S. Bryn Austin, ScD
More than a few times, my wife, Liz, has asked me, “Wouldn’t you rather read a novel sometime?” I do of course read nov-els, sometimes, but what she sees me reading 90% of the time is nonfiction, especial-ly books on policy, social movements, and leadership — the wonkier the better. So when STRIPED Fellow Rebecca Hutcheson introduced me to the work of Emerson and Nabatchi, leaders in the field of collaborative governance, I was enthralled.
They use the term collaborative gov-ernance to describe when people from across sectors (i.e., government, non-profit, business) come together to “engage in cooperative activities to enhance the capacity…to achieve a common purpose.”
A bit abstract? Here’s a good example: In the early 2000s, advocates, scien-tists, business leaders, and state poli-cymakers in the U.S. Northeast were concerned about climate change but realized they couldn’t keep waiting for the feds to take action. No one sector caused climate change, and no one sector would solve it. What was needed was collaborative action led by cross-sector stakeholders on local and regional levels.
The result? The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which led to massive reductions in carbon emissions and improved pollution control, all without impeding economic growth in the participating states.
By now you might be wondering, what’s the environment and pollution got to do with eating disorders prevention? It’s simple: Just like greenhouse gases and carbon emissions in our physical environment, pollutants in our social environment are caused by forces across all sectors societal norms promoting distorted beauty and thinness ideals, commercial industries that profit from these destructive ideals, weak civil rights laws that don’t prevent weight discrimination, and lax regulations that allow snake oil diet pills.
Like the RGGI environmentalists recognized with climate change, no one sector is going to solve the problem of our toxic social environment either. What can we do? That’s simple too: We can sit down together across sec-tors and start taking action — collaborative action. With STRIPED, we intend to do everything we can to make this happen. From our cross-sector convening in April 2018 to our cadre of visiting scholars, all hailing from different disciplines and sectors we are in it for the long haul.
As for those novels? Maybe next year.
-Bryn Austin, ScD