Balancing costs and benefits of collaboration in an ecology of games


The growth of collaborative approaches to governance has resulted in increasingly complex policy and management landscapes, where actors are presented with ever‐increasing numbers of decision‐making venues they can participate in and actors they can collaborate with. Given that actors face constraints on their capacity to manage actor and venue relationships in such polycentric governance systems, we assume the marginal benefit of yet another relationship should begin to diminish at some level of engagement. Furthermore, we hypothesize that such capacity limitations are not static, but decrease as actors learn, develop skills, and formulate strategies for how to navigate complex polycentric systems more effectively.

Drawing on the Ecology of Games framework, this article investigates two Swedish collaborative governance initiatives where a multitude of actors came together to address a range of different, but interrelated, policy issues and management tasks. The empirical findings suggest that actors’ capacities to successfully navigate polycentric governance arrangements increase as they gain experience and develop their networking skills.

Our findings imply there is a need to balance increased complexity in polycentric systems with increased capacity, otherwise the overall effect of an ever‐increasing number of venues and actors could be collaborative fatigue and decreased abilities to address diverse governance challenges.


Link to centre authors: Bodin, Örjan, Hileman, Jacob
Full reference: Hileman, J., Bodin, Ö. 2019. Balancing Costs and Benefits of Collaboration in an Ecology of Games. Policy Studies Journal, Volume 47, Issue 1, Special Issue: The Ecology of Games as a Theory of Polycentricity, February 2019, Pages 138-158