Authors: John Donahue
March 2004
Publication:
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

The report departs from the proposition that a large and growing fraction of the capacity required to create public value exists outside government narrowly defined. This "distributed" capacity can include financial resources, skilled personnel, physical assets, managerial capabilities, information, and even trust and legitimacy. The outside reservoirs of such capacity include both profit-seeking firms and non-profit organizations. The engagement of non-governmental actors in the pursuit of public missions is by no means new. But it is becoming more important for several reasons:

* First, and most obvious, is the fact that a large part of the world's population lives in areas where the formal state is weak.

* The second reason is widespread loss of confidence in the mid-20th-century version of the centralized state.

* The third, subtlest, and perhaps most important reason is that a growing fraction of collective tasks in a complex, interconnected, information-dense world - knit together and energized by powerful market forces - simply cannot be accomplished (well, or at all) by government acting alone.

When government is responsible for a mission that depends upon external capacity, there are several ways to engage that capacity. One way is to require entities outside government to play their parts, through mandates, regulations, or other means of imposing obligations. Another is to induce them to participate through contracts, grants, tax incentives, or other means. The Weil Program is concerned with a third approach - collaboration. Firms, non-profit organizations, and other external agents work to advance a collective goal not because they are forced to do so or paid to do so, but because participation advances their own interests as well. Collaboration may be linked to mandated and to induced cooperation (both conceptually and in practice). But our working premise is that collaboration is distinguishable theoretically and empirically; an important category of collective action; and under examined relative to its importance.

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