Developing Effective Partnerships in Natural Resource Management
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This thesis seeks to understand and improve the effectiveness of partnerships formed by industry, community and government members of natural resource management (NRM) groups. The increasing popularity of partnership-based approaches to NRM is reflected in the rise of landcare, catchment management and other social mobilisation approaches throughout Australia and overseas. This thesis uses critical ethnographic methods to identify the characteristics of effective NRM partnerships and the factors influencing their effectiveness. This research also investigates appropriate methods for evaluating the effectiveness of such relationships and for determining when working in partnership with others may be the most appropriate response to a given NRM problem and context. The critical intent of the study means that it sought not only to understand the nature of such issues but also sought to enlighten and empower participants to improve the practice of partnerships in natural resource management. These characteristics and factors are analysed from three perspectives: the coordinators employed to broker and facilitate community-based NRM groups, the groups themselves and individual group members. This was done in order to reflect the importance of the continuous (re)negotiation of power that characterises long-term group relationships. It also enabled theories of power, cultural transformation, citizen participation, social capital and social learning to be used in the analysis of the NRM partnerships investigated in this study. These concepts were used to develop three tools for analysing NRM partnerships: a pendulum of citizen participation, an NRM citizen participation decision tree, and an NRM partnership typology. The study is based upon the analysis of nineteen cases, predominantly in South East Queensland, which were selected as examples of successful and effective NRM partnerships on the basis of referrals from regional managers and coordinators from State and Local Government. The research design was 'T' shaped, with Phase 1 of the study providing breadth through the analysis of fifteen partnerships. Depth was achieved in Phases 2 and 3. Phase 2 was a long-term ethnographic case study of one catchment management group while Phase 3 comprised a detailed analysis of three issue-specific partnerships formed by this group. These three phases concentrated on the viewpoint of coordinators, NRM groups and participants, respectively. Data on each of the nineteen cases were collected through interviews, field observations, workshops, document analyses and a short questionnaire. Data were analysed qualitatively. All data records were systematically coded to reveal themes and concepts relating to the research objectives from the viewpoints of coordinators, NRM groups and participants. Coding also revealed implications for governments seeking to enter into or to facilitate partnerships with others. The coding and interpretation of this data revealed a suite of twelve characteristics typical of effective natural resource management partnerships. These fell into five groups: (i) definitional characteristics (relating to effectiveness and shared power and responsibility) (ii) relationship characteristics (focusing on social capital building processes; communication; processes for knowledge acquisition and social learning; shared values, intent, action and risk-taking) (iii) participant characteristics (high levels of motivation and realistic expectations); (iv) a context characteristic (that the context is appropriate for a partnership) and (v) an 'outsider' perception characteristic (that the partnership is perceive positively by outsiders). A comparative analysis of cases reveals that only one of the nineteen cases exhibited all twelve characteristics. Importantly, three of these characteristics are not mentioned in the literature reviewed for this thesis. Two of these, share values and shared intent are relationship characteristics. Study findings emphasise that effective NRM partnerships are built on good personal relationships, based on shared values and intent. The third new characteristic is that people outside the partnership should perceive the relationship favourably. Since funds and other resources may be under the control of people outside a partnership, it is important that participants are able to effectively communicate their shared values and intent to others. Five factors were found to be significant in the development of effective partnerships (i) the need for participants and those brokering partnerships to realize that effective partnerships are built on positive personal relationships in which (ii) participants have high levels of motivation for being involved, particularly early in the relationship. The study further revealed that such relationships: (iii) need to be supported by a continuity of adequate funding and resources and (iv) the services of skilled, enthusiastic coordinators who (v) enjoy and are skilled at working in 'grey areas', the constantly changing social and organizational environment that is typical of NRM groups. These findings of the study are synthesized through a critical ethnography which depicts three years in the life of a typical, yet hypothetical, NRM group, the Armstrong Narrows-Yarooba Catchment Management Group (ANY Group). Based on the literature review and the analysis of results from this study, this composite story protects the anonymity of those who have participated in this research. Each of the three vignettes that make up this story contains two sections -As it was and As it could be. This 'double take approach' highlights the critical nature of the ethnography, emphasising how the development of collaborations and partnerships among members of NRM groups may be improved and evaluated. Coordinators, NRM group members and agencies supporting their efforts may use this ethnography as a basis for reflection and deliberation on the development of effective partnerships in natural resource management. Recommendations for how different stakeholders in NRM partnerships may develop the effectiveness of the partnerships they form are provided.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Australian Environmental Studies
Item Access Status
natural resource management partnerships