Collaborative Governance in an Institutionalized Context: The Case of an Urban Watershed
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Yanow (1997) asserts that policies have multiple meanings; it is enacted with a meaning and it assumes multiple meanings in the process of being implemented over time. Wagenaar (2011) suggests that there is inevitable pluralism in policy, and to understand policy urgency and implication, participation is required. We use interpretive approach to study collaborative governance within the Cuyahoga River watershed, in Northeast Ohio. The watershed is governed by policies because of its environmental and socio-political history, and current significance to the ecology and economy of the Great Lakes region. Policy implementation takes place through the various plans, projects, and programs to restore the ecological and economic health of the river. Several such projects and actions in the watershed are mandated under the federal Clean Water Act (among others); parts of the river are also among the 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) under the United States-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The river has its own Remedial Action Plan Program (RAP) and a RAP committee that oversees various plans and projects aiming at de-listing of the various beneficial use impairments. Three of the tributary watersheds are also Balanced Growth watersheds under the Ohio Lake Erie Commission. Within this structure local actors collectively construct and interpret meaning of the policies through the process of dialogue and deliberation. The resultant collaborations are not the traditional hierarchies of structured behaviors and roles, but are instead emergent and based on practices to achieve shared goals. We argue that the deliberation, meaning making, and understanding of the phenomena by the actors shape the way policy is implemented. Overtime these processes create a shared understanding and create adaptive capacity for governance.
We draw upon a detailed analysis of in-depth interviews, document analysis, participant observations, and network analysis. We are able to map out the main policy arenas and we demonstrate how actors within each of these areas create collaborations that shape policy implementation in the form of plans, programs, and initiatives. We illustrate this through the example of the collaborations emerging out of networks of actors across the various policy arenas and the breadth, depth, and extent of the deliberative process within these collaborations.