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The Intersection of Decolonization and Decentralization: Promoting Collaborative Governance


"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." - African Proverb

In conversations I've had recently, I've observed that the term decolonization can be triggering for some people, and I want to approach the concept with compassion and understanding. I've realized that decolonization is not only for indigenous people but for all communities worldwide. Its ultimate goal is to liberate societies from the grip of colonialism, which has caused lasting damage to economic, political, and cultural systems.


Through a friend's anecdotes, who identifies as indigenous, I learned about the struggles their family has faced to preserve their cultural traditions and beliefs after generations of colonization. The process of decolonization involves reclaiming sovereignty, autonomy, and agency for oppressed communities, including those impacted

by colonization in the past.

Decolonization is about restoring the rightful place of oppressed communities in the world while also challenging systems of power and privilege that perpetuate colonialism. I believe that this process requires dismantling the structures that perpetuate inequality and replacing them with systems that prioritize the needs and aspirations of all people. This way, we can create a world that is more equitable, just, and compassionate for everyone.

If the concept of decolonization feels triggering or uncomfortable, I want to acknowledge these feelings and encourage an exploration of why that might be. Perhaps it's due to a lack of understanding or knowledge about the historical and ongoing impacts of colonialism. It's okay to ask questions, seek out resources, and engage in open and respectful dialogue.


Decolonization is not about erasing or dismissing anyone's experiences but about acknowledging the harm that has been caused and working towards healing and justice for all. It is both necessary and compassionate to work towards a world that is more equitable, just, and compassionate for everyone.


"The struggle for decolonization is not about turning the clock back to a romanticized past. It is about reclaiming our place in the present and moving forward as a people." - Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Anishinaabe writer and activist

What’s more is decolonization practices can certainly help in developing a more collaborative and equitable nation state. By acknowledging and addressing the ongoing impacts of colonialism, decolonization can help to dismantle the power structures and systems that perpetuate inequality and marginalization of certain groups.


Through the process of decolonization, there is an emphasis on reclaiming sovereignty, autonomy, and agency for oppressed communities. This means that decision-making power is returned to these communities, allowing for greater collaboration and shared decision-making in the governance of the nation state.


Additionally, decolonization involves challenging the dominant narratives and perspectives that have been shaped by colonialism. This can help to promote a more diverse and inclusive society, where different voices and perspectives are valued and heard. By working towards a more equitable and just society through decolonization, it is possible to create a nation state that is more collaborative and united.

"The function of freedom is to free someone else." - Toni Morrison

One of the significant impacts of decolonization is decentralization. Decolonization often involves shifting power and decision-making away from centralized institutions and towards local communities and indigenous peoples who have historically been excluded from governance processes. By giving these communities more control over their own lives and resources, decolonization can promote greater self-determination and autonomy, which are key aspects of decentralization.


Additionally, decentralization can be a means of redistributing power and resources more equitably, which aligns with the goals of decolonization. So, while the two concepts are not identical, there is significant overlap between decolonization and decentralization.

Decentralization is a fancy word for giving power back to the people! In other words, it's about making sure that local communities have a bigger say in the decisions that affect their daily lives. For example, in Oregon, behavioral health services are being decentralized to empower local communities to provide tailored support for their residents.


"The real revolution is in the decentralization of power and decision-making to the level of the individual and the local community." - Max Borders

Decentralization has many benefits for all communities. First, it leads to greater participation and representation. This means that people can have a say in decisions that affect them directly. Second, it increases accountability and transparency, as local authorities are more accessible and responsive to their constituents. For instance, Oregon's decentralization efforts involve creating advisory groups of local stakeholders to provide feedback on services.

Another benefit of decentralization is that it can lead to more effective and efficient governance. When local authorities have more control over their affairs, they are better able to identify and respond to the unique needs of their communities. This means that policies and programs can be tailored to address specific issues, resulting in better outcomes for residents.

Finally, decentralization can promote peace and stability by empowering local communities and reducing the potential for conflict with central authorities. For example, in Oregon, the decentralization of behavioral health services has resulted in more community-led initiatives to address mental health and addiction issues, reducing the stigma associated with seeking help.


Overall, decentralization is about creating more inclusive, responsive, and effective governance that benefits all communities. By giving power back to the people, we can build trust and cooperation between different groups, promote innovation and experimentation, and ultimately create a brighter future for everyone.

As with many large organizations, state government authorities have a hierarchical structure and bureaucracy that can make it difficult to implement changes towards a more collaborative governance structure. The current power dynamic within these organizations is focused on top-down decision-making, with decisions and policies being made by a select few individuals at the top of the organization.


This structure can lead to a lack of input and involvement from individuals at lower levels of the organization who may have valuable insights and perspectives. It can also create a sense of disconnect between decision-makers and those affected by the policies and programs being implemented.


Additionally, bureaucratic procedures and processes can add layers of complexity and red tape that slow down decision-making and hinder innovation. This can make it difficult to experiment with new approaches and adapt to changing circumstances, which is essential for effective governance.

To make the shift towards a more collaborative governance structure, there needs to be a willingness to challenge the existing power dynamic and bureaucracy within government organizations. This can involve reevaluating decision-making processes, creating opportunities for input and involvement from individuals at all levels of the organization, and streamlining bureaucratic procedures to increase efficiency and effectiveness.


"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences." - Audre Lorde.

Ultimately, it will require a cultural shift within the organization, with a focus on valuing diverse perspectives, building relationships and trust, and prioritizing the needs and aspirations of all communities. This shift will require leadership and commitment from individuals at all levels of the organization to walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to creating a more collaborative and inclusive governance structure.

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