Panel Paper: Inter-Organizational Collaboration within a Polycentric Ecology of Water Policy Games

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Taylor - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah, State University of New York, Buffalo

Normative claims on polycentric governance are contested partly because there is limited consensus on the methodological approach to study polycentricism. Recently, the Ecology of Games (EG) framework, proposed as a theory of polycentrism, uses network science methods to study complex governance arrangements in managing natural resources. This paper contributes to the EG framework by focusing on a methodological enactment of how actors build multi-scale and multi-sector relationships within a polycentric governance system. This goal is pursued in two steps using water governance in the Middle Rio Grande (MRG). First, it employs the “network centralization index,” which was developed to operationalize how actors in a polycentric system build cross-scale and cross-sector relationships to address scale-mismatch—misalignment between ecological and institutional scales and processes in managing natural resources. Finally, the index is incorporated into exponential random graph models (ERGMs) to explain the probability of inter-actor collaboration in governing the MRG.

The Middle Rio Grande (MRG) watershed is part of the Rio Grande’s watershed and is located in central New Mexico (NM), covering approximately 3,060 square miles. The study area encompasses nine soil and watershed districts (Ciudad, Claunch-Pinto, Coronado, Doña Ana, