Collaboration makes democracy work

  Dear HCN,

Thank you for the great commentary on collaboration and the criticism it receives (HCN, 8/28/00: Squishy-soft processes - hard results). As someone who has participated in several of these processes on behalf of ranchers and farmers, I've been told that collaborators are those that helped the Nazis in World War II France and that collaboration represents a lack of leadership. In each case, the discussions receiving such criticism resulted in solutions that were locally grown and ultimately successful.

I believe that the process requires a new (and more powerful) form of leadership as well as a faith in a "third alternative' - one that goes beyond the either-or decisions inherent in traditional, position-based negotiations. This third (or fourth or fifth) alternative is, in my experience, a synergistic solution that accomplishes far more than what any individual party may have originally proposed.

I was also interested in Michael McCloskey's comment that collaborative processes are "a grievous wound to the practice of democracy." One of the foremost challenges that we face in the West is the need to balance the long-term stewardship of our natural resources with a political system that shifts emphasis every four or eight years. Contrary to Mr. McCloskey's perspective, I believe that the collaboration is exactly what the creators of our system of government had in mind. Collaboration allows communities - of people and interests - to creatively solve our most pressing resource-management issues. By embracing local experience, knowledge and viewpoints, these efforts create more lasting solutions than litigation or legislation.

Dan Macon
Penryn, California