The subject of the study is the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC). As additional sources of information, scientific and peer-reviewed articles were used, as well as images and information from the official website of LARC. The purpose of this collaborative is to reduce the consequence of climate change and protect the environment from pollution. The structure of the organization includes the governing body, the managing director, and other members. The University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) sponsors the activities of the collaborative. The work of LARC consists of periodic meetings with the population, as well as the development of special programs and plans. The collaborative has managed to achieve certain results: the government began to pay more attention to the level of environmental pollution and monitor the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The paper focuses on several aspects regarding LARC’s work and functionality. First, it addresses its history, using a report provided by Bennett and Grannis (2017) to outline how the collaborative was established. Second, the six criteria of collaborative governance described by Ansell and Gash (2008) are integrated into the paper to evaluate whether LARC corresponds with them, and the definition of collaborative governance provided by the same authors is used too. Third, the collaborative structure and funding are addressed as well to highlight specifics of processes undergoing at LARC. Fourth, collaborative aspects of communication between LARC members and participants are also presented, together with organizational outputs. Fifth, LARC’s achievements are outlined as well, whereas the challenges it has faced are also touched upon. The paper provides an overview of LARC’s history, using outside sources as a reference to evaluate whether LARC’s establishment and operation align with other collaborative frameworks presented in the research. Although LARC might not correspond with all criteria of collaborative governance, the collaboration between its members has a significant influence on environmental problems.
The Creation of LARC
An attempt to reduce the negative impact of technogenic factors (that include unintentional actions of maintenance personnel (human error), intentional actions (sabotage), weather conditions, and errors in operations of complex systems) on the state of the environment is quite an urgent issue for many developed countries and regions today (Menshikov, Perminov, & Urlichich, 2012). The proliferation of industrial enterprises on a large scale has caused many organizations and companies to join forces to deal with the effects of pollution (Bennett & Grannis, 2017). Such associations are rather significant as joint approaches made by the participants in these projects contribute to a faster and more efficient solution to the problem in a particular area (Meijers, 2005).
Therefore, it is not surprising that the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC) was established in 2009 on the west coast of the United States. A philanthropic foundation Next 10, together with the City of Los Angeles’ Mayor’s Office, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, UCLA, and Green LA (a coalition of justice groups that are focused on environmental issues and changes) held meetings to discuss the creation of a collaboration (Bennett & Grannis, 2017). LARC aims to eliminate the consequences of human-made pollution and stabilize the climate situation. Attempts to adapt the environment to modern conditions are the key activities of this group, which operates in one of the most developed regions of the USA, in Los Angeles, CA.
Collaborative History and Purpose
LARC has been active for ten years and is still successfully working today. The primary goals of a regional collaborative are policy changes, influences on metropolitan governance, an establishment of ties between communities and national processes, stimulation of innovation, and generation of economic opportunities (if possible) (Hughes & Pincetl, 2014). The climate challenges that LARC addressed for the first time are quite common today. Global climate changes caused not only by natural factors but also by people’s activities is one of the greatest problems that the world is facing today (Menshikov et al., 2012).
In order to understand whether LARC can be perceived as collaborative governance, the definition of it should be considered. According to Ansell and Gash (2008), collaborative governance is “a governing arrangement where one or more public agencies directly engage non-state stakeholders in a collective decision-making process that is formal, consensus-oriented, and deliberative and that aims to make or implement public policy or manage public programs or assets” (p. 544). The authors also outline six criteria that characterize collaborative governance:
- It is initiated by public institutions
- Nonstate actors are included
- Participants directly engage in decision-making
- The formal organization of the forum ensures collective meetings
- Decision-making is based on consensus
- The collaboration focuses on public policy or management (Ansell & Gash, 2008).
As stated earlier, LARC was created by a philanthropic organization Next 10 that provided funding to collaborate with other agents (Mayor’s Office, representatives of the County, etc.) (Bennett & Grannis, 2017). Thus, it is not initiated by a public institution per se and does not include nonstate actors (all members of the collaboration are either regional or state organizations that do not act in international relations).
Although the collaborative is primarily managed by UCLA, the decision-making process includes LARC’s Governing Board; in fact, it is the primary decision-making body of the collaborative. Thus, all participants, including governmental entities, academia, nonprofits, etc., are equal partners in decision-making (Bennett & Grannis, 2017). It should be noted that the Board consists of up to seven members that represent different sectors mentioned earlier.
All the sectors represented by seats on LARC’s governing board are presented in Figure 1.
Collective meetings are held quarterly, Bennett and Grannis (2017) state, and they can also be scheduled as needed. In-person meetings are scheduled every other month to provide LARC members with the opportunity to discuss various issues they are currently working on. LARC also uses the “3rd Month Forum”, which is a public event but it also provides a basis for collective meetings, as well as meetings with other organizations in the field. As decision-making is conducted by the governing board, which consists of several organizations, all members of LARC, and all decisions are based on discussions and consensus among these participating organizations. At last, as LARC is focused on environmental issues and policies that can address climate change and its impact on Los Angeles, it can be concluded that its structure and functioning mostly align with the criteria outlined by Ansell and Gash (2008).
LARC sought to rally local authorities and other officials and stakeholders to participate in the issue (Bennett & Grannis, 2017). The participants of the collaborative convened those wishing to take part in their activities. Next 10 was the leadership group that provided funding for further establishment of the collaborative (Bennett & Grannis, 2017). Together with other participants, the Next 10 developed specific programs that described possible measures to address environmental pollution, as well as the primary points that deserved attention. For example, they tried to inform the population about the issues associated with the climate through advertising campaigns. In particular, it was the question of carbon pollution and ways to reduce it, as well as the need for preparatory measures aimed at adapting to changing climatic conditions. Several leaders of the organization were engaged in the development and dissemination of the ideas of the collaborative. These people called on all interested parties to share information and “develop system-wide strategies” (Bennett & Grannis, 2017, p. 3). As can be seen, Figure 2 depicts the timeline for the formation of LARC.
Collaborative Structure and Process
The geographical scope of the organization covers the west coast of the United States. This region is well-developed for infrastructure and large industrial complexes. The members of the collaborative meet every other month. As Ansell and Gash (2008) note, agencies and stakeholders must communicate regularly for the working process to be successful. Both interested parties and the governing board attend these public and private meetings. All news and time of scheduled meetings are displayed on the organization’s website. At least four members of the governing board must be present to have a quorum.
Organizational Structure of LARC
The organization is managed by a distinct body created for this purpose. Ansell and Gash (2008) point out that an important feature of collaborative governance is the participation of all actors (public and private) in decision making. The body created for governing includes these actors, which indicates that they equally contribute to different decisions. The governing board consists of respected representatives of LARC, who have to participate in all meetings and discussions. This part of the organization includes no more than seven members. In addition to all the considerations and performing work (the adoption of programs, work with personnel, etc.), the governing board adopts resolutions, establishes the mode and order of meetings, identifies key topics for discussion, monitors the funds of the association, and regulates the participation of the members of the collaborative in particular projects. Figure 3 reflects LARC governance structure.
Any member of the organization can become a potential representative of the governing board. Every year, this body organizes the admission of new members and encourages interested persons to apply for participation in the collaborative. Sometimes, there may be a turnover of men and women in LARC since the tasks of the governing board include an annual check on the performance of all employees who can either stay inside the program or be excluded. There are no important members who cannot take part in the activities of the collaborative. The organization gives everyone an opportunity to join the LARC team if a person proves his or her effectiveness and willingness to work for the benefit of this structure. As a rule, all participants are tightly involved in the work of the community; otherwise, it hardly makes sense to admit new people.
Another significant representative of LARC is the managing director. As Bennett and Grannis (2017) remark, for the first time, this position was presented in 2010. The central task of this person is reporting to the governing board, as well as responsibility for decisions made in the team and ways to achieve them. The managing director is the official representative of the collaborative at all hearings and meetings. Nevertheless, the major decisions are made collectively, and everyone can express his or her position and make a constructive proposal to the work of the body. The LARC charter recognizes the need for the organization to cooperate with government agencies. However, its members also agreed the collaborative would not be hosted by a governmental body to avoid associations with it (Bennett & Grannis, 2017). Nevertheless, it is still hosted by a public institution, UCLA, which aligns with arguments made by Ansell and Gash (2008) about the establishment and hosting of collaboration by public agencies/institutions. Based on this document, joint work is seen as a key way of sharing knowledge and information in the face of a constantly changing climate.
Funds of the Collaborative
According to Bennett and Grannis (2017), the primary sponsor of the organization is UCLA. As Hughes and Pincetl (2014) point out, collaborative institutions rarely replace existing institutions and often become a source of additional funding. All the studies conducted in the territory of the University of California are financed from federal funds. UCLA is the platform for the development of all LARC’s ideas. Its scholars collaborate with the representatives of the organization throughout all stages, beginning with the proposal of a particular idea and ending with its implementation. Thus, any of the grants that the collaborative receives has a separate budget. However, in case the participants of the organization develop a project outside the educational establishment, a determined tax will be deducted. Such a scheme does not correspond with the example provided by Hughes and Pincetl (2014), where funding areas are used, which separately apply for grant money but remain to be a part of a collaborative, i.e., no taxes are deducted for outside projects.
Outputs and Outcomes
According to Pincetl, Graham, Murphy, and Sivaraman (2016), the involvement of government agencies in environmental protection programs is essential since decisions taken at this level are of considerable strength. The collaborative, during its active work, has put forward some proposals and recommendations. They were previously approved by the governing board and discussed by LARC members. Besides, the basic ideas have always been associated with the protection of the environment. Therefore, the collaborative did not face any contradictions. The target audience, as it is evident, has always approved such recommendations and contributed to their development and implementation.
The idea to reflect the key directions of LARC’s work relates to the introduction of a particular framework. It regulates the relationship between the target sectors and the climate protection policy. This proposal was implemented not only at a local but also at a federal level. The scheme included various industries like transport and energy spheres, as well as key areas that require close attention. It is about water and forest resources and the ways of processing and recycling wastes. This project would not have been developed without the participation of the collaborative, and it is one of the organization’s numerous achievements.
As Hughes and Pincetl (2014) claim, teamwork has always been considered one of the successful ways to implement projects that are unlikely to be realized without the participation of several members. LARC has always sought to ensure that the ideas and proposals of the organization receive the maximum distribution and could be used to improve the environmental situation (Hughes & Pincetl, 2014). As a rule, all members of this body are competent employees who usually do not allow for any gaps in their knowledge. Bimonthly member meetings, committees for development, public workshops, and training events ensure employees’ competency and engagement (Bennett & Grannis, 2017). All decisions are taken unanimously, and each participant of a project understands his or her importance and the ability to influence the opinion of the group.
Collaborative Cooperation as the Way to Improve Working Relationships
As it is known, the merits of the collaborative include not only the achievement of goals but also the team building, as well as the manifestation of the atmosphere of support. Trust and teamwork are essential attributes of success (Hughes & Pincetl, 2014). Working relationships in LARC have always been built in such a way that each member of the team was aware of the importance of his or her participation and could contribute to the development of the common idea. Also, this approach to work is a rather good way of accumulating and distributing capital. If a project is developed in the union of several people, it has more chances to get recognition from the government and become a basis for achieving a positive result. Moreover, a respectful attitude in the team positively influences the cultural level of employees. It allows proving the seriousness of the intentions of the organization’s participants and at the same time contributes to more productive work.
From a political point of view, collaborative work also has a sufficient number of advantages. First, the decisions made by the team and approved by the official governing body are greater than those of one person. Secondly, the criteria for selecting participants in the LARC are created in such a way that only professionals work in the organization. Consequently, qualified specialists are well versed in various aspects of society, including politics, which gives more chances to get approval from the authorities. Therefore, the work of the collaborative has a positive impact on policy issues.
Analysis of the LARC’s Work
LARC is a rather vivid example of the collaborative governance framework, which combines all the features necessary for fruitful and productive work. In some ways, the activity of the collaborative is similar to the examples described in the scientific literature. For instance, Ansell and Gash (2008) discuss the specifics of cooperation in the same region, focusing on water resources and their conservation. They describe similar examples of the development and implementation of useful ideas, and also emphasize the benefits of teamwork in solving significant social and natural problems. However, some unique features distinguish LARC from most other organizations. In particular, it is a policy of cooperation with the University of California, as well as the work under the patronage of government agencies. Figure 4 is an infographic that reflects LARC’s main sectors of work.
Among the goals of the employees of the organization, it is worth noting the reduction of the level of pollution and greenhouse gases, as well as the creation of conditions that allow adapting to climate change. The most evident progress that the LARC staff has been able to achieve includes measures taken by the government about environmental protection. Informing the population about the possible consequences of pollution of nature and using the framework developed by the organization help to tell as many people as possible about the importance of this problem and the need for urgent intervention. Perhaps, the success of the activities of the collaborative programs is due to the professionalism of its members, as well as the competently chosen course of work. If it were not for an efficient system of management and personnel selection, many achievements probably would not have happened.
In the course of work, certainly, there were some difficulties. For example, according to Bennett and Grannis (2017), local authorities are not always competent in matters relating to the environment. Perhaps, it somewhat hampered the work of the organization and prevented specialists from explaining the importance of their activities. However, it did not become a reason for abandoning the set goals. The implemented programs had no significant shortcomings and were distinguished by the clarity of the assigned tasks.
The work of LARC to prevent the dangerous consequences of climate change is not only advantageous but also necessary. The development of all industry sectors (raw materials, manufacturing, services) inevitably leads to technogenic cataclysms caused by people’s activities and negatively affects the ecological situation of a particular region. The work of the organization and its specialists aims at improving the state of the environment and developing new programs that may help improve the environmental situation. The collaborative’s activities play a significant role in protecting the environment. People learn more about existing issues, and it will possibly help correct the current situation with the pollution of nature.
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