Collaborative policymaking: Local Sustainable Projects

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    Jon Vernon presently works for the North Devon and Exmoor Regeneration Com-pany. Stephen Essex and David Pinder (School of Geography, University of Plymouth,Plymouth PL4 8AA, United Kingdom. Email ) are PrincipalLecturer and Professor, respectively. Kaja Curry is Sustainable Tourism Development Officerwith Caradon District Council, Cornwall. The authors all have research interests in theimplementation of sustainable practices by the industry and have contributed to theformulation policies to encourage further adoption in South East Cornwall, UK.

    Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 325345, 2005 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Printed in Great Britain0160-7383/$30.00

    doi:10.1016/ EssexDavid Pinder

    University of Plymouth, UKKaja Curry

    Caradon District Council, UK

    Abstract: The emergence of local collaborative projects presents a rich vein for advancingthe empirical and theoretical understanding of governance in tourism. In particular, newproblems and challenges to tourism policymaking are raised, such as achieving effective orga-nization, representation, and evaluation of outcomes. This paper evaluates a collaborationadopted by a British district council in the formulation of a local strategy for promotingthe adoption of sustainable practices by tourism businesses. The key findings of the studyemphasize the role of the public sector in promoting bottom-up forms of governance,the temporal dynamics of the process, and the reality of innovation in policymaking. Key-words: sustainability, collaboration, local governance, policy. 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rightsreserved.

    Resume: La prise de decisions en collaboration: projets locaux durables. Lemergence desprojets locaux en collaboration offre beaucoup de potentiel pour lavancement dunecomprehension empirique et theorique de la gouvernance dans le domaine du tourisme.En particulier, on soule`ve de nouveaux proble`mes et defis associes a` la prise de decisions dansle tourisme, tels que lefficacite dans lorganisation, la representation et levaluation des resul-tats. Cet article evalue une collaboration adoptee par un conseil general britannique pourformuler une strategic locale pour promouvoir ladoption de pratiques durables par les entre-prises de tourisme. Les resultats principaux de letude mettent en valeur le role du secteurpublic dans la promotion des formes de gouvernement de bas en haut, la dynamique tempo-relle du processus et la realite de linnovation dans la prise de decisions. Mots-cles: durabilite,collaboration, gouvernement local, politique. 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


    A striking feature of contemporary tourism is the wealth of collabo-rative initiatives between local authorities, government agencies,Local Sustainable Projects

    Jon VernonNorth Devon and Exmoor Regeneration Company, UK325

  • and challenges, such as effective organization, representation, and

    326 COLLABORATIVE POLICYMAKINGevaluation of the efficacy of outcomes (Bramwell and Sharman 1999,2003). Whether the collaborative process improves the effectivenessand coordination of policies is a question that needs to be resolvedthrough empirical research (Goodwin 1998).

    The aim of this paper is to evaluate critically the efficacy of collabo-rative approaches to policymaking using the example of Caradon Dis-trict Council (Cornwall, UK) in the formulation of a local strategy forpromoting the adoption of sustainable practices by tourism businesses.It is argued that a forensic analysis of this case study raises broader les-sons about the potential for collaborative initiatives in the UK and else-where. The project involved the district council, the University ofPlymouth, South West Tourism, and the European Regional Develop-ment Fund through Caradon Area LEADER II (Liaison Entre Actions deDeveloppement de l Economic RuraleLinks between Actions for the devel-opment of the Rural Economy), who funded a three-year researchprogram into barriers affecting the adoption of sustainable tourism(19992001). The venture was further supported by a Small Grantsand Innovation Scheme, designed to encourage practical implementa-tion of the concept, and so to develop case studies of best practice.The findings of the research and the outcomes of the grant schemeswere used to inform a Sustainable Tourism Business Strategy, 20012006. This partnership, therefore, provided an opportunity to explorethe nature and operation of collaborative projects, the role ofacademic research in policymaking, the organization of multi-agencyapproaches, and their contribution to policy innovation.


