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The Entangled Twins: Power and Trust in Collaborative Governance

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Power and trust are two important issues of interorganizational relations in collaborative governance. This article develops a critical conceptual analysis of the dyadic relationship between power and trust in the context of collaborative governance.
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  https://doi.org/10.1177/0095399718801000   Administration & Society 1  –30© The Author(s) 2018Article reuse guidelines:sagepub.com/journals-permissionsDOI: 10.1177/0095399718801000 journals.sagepub.com/home/aas Original Article The Entangled Twins: Power and Trust in Collaborative Governance Bing Ran 1 and Huiting Qi 1 Abstract Power and trust are two important issues of interorganizational relations in collaborative governance. This article develops a critical conceptual analysis of the dyadic relationship between power and trust in the context of collaborative governance. Three dynamic relationships and seven corresponding propositions are proposed regarding the shared sources of power and trust, the effects of power asymmetry and power sharing on trust building, and the influence of trust building on the management of power relationship in collaborative governance. These dyadic relations will help scholars and practitioners to deal with the dynamics brought forth by power and trust in collaboration. Keywords power, trust, collaborative governance Introduction Collaborative governance has been studied extensively by both scholars and  practitioners in recent decades. Similar terms, including partnership, alliance, network, and joint working, all capture this emerging phenomenon (Ansell & 1 Penn State Harrisburg, Middletown, PA, USA Corresponding Author: Bing Ran, School of Public Affairs, Penn State Harrisburg, 777 West Harrisburg Pike, Middletown, PA 17057, USA. Email: bingran@psu.edu AAS   XX   X   10.1177/0095399718801000Administration & Society Ran and Qi research-article   2018  2  Administration & Society 00(0) Gash, 2008; K. Emerson, Nabatchi, & Balogh, 2012; Huxham, Vangen, Huxham, & Eden, 2000). In this article, we define collaborative governance as a multi-organizational arrangement where a number of identified partici- pants work together based on deliberative consensus and collective decision making to pursue shared purposes (Ansell & Gash, 2008; K. Emerson et al., 2012; Huxham et al., 2000; Ran & Qi, 2017).Prior literature analyzed numerous factors impacting collaborative gover-nance, among which power and trust are two important ones (Ansell & Gash, 2008; Huxham & Vangen, 2000). Most of the literature on power and trust in collaborative governance focused on their independent roles rather than their dynamic interplays (Ansell & Gash, 2008; Purdy, 2012; Saz-Carranza, Salvador Iborra, & Albareda, 2016; Vangen & Huxham, 1998; Vangen & Huxham, 2003). Studies on power in collaborative governance often consider  power as a challenge to the success of collaboration due to potential negative effects resulted from unavoidable power asymmetry (Ansell & Gash, 2008; Provan & Milward, 2001; Purdy, 2012; Ran & Qi, 2016). Power asymmetry is commonly noted as a problem as power is almost always distributed asym-metrically across participants, which may lead to the manipulation by stron-ger actors in collaboration (Ansell & Gash, 2008; Bryson, Crosby, & Stone, 2006; Huxham & Vangen, 2005). Some literature further analyzed different sources and arenas of power in collaboration (Hardy & Phillips, 1998; Purdy, 2012), providing a framework to make sense of power dynamics in interorga-nizational domains. Scholars tend to view power sharing as a solution to  power asymmetry but a series of challenges in sharing power is still difficult to overcome (Ansell & Gash, 2008; Gray, 1989).Comparatively, trust is often considered in terms of its positive influence on collaboration (K. Emerson et al., 2012; Huxham et al., 2000; Ring & Van de Ven, 1992). The benefits of trust include developing positive attitudes and con-fidence between partners (Huxham et al., 2000; Ring & Van de Ven, 1992), cultivating mutual understandings (K. Emerson et al., 2012), lowing transaction cost (Berardo, Heikkila, & Gerlak, 2014; Gulati, 1995), boosting openness of expression (Van Oortmerssen, van Woerkum, & Aarts, 2014), promoting con-fliction resolution (Ring & Van de Ven, 1994), and improving performance of activities (Johnston, McCutcheon, Stuart, & Kerwood, 2004; Oh & Bush, 2016). Some researchers focused on trust building, providing a series of approaches to enhancing trust in collaboration, such as communication and adaption (Das & Teng, 1998), competence to perform in collaboration (Blomqvist & Ståhle, 2000), and collective problem-solving activities (Booher, 2004).It is important to note that a set of challenges in power and trust building in collaborative governance are still unsolved effectively by the current lit-erature, which largely focused on the individual roles of power and trust in  Ran and Qi 3 collaboration, such as how to budget and justify the necessary time and cost in power and trust building in collaboration (Ansell & Gash, 2008), how to effectively manage various conflicts and reduce mistrust among stakeholders resulted from power issues (Gray, 1996; Huxham & Vangen, 2005), and how to cope with participants’ reluctance, possible stalemate, and inaction in shar-ing power (Gray, 1985). These unsolved challenges inspire us to study the relationship between power and trust from a dyadic perspective rather than focusing on their independent and individual roles in collaborative gover-nance. In fact, both power and trust are social forces (Ireland & Webb, 2007), entangled and intertwined with each other to coordinate interactions between individuals or groups (Luhmann, 1979). The dyadic perspective often studies the common bases or sources of two concepts and their mutual influence on each other. Accordingly, we discuss three dyadic relationships between power and trust in collaborative governance: the shared sources of power and trust, the influence of power relationship on trust building, and the influence of trust building on power relationship. We argue that the three dyadic relation-ships will effectively address the challenges in power and trust building in collaborative governance. Promoting shared sources of power and trust can help participants save time and cost of collaboration by managing power rela-tionship and building trust simultaneously. The influence of power relation-ship on trust building is important for understanding and managing various conflicts and reducing distrust among partners caused by power issues. The influence of trust building on the management of power relationship is sig-nificant for promoting confliction resolution, improving performance of activities, and reducing possible stalemate