Stumbling forward: The organizational challenges of building and sustaining collaborative watershed management

  • Bonnell J
  • Koontz T
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Abstract

This article examines the challenges of collaborative approaches to ecosystem man-agement associated with the formation and maintenance of new institutions. Indivi-duals who lead collaborative watershed partnerships must grapple not only with complex environmental issues, but also the more mundane—but no less critical— challenges associated with building and sustaining a new organization. The authors focus on the nexus of organizational development and ecosystem (i.e., watershed) management by examining in depth how one group, the Little Miami River Partner-ship (LMRP), experienced and responded to the challenges of creating a collabora-tive organization. Results shed light on the disproportionate role that organizational development, as compared to watershed planning, efforts can play in the day-to-day operations of a watershed group. By linking the results to prior research studies, the authors draw conclusions about when and why this disproportionate emphasis on organizational development occurs and implications for practitioners and policymakers. Ecosystem management, while no longer a new concept, is still an emerging approach to natural resource management. Cortner and Moote (1999) identified four key principles of ecosystem management: (1) collaborative decision making, (2) holistic, integrated science, (3) socially defined goals and objectives, and (4) adaptable institutions. The application of these principles creates challenges for traditional institutions, including government agencies and environmental organiza-tions, that have adapted to a more top-down, regulatory, compartmentalized, and competitive approach to natural resource management (Grumbine 1994; Danter et al. 2000). As a result, new institutions are forming to facilitate building collabora-tive relationships. These institutions are characterized by shared decision authority among local stakeholders, including agencies, public officials, private interests, and citizens (Cortner et al. 1998; Yaffee 1996). Unlike the temporary advisory committees

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Authors

  • Joseph E. Bonnell

  • Tomas M. Koontz

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