or eliminated. Conflict is to be “managed.” However, without conflict actors cannot define themselves. Actors define themselves in relation to others and “other” is recognized through recognition of difference. Thus, the recognition of difference leads to the establishment of boundaries between “self” and “other”. These boundaries are the source of social groups, organizations, interests, preferences and so on. Thus, social conflict is an essential component of society and especially for democratic participation.

Boundary definition is one process of actor identification. As differences are recognized – differences of value, interest, personal characteristics, ways of behaving and so on – the relationship between “actor” and “other” is developed. Democratic theory rests on the belief in political equality for all – meaning equal opportunity to defining and addressing public problems. Thus, political deliberation provides the process by which actors learn about themselves and others through expression of different perspectives. It is for this reason that participatory processes are essential to cross-sectoral policy coordination and to defining public problems in that context.

Before thinking about how to understand conflict within the participatory process, it is useful to begin with looking at conflict within traditional democratic processes. Schattschneider (1960) argued persuasively that “democracy is a competitive political system in which competing leaders and organizations define the alternatives of public policy in such a way that the public can participate in the decision-making process”. It is this aspect of a democratic system of government that most distinguishes it from other governmental forms. Thus, democracy thrives on conflict and is the mechanism by which “private conflicts” are brought into the public realm, meaning that the interference of public interests in previously “private” matters is legitimated. An example is the efforts by a private company to assert that its forest management is of concern to no one since it is fulfilling the role of giving consumers what they want. How the products are produced, with what by-products and effects, is the interest of no one but themselves. Certainly basic ideas of liberal economics follow this approach by adding the assumption that no business would act against its own long-term interests and that these interests are tied to the interests of society through the price mechanism in markets. Experience has taught us differently. Hence SFM brought the issue of how private individuals and companies manage their forests into the public realm; it legitimated the interest of the public and other actors in how the forest was managed.

The different approaches to forest certification demonstrate one way in which conflict in society occurs – through competitiveness (Elliott and Schlaepfer, 2003). Each of the different approaches to asserting the legitimate interests of outside groups in forest management competes for landowners. Each offers somewhat different benefits and provides different kinds of services. The result of this competition is both a better understanding of the problem as solutions are tried and the formation of an organized group of social actors interested in and capable of contributing to this problem. In addition, through conflict and experimentation new information and knowledge is growing through both “trial and error” and research.

Understanding power: Whose values determine policy choices? Whose interests define the range of possible choices? Which issues are discussed and which not? Which options are never imagined? These questions all reveal the different dimensions of power. Power can sometimes be exercised directly when one actor has sufficient authority or command of financial resources to demand certain actions from another actor. Most models of policy formation and implementation assume this form of power. Policy-makers can make decisions based upon a set of values, goals and assumptions and then simply “command” implementation of these decisions. In this concept, policy is made in an authoritative context (international agreement, national legislation, agency directive, donor terms) and carried out by willing subordinates or clients. As discussed above, policy-making in this model is viewed as a linear one where policy is formulated within one context and implemented in others with minimal interaction between “formulators” and “implementers”.

Figure 5.2 shows a conceptual framework of the relationships between the four dimensions of power. The first dimension of power focuses on the direct relationships between actors. The second recognizes the importance of indirect, non-decisions that control the attention of actors. The third recognizes the power in communicative action to develop new meanings, values, preferences and master metaphors that change the very terms of discourse, and the fourth is the context within which actors are located and which they take for granted as “the way things are”. Relations of power bound all actions. This framework provides an analytical tool for understanding what kinds of power are affecting different actors, different problem definitions, different perspectives on priorities, different views of what kinds of cultural norms fit different policy processes. Without understanding social action within a framework of forms of power, it is impossible to either understand the actions of others or strategize for effective participation.

Even with this model of policy-making, however, only some problems are actually addressed and even then only some solutions are considered. This power to control the agenda is perhaps the most pervasive form of policy power in forestry today. The forestry sector resisted considering values beyond economic ones of production in forest management for a long time. Even now policy conflicts between actors are often at their core arguments about what the problem is (environmental protection or resource use?) and what the solutions are (sustainable forest management or nature reserves?). This form of power - the ability to control the agenda - is not as easily observable as power or direct control. However, this “non-decision making” form of power is often why innovations and new ideas are ignored and changes in the status quo avoided.

