Collaborative environmental governance: Are watershed partnerships swimming or are they sinking?

TitleCollaborative environmental governance: Are watershed partnerships swimming or are they sinking?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsBenson, D., A. Jordan, LS Smith, and H. Cook
Journal TitleLand Use Policy
Start Page748
KeywordsCatchment management, Collaborative governance, Institutional development, Political contracting framework, Travelling problem, Watershed partnerships

Several attempts have been made to explain the formation of collaborative watershed partnerships—that is, multi-actor groups which work together to resolve environmental problems at a watershed scale. But to what extent do these explanations ‘travel’ from their original home – namely the USA – to other jurisdictions, where similar claims are being made about the rise of collaborative environmental governance? To that end, this article critically evaluates how well one leading theory, namely the political contracting framework (PCF), explains their emergence in the rather different institutional context of the United Kingdom. Drawing on a survey of collaborative watershed practices, it argues that they are functionally equivalent to partnerships. Furthermore, when suitably amended, the PCF explains many important aspects of their emergence. The same critical factors are associated with their development, but these should now be assessed across the entire ‘life-cycle’ of partnerships. The implications of these findings are identified and explored, the underlying aim being to inform a much more comparative theoretical approach to understanding what appear to be important changes in collaborative environmental governance practices.

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