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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Between authority and argumentation: facilitators’ use of power in collaborative governance

Westin, Martin; Hallgren, Lars; Montgomerie, Emily


Facilitators of collaborative governance structure communication between stakeholders. They influence the process and, in some instances, also the outcome of collaborative governance. Even so, facilitators are, in the literature and in practice, most often reduced to being neutral or seen merely as power sharers. This reductive understanding obscures facilititators' use of power. The purpose of this paper is to outline a nuanced understanding of authority in facilitation practice. We analyse a Swedish collaborative governance process where a governmental agency facilitates collaboration between actors with conflicting interests. We combine the work of Hannah Arendt and Mark Warren to study authority as relationally performed. We find that facilitators' use of power takes the form of a pendulum movement between authority and argumentation. Hence, authority and argumentation are linked, rather than incompatible, in facilitation practice. This paper sheds new light on the unrecognised, and yet influential, leadership role that facilitators play.


authority; facilitation; collaborative governance; natural resource management; dialogue; power

Published in

Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning
2024, Volume: 67, number: 9, pages: 2055-2074