The third form of power is charismatic in that some actors are able to shape the values, preferences and interests of other actors through ideas, metaphors and media. In recent years, global forums on environment and forestry have developed new “master metaphors” for understanding the relationship between people and the environment. Concepts of “sustainability”, “sustainable development”, “sustainable forest management” and “biodiversity protection” are just a few examples of new concepts whose charismatic authority is reshaping policies across the globe and at all levels. These powerful ideas respond to the interests and values of a few actors and devalue the concerns of others. For example, the value of biodiversity globally may be viewed as more important than continuity of local livelihood strategies and traditional customs. Thus, when there is a conflict between local needs for resource use and development and nature reserves for biodiversity protection, biodiversity is given preference as a policy goal.

Figure 5.2 - Conceptual framework of the four dimensions of power

There is a fourth level of power located in the very institutional structure of society. Institutions are shared patterns of behaviour, beliefs and world views. The institution of property, for example, is accepted as the way access to resources is organized and controlled by societies. There are different types of property ownership: state, private, communal, etc. Societal preference for these types is a feature of social organization and is accompanied by strong social values regarding the “right” way to organize resource access. Institutions may emerge slowly over time as people repeat patterns of behaviour or they may be created full-blown as when societies are in transition. Indeed, it is this conscious creation of social institutions that describes a “society in transition”. There are many countries in transition in the world today working to structure new institutional frameworks and facing significant social challenges in meeting basic social needs. Forests, as a source of capital, are often at the centre of these discussions. However, the extent to which new forestry policies can integrate the values of the international arena as well as the needs of the country and its people is very dependent upon developing strong processes for policy coordination (Rankovic and Nonic, 2002; Weber, 2002).

Convening and facilitating: key roles for policy actors: Two key participatory roles are “convening” the policy community and “facilitating” the deliberative process. While traditionally one might expect governments to have a strong convening role, today trade organizations and civil society organizations are also undertaking the role of convening policy communities. This role is made manifest when a question is brought into the public arena for discussion – a public problem is defined. The ISO 14000 environmental management standards evolved from an interesting example of a policy community. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is composed of national standard setting organizations, some of which are quasi-public and others are private. The public problem of environmental management standards emerged during UNCED. ISO responded by giving this task to a technical task group (TC 207) charged with developing specific policies and standards. When this task group meets, the actors represent all (or as many as choose to attend) the national-level members worldwide. Thus, the convening of this policy community links local and national actors within a global context in order to open the definition of the problem to a wider and more generally applicable context. The ISO framework facilitates a primarily “expert deliberation” process that has resulted in globally accepted standards for environmental management in enterprises and governments. Indeed, under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and various European Union treaties, there is a preference for consensus-based international standards. As a result, this policy community plays a significant role in promoting the capacity for policy integration by means of a standard setting process. Of course, power plays a strong part in this as in most policy communities. It would be fair to say that the dominant members of ISO are trade associations, large multinational corporations and the consultants who serve them.

While ISO is an example of a fairly closed policy community, SFM may be an example of a more open and fluid policy community. Indeed, it would be difficult to name all the actors and organizations associated with the SFM policy community. Certainly it is a community with membership ranging from global actors to very localized individuals and groups. It is a policy community that is open in terms of defining the problem as well as in welcoming new actors as members. It is also a community that is struggling to develop the kind of knowledge and information needed to address the problem of SFM. Thus, as a policy community, SFM illustrates generative deliberation and is clearly based upon processes of communicative action.

The SFM policy community is a loosely organized network of actors around the problem of SFM. As coalitions of actors coalesce, ways of addressing elements of SFM are tried and the whole policy community learns through these experiences of trial and error. Governments respond with new legislative frameworks. NGOs contribute knowledge, information and integration capacities. Businesses and trade associations contribute resources and capacities to undertake new forest management approaches. Thus, gradually a body of experience grows from practice, generalizations emerge through research and reflection and the problem is better understood as actors adopt new or changed roles. This kind of process is one of communicative action. It is a form of generative politics in that new ideas, actors, groups, organizations, state responsibilities and many other changes emerge.

