Panel Paper: Untangling the Web: A Framework for Managing Accountability Expectations in Collaborative Governance

Friday, April 7, 2017 : 2:35 PM
Founders Hall Room 475 (George Mason University Schar School of Policy)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Zachary A Bauer, American University
Accountability in the public sector is an evolving concept in the literature, and one that still begs the question: to whom or to what are public organizations accountable? Collaborative governance, an increasingly important concept, offers the ability to address “wicked problems” and organization resource deficiencies. These public management concepts taken alone have produced an abundance of research, but together these concepts present an emerging challenge for the field. Because collaborative governance brings together actors with often competing goals and stakeholders, the question that arises is how can collaborations manage opposing accountability expectations of collaborative actors? To analyze this question, a collaborative governance accountability framework is proposed as a foundation to assess how to manage competing accountability expectations. This framework is analyzed through the context of the Flint water crisis to show that a tangled web of accountability expectations among collaborative actors resulted in failed accountability. This paper seeks to explain the accountability breakdowns in Flint, and how collaborative governance was neglected by the actors involved.