and inaction in pursuing power sharing. We believe the analysis of these three relationships can advance our understanding of power and trust both conceptually and practically.From the conceptual perspective, most prior research on power and trust in collaborative governance stops at the individual roles, impacts and mecha-nisms of power or trust in collaboration (e.g., Bryson et al., 2006; Huxham, 2003; Purdy, 2012; Saz-Carranza et al., 2016; Vangen & Huxham, 2003). This limits our interpretation of power and trust as it fails to uncover some similari-ties and interactions between these two elusive concepts. Through a dyadic  perspective that bridges these two concepts together, we identify certain impor-tant similarities and interactions between different dimensions of power and trust, such as their sources, types, and effects, all of which are helpful to further our understanding of these two critical concepts in collaborative governance.From the practical perspective, as collaborative governance is full of para-doxes (Huxham et al., 2000), carrying the dynamics of dependency, coopera-tion, competition, and conflict, neither power nor trust alone can make the collaboration work effectively in practice. Focusing on the independent role  4  Administration & Society 00(0) of power or trust leads to difficulties in dealing with certain challenges in collaboration, such as time and cost consuming resulted from trust building (Ansell & Gash, 2008); questions on authority, transparency, and account-ability caused by power disparities among participants (Purdy, 2012); and threats to the performance of collaboration due to stalemate and inaction pro-voked by pursuing inappropriate equality in power relationship (Gray, 1985). The dyadic analysis of power and trust used in this article provides a different way of thinking and solving these issues. Taking advantage of some underly-ing relationships between different dimensions of power and trust provides important managerial implications in collaborative governance, which can help participants consider their power and trusting relationships with each other simultaneously and explore some useful strategies in coordinating their interactions more effectively.This article is organized as follows: We will first provide a critical review on power and trust in collaborative governance, and then propose three rela-tionships and seven propositions between power and trust in the context of collaborative governance. We conclude this article with a discussion of con-ceptual similarities between power and trust, trust-based power and power- based trust, as well as a set of managerial implications for participants to manage power and trust in collaboration. Power and Trust in Collaborative Governance In this section, we will first review some general conceptualization of power and trust that is primary in literature to provide a basic introduction of these two complex concepts, such as their definitions and widely used typologies. Because this article discusses power and trust in the context of collaborative governance at organizational (meso and macro) levels rather than at interpersonal (micro) level, we will focus on some dimensions of power and trust that have been dis-cussed frequently in collaborative governance literature, such as power asym-metry, power, and trust building in interorganizational interactions. Power in Collaborative Governance Essentially, power is a property of a relationship (R. M. Emerson, 1962), refer-ring to a potential ability of controlling or influencing others (individuals, groups, or organizations). The control or influence can be conceptualized in terms of evoking an influence or change in others’ behaviors (Bachrach & Baratz, 1962; Dahl, 1957; Hunt & Nevin, 1974) or manipulating others’ desires, attitudes, and behaviors through social structure and cultural patterns (Dawson, 1996; Lister, 2000; Lukes, 1974). Scholars categorize power in  Ran and Qi 5 many different ways, such as a widely used typology proposed by French and Raven (1959) where power was categorized into reward power, coercive  power, legitimate power, referent power, and expert power. A binary categori-zation is also frequently used: coercive or noncoercive (Ireland & Webb, 2007). Coercive power refers to the actors’ ability to control negative or unde-sired outcomes through punishment or threatened sanctions (French & Raven, 1959; Molm, 1997). Noncoercive power is the ability to promote positive or desired outcomes by providing or withholding rewards (Molm, 1997).In recent years, scholars have made good attempts in expanding the con-ceptualization of power beyond individual or group exercising power, which is helpful in studying power in the context of interorganizational collabora-tion. For example, Crosby and Bryson (2005) used structuration theory spe-cifically to understand power in settings where no one is in charge. Power is viewed as organizational controls of ideas, resources, rules, modes, media, and methods in interorganizational dynamics. Applying this understanding of  power in collaborative governance, what literature recognized as ambiguous, complex, and rapid changing nature of power in collaboration (Huxham et al., 2000; Purdy, 2012) could be elucidated by a framework that delineates the influencing factors in power relationship in a collaborative network (Ran & Qi, 2017).To understand power in collaborative governance, Huxham and Vangen (2005) proposed two levels of power in interorganizational relations: the macro level and micro level. The macro-level power is about various sources of power and the power shift from one partner to another with the transfer of  power sources between partnering organizations. The power sources are “macro” as they are related to groups, organizations, or networks rather than to individuals in collaborations (Huxham & Beech, 2008). The micro-level  perspective on power focuses on the way in which power is enacted by indi-viduals (who are often the representatives of partnering organizations) or the  partnering organization (as a collective entity) during the daily interaction in collaboration, such as managing membership and setting agenda (Huxham & Vangen, 2005). For instance, reward or coercive power exists when some representatives (at micro level) perceive that other partners can use resources (at macro level) to control or influence them by rewarding for compliance or  by punishing for noncompliance (Purdy, 2012).In collaborative governance, power-related issues have been analyzed extensively, such as major sources of power (Hardy & Phillips, 1998), differ-ent arenas of power (Purdy, 2012), and factors affecting power relationship (Hardy & Phillips, 1998), among which power asymmetry has been regarded as the most critical issue (Huxham et al., 2000; Provan & Milward, 2001; Purdy, 2012). To address the problems caused by power asymmetry,
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