Humboldt Journal of Social Relations


Collaborative processes for working toward common management goals between individuals and organizations, despite their differences, emerged as one enduring legacy resulting from the Timber Wars in the American West during the late-1980s and the early 1990s. Power imbalances are often cited as a common problem in collaborative processes and can have a lasting, deleterious impact on the collaborative process and its outcomes. For all its importance, however, there is a yet unfulfilled need to understand the extent to which power and power imbalances affect collaborative relationships. Our research uses a case study approach to qualitatively analyze power dynamics within three collaborative efforts comprised of the United States Forest Service and community stakeholders. We identified four sources of power in play within the three case studies examined to include authority, resources, discursive legitimacy, and trust. We also discuss the application of these power sources and the ensuing outcomes. These powers, and the imbalance that sometimes result from their application, are representative of some of the underlying tensions that can be present in collaborative processes.