Building “communicative action” capacity in policy communities: Communicative action or generative deliberation in policy is necessary when the agreement on the basic values at stake and meaning of the problem is low and, in addition, there is a lack of sufficient information and knowledge or actor organization to design policy solutions. In this type of deliberation, a broad range of actors – civil society groups, individuals, governments, trade associations, businesses, experts, scientists and so on – are engaged in the participatory process. This process creates new knowledge and mechanisms for developing and sharing information as well as new ideas, values and problem definitions. Rather than imagining a single process for participation, this kind of complex policy community can be thought of as a network of participatory processes. The policy community “exists” to the extent that the actors within the network recognize that they have in common a shared interest in a general policy arena.

To the extent that parts of this complex network try to remain separate from these dynamics, these parts inhibit the generative capacity of the policy community. This is the reason that policy coordination across sectors becomes such an important issue when working on problems like SFM or sustainability. When government, for example, remains wedded to a formal, linear process of policy development – formulation then implementation – it is exercising a form of power based on its ability to control the agenda by forcing the process into a particular institutional environment. Other policy actors realize they are disadvantaged in this context and seek to shift the terms of discourse and the membership of the policy community. These competing forces for “openness and transparency” versus “backroom meetings and directives” are typical in policy processes. The forest policy sector must first open itself to greater participation of actors within the forest policy community and then reach further to engage actors from other policy sectors, policy communities and other institutional environments. Otherwise, the lack of openness and transparency will impede the deliberations of the policy community leading only to exit and protest.

One way to convene a policy community is by using information. For example, “monitoring and adaptation” processes create “reflective information” – information about how things are working. This kind of information can be effectively used to enhance generative deliberation by opening past policies to question and critique, but in a constructive way. As those actors affected by as well as interested join in these discussions within the policy community, this information animates the process of actor organization, definition of the problem and identification of new possible solutions. However, for policy change to occur there will have to be a serious commitment to learning from new information. This is where new institutions are important in terms of facilitating new forms of behaviour by adopting new policy solutions.


The demand for inter-sectoral policy integration stretches beyond just the environmental arenas into the agricultural, social welfare, economic and other policy spheres (Sandel, 1996). For example, meeting the challenge of abandoned or neglected forest land in parts of Europe requires addressing the livelihood needs of local people as well as the ecological implications of a changed landscape. Meeting the challenge of these new demands for integration is difficult and time-consuming and requires new relationships to be built among very different policy networks, academic disciplines and administrative agencies (Shannon, 1999). Figure 5.3 defines the differences between “intra-sectoral”, “cross-sectoral” and “inter-sectoral” policy coordination. This figure shows that quite different actors, processes and institutions would be involved depending on the type of coordination process.

Figure 5.3 - Types of coordination across and within policy sectors2

The result of integrative and participatory linking processes is a form of “loosely coupled” network organization that works at multiple levels through horizontal networks. Rather than a focus on the vertical integration of levels of governance (a federalist framework), this framework suggests multiple levels of policy, planning and administration that are linked through both demands for policy integration and participatory processes (Benz, 1999). At each level, there are numerous networks that reflect the problems of that scale of governance. Clearly, both agencies and NGOs play important roles in vertical integration across these levels of governance. However, this is different from assuming that each lower level is simply a subset of higher levels in terms of desired policy goals and outcomes. In a multilevel system, there is only a loose-coupling between levels based on the integrative and participatory processes that link them. Thus, legitimation is the outcome of open, transparent participatory processes. There is also, of course, the "feedback" process based on the actual responses of the ecological or social systems to policies and actions.

Institutions are enduring patterns of relationships that provide rules and processes to guide future behaviour of actors and organizations.3 Policy processes serve as institutions that shape the behaviour of policy actors (Meidinger, 2003 a,b). As discussed in Chapter 1, policy sectors composed of public and private actors within a specific sphere of interest – forestry, agriculture, health, rural development and so on – characterize many societies today. Since these sectors provide the home for a sectorally-focused policy community, they seldom are outward looking or change oriented. It is only when a problem arises linking many sectors that this inward focus is challenged and the sectoral policy communities begin to expand their membership. This is the process we have observed in SFM over the last decade or so. However, only gradually is the desirability for greater policy coordination and indeed integration becoming recognized by different sectors. If we assume the desirability of improved policy coordination, then what improvement might emerging institutional arrangements offer (Box 5.2)?

Box 5.2 – Actions for improving policy coordination

- Information sharing

- Spatial-integration of policy and planning

- Create multi-stakeholder groups related to a specific territory

- Capacity building for participatory processes

Information sharing: Today information is often sector-based. If information gathering were changed to focus on a territorial approach (spatial integration), then the artificial divisions among sectors would no longer mask the linkage of their roles, responsibilities and effects upon one another. Environmental performance monitoring and environmental impact statements are two existing mechanisms that could be redesigned to provide this service. If there were greater interdisciplinarity in these kinds of information gathering and monitoring approaches, then it would be more likely that information relevant to many sectors would result. In addition, by making these processes participatory, it is possible to incorporate “local and traditional knowledge”, “experiential knowledge” and new ideas generated through communicative action processes.

Spatial-integration of policy and planning: Within a sectoral context, policy and planning focused on the specific objectives and desired outcomes for that sector. If, however, integrated policy and planning processes, like the national forest programme process, provide a framework for several linked sectors to join in policy and planning efforts, then policy integration and coordination becomes much more likely. Using national forest programmes as an institutional framework for improved policy coordination and integration is still in the early stages of development. However, since it is directly focused on the mechanisms discussed in this chapter, it is a very promising institutional innovation (Hyttinen and Niskanen, 1999).

There are other institutional arrangements that utilize a territorial approach for policy integration. The Man and Biosphere Reserve programme (MAB) is one of the oldest institutions directly aimed at the general problem of sustainability and SFM within a social, economic and ecological context. The Biosphere Reserve concept is exceptionally flexible as an institutional framework and thus can respond easily to local conditions, traditions, resources and social needs. What the concept provides is a template for how to link land, resources and people that then can guide actors within a participatory process in developing the needed information and social capacity to work towards improved social and ecological conditions.

It is also possible for forest sector planning processes to become integrative policy institutions. To undertake this new role, forest planning needs to become explicitly outwardly focused and to consciously engage the larger policy community, including the relevant policy sectors affected by and affecting forests and forest policy. The example in chapter 2 of the Mexico Forest Plan is an excellent application of this approach.

Create multi-stakeholder groups related to a specific territory: This kind of mechanism is perhaps the most common around the world because (1) it is participatory and (2) it is adaptable to any spatial scale. When it is clear who the stakeholders are in a problem, then it is possible to engage in a “negotiated” process that results in a consensus policy (perhaps with expressed minority viewpoints, but with the majority prevailing). When the policy community is less well defined, then these groups fall within the arena of communicative action and generative deliberation. In this context, the commonality of the territory helps to frame the problem and the interests of the actors. Working together, actors learn about themselves and others and new knowledge is created. A generative deliberative process can result in new ideas, values and approaches to a shared problem that is spatially integrative and coordinates the contributions of different actors.

It is also possible to set up multi-stakeholder informal groups whose purpose is information sharing as well as informal policy coordination. Generally such groups are composed of government representatives who have specific competencies within a common administrative area. However, such a group in the case of forestry, for example, can be organized to allow for a much broader discussion. An example is the Biodiversity Council in the state of California (USA). This Biodiversity Council is made up of federal, state and some local government officials and they meet to share their plans and expectations for the future as they may affect biodiversity. This Council originated from the concern that the processes of suburban development in response to population growth were slowly eliminating the “oak woodland” ecosystem. This shared concern led to the creation of a forum for discussion that has since expanded the agenda as problems emerge or are better understood.

Capacity building for participatory processes: The kinds of participatory and generative process discussed in this chapter need skilled actors who are aware of their roles. Participatory processes can be designed to build these skills as a part of the process. However, the demands on some actors - experts, scientists, citizens - may exceed their preparedness. In the case of experts and scientists, various kinds of training programmes can be developed to improve their ability to work within a participatory and highly transparent policy process. In the case of citizens, there needs to be a foundation of understanding of the role of a citizen in democratic processes. In many societies there are long traditions of discussion, consensus and change. These traditional modes of community dialogue are invaluable resources for engaging local people in complex policy processes in a useful and rewarding way.

These are only a few examples of how institutions can facilitate the improvement of policy coordination across and among sectors. By drawing from the different contexts4 of participatory processes and the kinds of information sharing needed to improve policy coordination, policy entrepreneurs can convene new policy communities and thereby form new institutional frameworks.


Whereas historically policy issues have been located within relatively autonomous policy sectors supported by separate government bureaux, the emphasis today is on developing cross-sectoral policies that link policy networks and purposes and affect desired changes in policy outcomes. When actors, agencies, NGOs and political resources that have traditionally ignored one another are suddenly forced (often by legal or political challenges to current practices) to work together, the first reaction is often animosity and territorial behaviour. However, the kinds of problem forest policy addresses today demand integration because no one policy sector, agency or political actor can effectively address the problem alone. The new issues cross boundaries ecologically, socially, politically, administratively and legally. Indeed, frequently several regions, states and countries are involved and their separate regimes must find ways to work together on a common problem.

From an actor’s point of view, policy coordination entails creating a new identity, new relationships and new ways of working with others. This means that actors are engaged in conflict, learning, communication and other processes requiring them to change. Traditional bureaucratic organizations were not designed for conflict and change; they were designed for order and stability. Thus, for most government actors in policy processes these new demands strike at the heart of their core identity and structure. While government agencies are evolving towards network organizations more able to engage in policy coordination processes, this is a slow process. In the meantime, more flexible organizations like NGOs are taking the leadership role in organizing policy communities to work towards improved policy coordination.

The essential features of participatory processes discussed in this chapter are just a beginning from which more complex patterns of communicative action and deliberation can grow over time. The more actors are engaged in participatory processes for policy coordination, the better they will be at doing it. This is partly because actors will develop new skills, but mostly due to changes in organizational structure that will facilitate building collaborative organizations capable of addressing complex coordination problems. Thus, we can expect to see a new generation of organizational forms developing as governments, NGOs, business and community organizations change as a result of participating in policy coordination processes.

Conflict and power are always critical dimensions of relationships among actors. The types of deliberation that fit different kinds of situation take explicit account of these factors. When the core uncertainty is in knowledge and technical capacity, then experts receive more deference than when the conflicts are about values and priorities. One error commonly found in policy coordination processes is to rely upon scientific information as if it were a “neutral” arbiter among value conflicts. It is not and never can be. Science can help us understand and scientists can be important actors in policy processes, but science is not a substitute for ethical and normative choices. However, in similar fashion, when powerful actors seek to push policy towards their interests in the face of scientific and technical challenge, then deliberative fora need to be able to provide a counterweight by calling upon both scientific and public accountability. Thus, policy coordination processes need to be designed with the specific context in mind and aimed towards building both trust among actors and legitimacy within society by ensuring technically and politically accountable outcomes.

Communicative action theory provides the grounding for understanding the implications of deliberative forms of discourse. However, practice provides the “action learning” complement to theory building for improved public processes. Thus, scholars and practitioners must work and learn together in order to realize the promise of democracy as well as to improve democratic theory. This dialectic of “practice and theory” distinguishes the field of public participation and transforms not only the practitioner but also the citizen into a “civic scientist” engaged in improving our understanding of the world and people around us. The “public” in public participation is both the sovereign in terms of accountability and legitimacy and the source of practical knowledge and public judgement. This complex role requires practitioners and scholars to recognize the challenges of public participation and seek ideas and methods designed to improve it.

Examining policy coordination from the actor’s point of view shifts our attention away from the content and towards the process. However, the context and content of policies does indeed affect the processes of coordination. There are several ways to relate context and process in such a way as to adequately address both the process (power, actor identity, conflict, etc.) dimensions and the content (technical and scientific knowledge, issue, place, etc.) of the policies. A participatory approach to policy coordination that integrates both place-based contexts with actor-centred processes provides a promising avenue for improving policy coordination leading towards SFM practices.


