Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Sociology and Rural Studies

First Advisor

Meredith Redlin


collaborative governance, democratic participation, homelessness, nonprofit organizations, service providers, welfare state


Homelessness is a complex social problem that touches many different sectors of a community--not only housing, but also healthcare, education, criminal justice, workforce, and more. Because of these complex interrelationships, homelessness as a social problem lends itself to collaborative governance where service providers across sectors come together to address the problem. This research examines homeless service provision as an example of how local government, nonprofit organizations, community funders, and other stakeholders collaborate and what knits those networks together. This research project encompasses three major efforts: a comparative case study of six different communities and how they have organized to confront homelessness, a quantitative analysis of data on organizational structure and performance outcomes from 397 collaborative networks across the United States set up to address homelessness in their communities, and an in-depth case study of a single community, including how stakeholders and consumers of services perceive and navigate collaborative governance and provider networks. The results suggest that whether and how collaboration emerges depends deeply on local context and the local political culture. Further collaboration and its success depend on establishing local norms that collaboration is the way business will be done. Collaboration also tends to turn inward, even when its intent is to be broad and inclusive: parties focus on establishing shared objectives, building trust and relationships among members, and aligning funding flows with the goals of the collaborative. Evidently, the things that make collaboration work are also the things that tend to make it less democratic. That is, collaboration appears to work best when the group embraces a shared vision and goals—but that might come at the expense of minority voices. Also, collaboration appears to work best when horizontal relationships among members are strong, but this could also create insider relationships that trade off with outsider engagement. Importantly, collaboratives appear to have at least a partial corrective: measurement, accountability, and transparency. At their best, these collaboratives combine a professional focus on measurement, performance tracking, and improvement with a public commitment to openness and transparency.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Homelessness -- Government policy.
Local government.
Nonprofit organizations.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright