Turning Contention into Collaboration: Engaging Power, Trust, and Learning in Collaborative Networks

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Society & Natural Resources


Given the complexity and multiplicity of goals in natural resource governance, it is not surprising that policy debates are often characterized by contention and competition. Yet at times adversaries join together to collaborate to find creative solutions not easily achieved in polarizing forums. We employed qualitative interviews and a quantitative network analysis to investigate a collaborative network that formed to develop a resolution to a challenging natural resource management problem, the conservation of vernal pools. We found that power had become distributed among members, trust had formed across core interests, and social learning had resulted in shared understanding and joint solutions. Furthermore, institutions such as who and when new members joined, norms of inclusion and openness, and the use of small working groups helped create the observed patterns of power, trust, and learning.


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