Emily Jane Davis: conversations on collaboration

Describe your unique position with the College of Forestry.
My position was just created two years ago. It’s a blend of research and providing assistance through the Oregon State University Extension Service, not just one or the other. My focus is on collaboration.

What does it mean to study collaboration?
I study and provide assistance on collaboration, or the way in which people work together. Collaboration in environmental governance can mean a whole range of things, depending on what you’re talking about, but at its core, involves some element of group decision making. It emerged in public policy as a response to the failure of top-down solutions that didn’t take into account diverse stakeholders and constituencies.

How did collaboration increase in light of these failures, especially in regard to land use?
In Oregon, prior to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, there weren’t many avenues for public input in public lands forest management. While the National Environmental Policy Act created some capability for people to give input on decisions, it also encouraged people to dig in their heels to try to get what they wanted individually, instead of talking together and trying to find common ground. Unfortunately, the Northwest Forest Plan of 1994 was similar. After that point, I think it became clear to people that it was more effective to actually sit down together, interact with each other and find a collective opinion to share with the government rather than a bunch of conflicting and competing opinions. At least that way, they would stand a chance to get some of what they wanted.

Read the full interview in the Fall 2016 Focus.