Authority, Control, and Participation

Setting up a successful CIS means striking a balance between facilitating a democratic approach where participating stakeholders have a say and role in the collaboration while at the same time maintaining enough order and control to manage collaborations successfully. In other words, a CIS should balance the closure necessary for orderly practice with opening processes enough for each stakeholder involved to understand decision making processes, how they fit into other participants’ processes, and what they can gain from engaging with them that is necessary and unattainable alone.

Guiding Questions

How could negotiations between parties support coordination in ways that neither undermine authority nor require consensus?
How can you achieve a balance between keeping control of the CIS while allowing all participants a say and role in the collaboration?
In some cases giving up control might be more beneficial than keeping control. To what extent, if at all, could this be true for the case at hand?

Further Information

Policy analysts, and international efforts like the UNISDR Sendai Framework assume that open and people centred approaches can leverage important and local knowledge, and enable a more democratic, broad-based understanding of the complexities of risks and thereby foster more effective preparedness and response. Principles of ‘netcentric’ work have been developed in the Public Protection and Disaster Relief domain to ‘improve the exchange of information between heterogeneous actors’’ (Boersma et al. 2010). In the Netherlands, where Boersma and his colleagues study it, this approach is based on a break with ‘established patterns of command and control … [and] supposed to enable new networks of communication’.


In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster which was characterised by an absence of information from public authorities, private individuals, companies and voluntary bodies initiated multiple projects of ‘critical mapping’ of radiation (Plantin 2011). Individuals bought or built their own Geiger counters, learnt to measure and map results, and, as their activities coalesced, they shaped official information strategies:

official information were not the only available anymore as parallel sensor-networks were created; when the official data were published online, they could not be confined to non-readable formats but were harvested to be shared and remix[ed]; finally, official data could be verified by comparing them with other sources of data, as aggregation prevailed over selection (Plantin 2011).

Because of a lack of official efforts to inform the public and enable public engagement, the public created an alternative set of information that challenged the authority of the official sources and practices, creating distrust in the official response and forcing them to make their practices more visible and thus able to be debated and aligned to. Networks of trust like these are emerging as a social ‘technology’ that allows communities of risk to bring those who live with risk to the same table as those who produce and profit from taking them, necessitating and enabling pluralist considerations of risks.


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Related Key Terms