Collaborative Governance: responding to disasters

ndBuilding on a growing body of economic, social and ethical work in the field of disaster response, recent empirical findings in the area of law & governance have been published examining how communities respond to natural disasters.

The key findings of this research are that where local partnership and knowledge generation and application is ongoing, cohesive, meaningful and inclusive, disaster relief efforts are more targeted, cost-effective, efficient and timely (S. Ali. (2016). Governing Disasters: Engaging Local Populations in Humanitarian Relief, Cambridge University Press).  The findings address an emerging obligation to incorporate local participation in global humanitarian instruments (Ali, S and Kabau, T. (2015) A Human Rights Based Approach to the Global Regulation of Humanitarian Relief: The Emerging Obligation to Incorporate Local Participation, BROOKLYN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW).  The findings also speak to the efficacy of ‘peer presence’ or substantive accompaniment in disaster response and report a statistically significant correlation between the level of “peer” engagement with a local community and perceived effectiveness of response (Ali, S. (2015) Toward Peer Presence in Post-Disaster Governance: An Empirical Study, HASTINGS INTERNATIONAL AND COMPARATIVE LAW REVIEW).  In addition, the findings examine the role of non-state actors in the evolution of humanitarian norms (Ali, S and Kabau, T. (2014) Non-State Actors and the Evolution of Humanitarian Norms: Implications of the Sphere Charter in Health and Nutrition Relief, JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LEGAL STUDIES, Brill/Nijhoff), the emergence of crowd-sourced governance in disaster response (Ali, S (2014). Crowd Sourced Governance in a Post Disaster Context, INTERNATIONAL AND COMPARATIVE LAW QUARTERLY, Cambridge University Press), and self-governance by humanitarian non-state actors (Ali, S. and Kabau, T. (2014). Self Governance by Humanitarian Non-State Actors in Health and Nutrition Relief, DEPAUL JOURNAL OF HEALTH LAW).  The findings also address the role of transparency rules in addressing polycentric environmental disaster-related disputes (Ali, S. (2015) Asian Disasters, Global Impact: Japan’s Fukushima Disaster and Prospects of Utilizing Investor-State Mediation and UNCITRAL Transparency Rules for Polycentric Environmental Disaster-Related Disputes, ASIAN DISPUTE REVIEW).

The research has been supported by the Hong Kong Research grants council (HKU 757412H). Comments and feedback are most welcome.  Please contact Cambridge Press if your library or University is interested in pre-ordering a copy of the manuscript.

 

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New Hong Kong Study: Enhancing Group Decisions: Beyond Strict-Unanimity and Roberts Rules (by Shahla Ali)

[Working Paper Series, Vol 1, January 2010]

At present challenge in many organizations is the question of how best to structure decision making processes.  The choice is often presented as a dichotomy: aim for unanimity and risk deadlock or apply Roberts Rules and risk the tyranny of majority.  Such options often appear to be irreconcilable.  While each approach has proven benefits: unanimity does encourage a solution oriented approach, while majority vote provides for a guaranteed decision, the question is, are such benefits in fact inconsistent?

In a small scale experiment in Hong Kong involving four teams composed of five individuals each, preliminary findings indicated that decision making rules do affect quality and efficacy of group decision making outcome.  Rules which aim for unanimity but provide for the possibility of majority vote resulted in more nuanced decisions and resulted in an ultimate outcome.  Rules which required strict unanimity resulted in uni-dimensional outcomes and reported deadlock when the stakes increased.  While unanimous decisions often represent the ideal outcome of a decision making process, and reflect solution oriented approach,[1] such aspirations are not inconsistent with a process which aims for consensus but allows for majority vote in the event that deadlock has been reached.

In the small scale study, each of the four teams represented a board of directors composed of five individuals.  Each individual had a particular preference regarding what to do with a company’s profit of $1,000 for the year.  These included: spend, save, invest, distribute to employees and give to charity.

The first two groups, which aimed for unanimity but had the possibility of using majority vote in case of deadlock, arrived at multi-faceted outcomes and were able to reach an ultimate decision.  Such decisions included multifaceted outcomes: For group 1 the result was to split the money three ways between: saving, training staff, and rewarding employees. For group 2, the result was similarly nuanced:  $200 to invest in human capital, $200 to give to charity, and $600 for technological investment.   Those operating on the basis of strict unanimity arrived at generally more uni-dimensional outcomes and reported a deadlock when the stakes of the decision increased.  The decisions for group 3 was to put the entire $1,000 toward savings, while group 4 split the amount in half between giving to charity and giving to employees.  When asked whether the decision would be the same if the companies profit increased to 1 million, both groups operating on the basis of unanimity reported deadlock.

The preliminary findings of this study indicate that while unanimous decisions often represent the ideal outcome of a decision making process, and reflect solution oriented approach,[2] such aspirations are not inconsistent with a process which aims for consensus but allows for majority vote in the event that deadlock has been reached.


[1] See: Rob Sandelin. “Consensus Basics, Ingredients of successful consensus process”. Northwest Intentional Communities Association guide to consensus. Northwest Intentional Communities Association. Retrieved 2007-01-17; and Dressler, L. (2006). Consensus Through Conversation How to Achieve High-Commitment decisions. Berkeley, CA:Berrett-Koehler.

 

[2] See: Rob Sandelin. “Consensus Basics, Ingredients of successful consensus process”. Northwest Intentional Communities Association guide to consensus. Northwest Intentional Communities Association. Retrieved 2007-01-17; and Dressler, L. (2006). Consensus Through Conversation How to Achieve High-Commitment decisions. Berkeley, CA:Berrett-Koehler.