The Government as Catalyst

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Thomson- Perry Argument 


Collaboration occurs overtime as organizations interact both formally and informally through recurring sequences of negotiation, development of commitments and execution of those commitments.  Collaboration should employ more of collective action as opposed to coordination or cooperation. Cooperation involves reciprocities and exchange of resources. Cooperation aimed at achieving mutual goals ensures collaboration is achieved -collaboration is more than achieving individual ends -it also involves shared ends.  Thomson and Perry come up with a multidimensional model of collaboration as an insight to public managers understanding to collaboration. (Thomson & Perry 2006 p4). They identified five dimensions of collaborations as: governing, administering, mutuality, norms, and organizational autonomy. Partners seeking collaboration must together make the rules which will govern their behavior and relationships. All partners must be willing to support the decisions once are reached at. Success to choices made in a collaboration process rest on participants’ willingness to monitor them and each other as well as imposing sanctions on those partners who do not comply to what agreed on. Trust and reciprocity among the members increases the likelihood of collective action. Face-to-face communication is also very important. Administration will entail establishment of structures that turn governance into action. (p6)

Collaboration is also the process in which independent actors interact through formal and informal negotiation, together create rules and structures to direct their relationships and how to decide on issues that brought them together. In a nut shell it involves sharing norms and mutually beneficial interactions.  Collaboration also involves reconciling individuals and collective interests which is the autonomy dimension. In this dimension partners to collaboration have to deal with the distinct organizational authority and identity as well as the collective interests established in the collaboration.

Mutuality dimension involves process of forging mutually beneficial relationships. Mutual benefits will encourage each partner commitments in what is agreed by all partners. It is a uniting force. Other dimension is the trust and reciprocity dimension which is the process of building social capital norms (p8). This entails common believe of good intension of others, no one will take advantage of the other, and all partners will be honest. Thus all partners reciprocate to others in a positive way. It ‘I will if you will’ (p9)

The case of ‘government as a catalyst’ supports the Thomson and Perry argument. The city government of Philadelphia wanted to ensure internet access to the residence of Philadelphia. In ensuring this, the potential market would be utilized, the firms and the government authority as well as the community at large was expected to benefit from a municipality wireless networks. It could also have social economic growth in local communities. In the process the municipal authority had to collaborate with all stakeholders i.e. the community and incumbent players based on mutual benefits which was in line with the mutuality dimension discussed by Thomson and Perry. The city also played a big role in the administering the Municipal Wireless Networks project. This is the administration dimension discussed by Thomson and Perry which turned governance into action.  The city acted as a catalyst by taking variety of roles as facilitator, champion, steering committee, policy maker, coordinator, partner, project manager, consultant, referee, capacity builder as well as regulator. (Stillman 2009)

All stakeholders’ interests such as telecommunication companies, civic leaders, the media, community groups, state government, and the public as well as the city politicians were put into consideration.  The city government had to remove barriers and provide incentives as well as legislative framework to help target funding, ensure resources, so as to provide stability to the new infrastructures. (Stillman 2009 p312, 314).  The city government had to respond to all complaints and let stakeholders know of the mutual benefits to accrue from the Municipal Wireless Network. Difficult compromises had to be reached at. Additionally, need for balancing private and public needs was also to be dealt with. The optimization of the interests of these players was indispensable for the success of the project. This is evidence of autonomy dimension discussed in the Thomson and Perry argument. The stakeholders had to maintain their identity as even they share the collective goals and interests. The reciprocity and norms dimension is also evident in this case. The city government of Philadelphia reciprocated to the interests of the stakeholders. All stakeholders also reciprocated by cooperating with the city government and the MWNs project was implemented successfully. Such occurrences enabled creation of capital social norms where take and give attitude based on honesty and trust among partners in the MWNs project.  (p313)

The case of government as a catalyst also provides a more convincing model. First it is a real story of how various stakeholders in city of Philadelphia collaborated in ensuring success of the Municipal Wireless Networks. The case also shows that administration as an important part of the collaboration process. It also shows how to deal with diverse barriers to the collaboration process. The city government of Philadelphia had to use other stakeholders so as to convince others of the importance of the collaboration process. This was a more effective way of ensuring collaboration process succeeded.