    The implementation of sustainable development initiatives within thetourism industry over the last decade has been dominated by partner-ships and joint projects. This provides a rich vein for advancing thestudy of empirical and theoretical understanding of collaborative formsof governance. Sustainable tourism means addressing the problems ofenvironmental degradation caused by the volume of tourists, the re-source implications resulting from the operation of tourism-relatedbusinesses, such as transportation pressures and pollution, energyand water consumption, waste generation, purchasing strategies, andbusinesses, and host communities (Charlton and Essex 1996). Thesedevelopments are bound up with a more general shift from govern-ment, which imposes policies on target populations in a top-downmanner, to more inclusive forms of governance, based on bottom-up involvement with a range of different stakeholders. In tourism, col-laboration has arisen from the need to achieve broad-based support forpolicies within an industry that is diverse and fragmented. In theory,publicprivate collaborations should provide a democratizing andmore inclusive and equitable set of processes than conventional ap-proaches of planning, management, and government (Bramwell andLane 1999:2). In reality, such projects present many new problems

  • The emergence of collaborative policymaking across the globe is partof a broader shift in the role of the state from provider to enabler.

    VERNON, ESSEX, PINDER AND CURRY 327The public sectors traditional top-down, centralized and manageri-alist approach, in tourism, assumed responsibility for infrastructureprovision, planning control, marketing and promotion, and proactivedevelopment for the perceived public good. It has been replaced par-tially by a more bottom-up, decentralized and inclusive form of gov-ernance in which local communities and businesses are beingencouraged to take more responsibility for management (Hall 2000).The reasons for this shift include the neo-liberal critiques of state activ-ity, public expenditure cutbacks, and, to a certain extent, public disen-chantment with government policy (Bramwell and Lane 2000; Long1994). In the United Kingdom, the modernization of governmentand the introduction of best value reviews in the late 1990s have alsoforced wider re-evaluations of local authority service provision (Ben-nett 1999; Martin 2000; Geddes and Martin 2000). A new approachhas emerged which emphasizes efficiency, investment returns, the roleof the market, and increased participation by stakeholders. This newagenda has resulted in a restructuring of the roles of tourism organiza-tions, including a reduction in planning, policy, and developmentresponsibilities, an increase in marketing and promotion functions,and the operation of partnerships with stakeholders (Hall 2000).The centrality of collaboration and partnerships in rural and tourismdevelopment has also been expressed in recent policy statements atthe possible negative impacts on host communities. Successful imple-mentation of sustainable tourism requires cooperation by a wide rangeof different stakeholders (the public sector, accommodation busi-nesses, transport operators, attractions, restaurants, food suppliers, util-ity companies, host communities, and tourists). In the UnitedKingdom, as in other countries, the dominance of small- andmedium-sized enterprises within the industry, with limited knowledgeacquisition capabilities and modest financial resources, means thatcross-sectoral cooperation and networking is essential (Halme andFadeeva 2001:144). Indeed, the diverse and fragmented nature of thetourism industry has often acted as a barrier to the common interpreta-tion, widespread acceptance and adoption of sustainable practices(Berry and Ladkin 1997; Bramwell and Alletorp 2001; Carlson, Getzand Ali-Kinight 2001; Hobson and Essex 2001; Knowles, Macmillan, Pal-mer, Grabowski and Hashimoto 1999; Stabler and Goodall 1997;Welford, Ytterhus and Eligh 1999). Definitions of sustainable tourismare diverse, ranging from interpretations that accept a high level of hu-man responsibility for the environment, to those that primarily utilizethe concept as a marketing tool (Orams 1995). Therefore, sustainabletourism has to be holistic in its outlook in order to create a commonvision and produce strategies that recognize the contributions of allstakeholders (Bramwell and Lane 2000:1; Halme 2001:110).

    Theoretical Perspectives

  • 328 COLLABORATIVE POLICYMAKINGthe international and national level (for example, Department of theEnvironment, Transport and the Regions 1999, Para. 2.6; EnglishTourism Council 2001:17; Rural Europe 1996).

