High levels of conflict among coalitions in a policy process are often attributed to belief divergence and may lead to policy gridlock. Thus, reducing belief divergence may facilitate negotiation and open the door for policy change. Beliefs are notoriously difficult to change, however, especially in high-conflict settings. Collaborative governance has been touted as one method for mitigating conflict to a level where negotiation is possible by means including but not limited to belief change. This study investigates the relationship between belief divergence as a driver of policy conflict and collaborative governance as a conflict mitigation tool by analyzing the beliefs of two opposing coalitions as they participate in a decade-long collaborative environmental governance process that ended in negotiated agreement. Using longitudinal survey and interview data, we find that coalitions' beliefs diverge more at a later point in the process, due primarily to the reinforcement and strengthening of one coalition's beliefs; however, we also identify aspects of the collaborative process that helped foster negotiated agreement amidst this growing belief divergence. These findings can inform scholarship on conflict mitigation in environmental governance as well as the design of more effective collaborative processes in high-conflict settings.
Koebele, E. A., & Crow, D. A. (2023). Mitigating conflict with collaboration: Reaching negotiated agreement amidst belief divergence in environmental governance. Policy Studies Journal, 51(2), 439–458. https://doi.org/10.1111/psj.12496