The Social Dynamics of Collaboration in Environmental Governance and Management

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Title: The Social Dynamics of Collaboration in Environmental Governance and Management
Authors: Koch, Larissa
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Thesis advisor: Prof. Dr. Claudia Pahl-Wostl
Thesis referee: Prof. Dr. Christina Prell
Abstract: Doing justice to local knowledge and contexts in sustainability transformations requires multi-actor collaboration and broad stakeholder participation in environmental governance and management. Assumptions from network and collaborative governance have therefore led to the rise of co-management, in which decision-making power and management responsibility are shared among state and non-state actors interacting in knowledge partnerships. Yet despite normative claims, key challenges for many co-management approaches – especially in the environmental realm – remain to (1) navigate through tensions over meaning and competing narratives, (2) deal with blurred roles of authority and responsibilities due to decentralization, and (3) manage socio-historical pasts, where cooperation and conflict are entangled in actor relationships. Over the years, scientific communities debating the suitability of these collaborative processes have warned about viewing collaborative approaches as a magic bullet for targeting environmental problems. This thesis seeks to contribute to the debate and adds a complementary perspective on collaborative governance and co-management arrangements by examining the context-dependent social dynamics that arise when a group of actors involved in collaborative approaches negotiate and implement environmental governance and management measures. It therefore asks: How do the social dynamics between actors shape governance networks and influence collaborative governance arrangements? The first part of this thesis addresses the social dynamics of movements toward sustainable futures and related narratives of vision and identity. It argues that narratives regarding vision and identity accompany sustainability transitions and collective behavior change and that these influence and reflect social dynamics on a broader scale. Yet narratives are often reduced to a shorthand – an abbreviated (though affective) narrative expression such as a slogan, song, dance or image, which is memorable and readily communicable across the community and beyond. These abbreviated forms are referred to as concise affective narrative expressions (CANEs), which consist of a characteristic piece extracted from the complete narrative for a memorable, easily communicable, and affective verbal or visual representation of a core message. Furthermore, the challenges of collaboration described above became evident in the case study. The case study describes a regional cooperation consisting of different state actors and stakeholders from agriculture, forestry, water management and hunting. These actors discuss how to implement the Natura 2000 regulation in current land and forest management. The social dynamics of collaboration in the case were investigated by means of an interdisciplinary conceptual framework based on narrative and social network theory called the relational narrative approach. This framework is built on the assumption that the social relational structure between actors, and the stories they tell, is a co-production of narratives and dynamics at the group level. The mechanisms that influence emerging dynamics are (1) the interplay between collaborative relationships and narrative congruence between individual actors, (2) the characteristics of actors, and (3) the actors’ embeddedness in the wider social structure (which will be detailed in Paper II, presented as part of this thesis). The idea of narrative congruence is detailed in Paper III with the aim of exploring the phenomenon of a common narrative and to examine which social drivers shape the emergence of a common narrative among diverse actors involved in co-management. The argument in this part suggests that frequent interaction between two actors and a trusted leader with many reciprocal ties of trust are significant drivers that support the emergence of narrative congruence. Despite regular interaction between participants in the regional cooperation, the findings set out in Paper IV imply that these actors are unable to co-create a common narrative that would break the patterns of conflict and antagonistic perceptions of identity. Instead of a common narrative that would presumably facilitate the development of collaborative ties between agents, two opposing narratives are reproduced that vie with each other over power and competencies when it comes to appropriate management planning in the Natura 2000 areas – thus generating an “us versus them” dynamic. This polarization into two opposing sub-groups is however not transferred to the relationships that participants of this particular regional cooperation initiative have with one another. On the contrary, the regional cooperation is a network “supported by many shoulders”, the actors involved are familiar with each other and several coordinators and mediators among the actors ensure that a great deal of exchange occurs among participants. This thesis concludes by discussing three insights gleaned from this research undertaking. First, social dynamics are ubiquitous and intangible phenomena whose mechanisms influence multi-actor interaction in collaborative governance and management. Second, these intangible forces can be studied, explained and made manifest by way of the narratives that actors tell and the social relations and societal embeddedness of actors. Third, common narratives evolve around a trusted leader with many ties of trust to other actors and require frequent encounters and long-term nurturing in order to arise from multi-actor collaborations.
Subject Keywords: Narratives; Social networks; Multi-stakeholder participation; collaborative governance; Natura 2000 protected areas; social dynamics
Issue Date: 24-Feb-2023
License name: Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Germany
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Type of publication: Dissertation oder Habilitation [doctoralThesis]
Appears in Collections:FB01 - E-Dissertationen

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