    Collaboration involves a number of stakeholders working interac-tively on a common issue or problem domain through a formalcross-sectoral approach. Typically, this process involves an exchangeof ideas and expertise and/or pooling of financial resources. Theproblem domain refers to a complex issue that cannot be solvedby a single agency acting on its own, but instead requires a multi-orga-nizational response. Stakeholders are the actors with an interest in acommon problem or issue (Jamal and Getz 1995:188). According tothe conceptual model framed by Gray (1989:236), the collaborationprocess involves four key characteristics: the stakeholders are indepen-dent; the process is emergent and constructive; there is joint ownershipof decisions; and the direction of the project is a collective responsibil-ity of the partners. By combining knowledge, expertise, and capital re-sources, such undertakings can produce consensus and creativesynergy, leading to new opportunities, innovative solutions, and agreater level of effectiveness that would not have been achieved bythe partners acting alone (Bramwell and Lane 2000:46).

    Collaborations and partnerships are not a homogenous form of gov-ernance, but consist of a diverse and complicated set of institutions,with different focuses, scales of operation, durations and histories,and patterns of sector representation and funding (Edwards, Goodwin,Pembleton and Woods 2000:10). Such projects can develop betweenthe public and private sector, among government agencies, and be-tween and within various different administrative levels and polities(Timothy 2000), as well as the voluntary sector and the community.According to Selin (1999, 2000), the diversity of collaborative arrange-ments can be demonstrated around five primary dimensions: geo-graphic scale, legal basis, locus of control, organizational diversityand size, and time frame. The numerous combinations of these dimen-sions demonstrate the potential and flexibility of collaborations inbuilding local capacity to address a range of problem domains.

    Theories about the collaborative process suggest that it is character-ized by three phases: first, problem-setting in which the nature ofthe challenge is identified; second, direction-setting in which somepolicy consensus is achieved; and, third, structuring which is con-cerned primarily with implementation and programming (Parker2000). The overall effectiveness will be determined by influences ateach of these phases and a number of studies have begun to use theoryand apply examples of practice to develop understanding in this area.Jamal and Getz (1995) have developed six propositions to guide theestablishment of successful initiatives. The propositions representpre-conditions for the implementation of a successful project andemphasize the importance of a shared vision, a mutual understandingof the interdependence of partners, the benefits to be derived, andthat the alliance has power and legitimacy.

    Bramwell and Sharman (1999) have developed these conceptualideas further by focusing on the factors that might affect the actual

  • VERNON, ESSEX, PINDER AND CURRY 329working of a collaborative venture. They have produced an analyticalframework for assessing the effectiveness of such projects based onideas about inter-organizational teamwork, communicative ap-proaches to planning, and citizen participation. The frameworkfocuses on three sets of issues relevant to evaluation, although thereis significant overlap and interdependence among them. The first setof issues relates to the scope of the collaboration, such as whetherthe range of participants was representative, whether membership in-cludes facilitators as well as implementers, and the general level of sup-port for the project. Incomplete representation, unequal powerrelations of stakeholders, or lack of accountability can weaken theeffectiveness of policies and initiatives. The creation of effective work-ing arrangements among partners who are unfamiliar with each otheror were previously adversaries can also be problematic.

    The second set of issues relates to the intensity of collaboration,including the nature and frequency of involvement, the flow of informa-tion, the extent of mutual understanding, respect and learning involvedamong the stakeholders, and the development of new approaches. Theshort-term nature and tight financial constraints of most projects, to-gether with their focus on achieving tangible outputs, can detract fromthe task of consolidating relationships among partners, undertaking fullconsultation and achieving consensus (Edwards et al 2000:46). The con-stant search for funding to sustain the project can lead to tensions, suchas the need to demonstrate innovation to secure new funding againstthe need to maintain and consolidate existing activities (Charlton1998).

    The third set of issues focuses on the degree to which consensusamong stakeholders emerges over the form, implementation, andassessment of policies. The views of strong voices can often preventalternative perspectives, held by weaker or even unarticulated posi-tions, from being aired (Mason, Johnston and Twynam 2000). Timeconstraints often allow only a partial consensus to be reachedamong interested parties (Bramwell and Sharman 1999). Empirical les-sons from the operation of six tourism networks in four Europeancountries recognized that, when public sector agencies dominate col-laborations to promote sustainable development, they often adopt adidactic approach to information dissemination (Halme 2001). Trans-formational outcomes at the network level can be...


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