Stakeholder Collaboration as an Alternative to Cost-Benefit Analysis

71 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2018 Last revised: 10 Jun 2020

See all articles by Karen Bradshaw

Karen Bradshaw

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Date Written: 2020


This Article compares and contrasts cost-benefit analysis with “collaborative analysis” in agency decision-making. While mathematical models drive cost-benefit analysis, ongoing stakeholder negotiations drive collaborative analysis. Cost-benefit analysis relies on economists inputting numerical values into a model, whereas collaborative analysis relies on the diverse perspectives of groups and individuals affected by an agency’s decision. Administrative law scholars have exhaustively researched cost-benefit analysis while overlooking widespread agency reliance on collaborative analysis. This Article advances the novel observation that legislatures and courts sometimes treat collaborative analysis and cost-benefit analysis as interchangeable.
Administrative law scholars might find it unorthodox, even irresponsible, to equate the deliberative process of average citizens with numerical calculations performed by economists. Yet, collaborative analysis works well in several contexts when numerical analysis does not: where data are scarce, burdens are unevenly distributed, normative values are at stake, and conditions are changing. Under such circumstances, agency officials report that collaborative analysis creates better outcomes, secures ex ante social approval of policies, provides adaptive decision- making, and reduces conflict and litigation risk relative to alternative tools. Despite the benefits of collaborative analysis and its surprisingly widespread use, its potential remains largely untapped. In identifying and defining collaborative analysis for the first time, this Article provides agencies, stakeholders, and courts the tools necessary to understand collaborative analysis and tap into its benefits.

Keywords: cost-benefit analysis, risk management, administrative law, natural resources, environmental law, participatory governance

Suggested Citation

Bradshaw, Karen, Stakeholder Collaboration as an Alternative to Cost-Benefit Analysis (2020). Karen Bradshaw, Stakeholder Collaboration as an Alternative to Cost-Benefit Analysis, 2019 BYU L. Rev. 655 (2020). , Available at SSRN: or

Karen Bradshaw (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States


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