Bennis, W. & Biederman, P.W. (1997). Organizing genius: the secrets of creative collaboration. Perseus Books, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Benz, A. (1999). Multi-level governance. In: P. Glück, G. Oesten, H. Schanz and K.R. Volz, eds. Formulation and implementation of national forest programmes. Vol. I: Theoretical Approaches. European Forest Institute Proceedings 30.

Elliott, C. & Schlaepfer, R. (2003). Global governance and forest certification: a fast track process for policy change. In: E. Meidinger, C. Elliott, G. Oesten, eds. Social and political dimensions of forest certification, pp. 199-218.

FAO (2002). Proceedings of technical meeting on enhancing stakeholder participation in national forest programmes. Forestry Department, Rome.

FAO/ECE/ILO (2000). Public participation in forestry in Europe and North America. ILO, Geneva.

Finger-Stich, A. (2003). Social factors enabling local people’s participation in integrated management planning. In: G. Buttoud, M. Shannon, G. Weiss, I. Yunusova, eds. The formulation of integrated management plans for mountain forests. University of Torino, Italy.

Hyttinen, P. & Niskanen, A. (1999). Practical experiences from the formulation of regional forest programmes in Finland. In: A. Niskanen and J. Vayrynen, eds. Regional forest programmes: a participatory approach to support forest based regional development. European Forest Institute Proceedings 32:73-81.

Meidinger, E.E. (2003b). Forest certification as a global civil society regulatory institution. In: E. Meidinger, C. Elliott, G. Oesten, eds. Social and political dimensions of forest certification, pp. 265-289.

Meidinger, E.E. (2003a). Forest certification as environmental law making by global civil society. In: E. Meidinger, C. Elliott, G. Oesten, eds. Social and political dimensions of forest certification, pp. 293-330.

Rankovic, N. and D. Nonic, eds. (2002). Privatization in forestry. Faculty of Forestry, Belgrade University, Belgrade, Serbia.

Sabatier, P.A. ed. (1999). Theories of the policy process. Westview Press. Boulder, Colorado.

Sandel, M. J. (1996). Democracy’s discontent: America in search of a public philosophy. Belkap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. 417 pages.

Schattschneider, E.E. (1960). The semi-sovereign people: a realist's view of democracy in America. Hinsdale, Ill. The Dryden Press. 143pages.

Shannon, M.A. (2002b). Future visions: landscape planning in places that matter. David Brunckhorst, ed. Proceedings 2nd International Conference on Landscape Futures. Rural Futures Institute, University of New South Wales, Armidale, Australia.

Shannon, M.A. (2002a). Understanding collaboration as deliberative communication, organizational form, and emergent institution. European Forest Institute Proceedings 44:9-27.

Shannon, M.A. (1999). Moving from the limits and problems of rational planning: toward a collaborative and participatory planning approach. In: P. Glück, G. Oesten, H. Schanz, K.R. Volz, eds. International seminar on the formulation and implementation of national forest programmes. European Forest Institute Proceedings 30(1): 139-151.

Stanley, Manfred (1990). The rhetoric of the commons: forum discourse in politics and society. In H. W. Simmons, ed. The rhetorical turn. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Weber, N. (2002). Tendencies towards privatization of international politics and their implications for the forest sector. Keynote paper for the Conference on Privatization in Forestry held in Belgrade 11-14 April 2002.

1 FAO (2002). Proceedings of technical meeting on enhancing stakeholder participation in national forest programmes. Forestry Department, Rome. The Forests, Trees and People Programme (FTTP) executed by FAO Forestry Department from 1987 to December 2002, developed participatory tools and methodologies to promote community forestry.
2 This diagram was developed by Working Group 1 of the EU COST Action E-19 on “National forest programmes in a European context” at its meeting in March 2002 in Savonlinna, Finland, on policy coordination.
3 This definition differs from common usage in European countries where an “institution” is more like a fixed organization. In social theory, institution refers to the social processes that create predictability in social behaviour, but are open to change through the adoption of new behaviour patterns.
4 FAO/ECE/ILO (2000). Public participation in forestry in Europe and North America. ILO, Geneva.

Previous PageTable Of Contents