Panel Paper: Goal Specificity: A Proxy Measure for Improvements In Environmental Outcomes

Friday, November 9, 2012 : 10:25 AM
Carroll (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jenny Biddle, School of Public Affairs, American University and Tom Koontz, Ohio State University

Many of the criticisms of collaborative governance revolve around the lack of clear indicators of improved environmental conditions resulting from collaboration. As is often the case in environmental policy, environmental outcomes occur at a rate incompatible with political agendas. This inconsistency in environmental and public policy timeframes tends to lead to the development of environmental policy absent of supporting data on environmental outcomes. In the absence of complete data, policy makers often rely upon the use of proxy measures or outputs (e.g. environmental plans) for measuring progress towards end outcomes (e.g. achievement of goals for water quality improvement).

The findings of this study offer empirical evidence verifying that collaborative processes have a measurable, beneficial effect on environmental outcomes by linking outputs with outcomes. Given the inherent difficulties in relating environmental improvement to collaborative governance elements and processes, and the lengthy time horizon required for establishing such a causal link, this study provides a useful analysis of the collaborative governance outputs and their potential to serve as proxy measures for the achievement of environmental improvement goals.

The results of a path analysis indicate that the output of setting specific pollutant reduction goals is strongly related to watershed partnerships’ capacity to achieve those goals. Setting specific goals (e.g. percentage of load reductions in pollutant levels) requires more donated time and resources, especially during monitoring and data analysis. In addition, more information sharing and consensus is required at the onset of watershed planning to determine the level of specificity. These findings suggest that the use of setting of specific goals for reporting progress towards improvements in environmental outcomes is a useful proxy measure when long-term environmental data is not available.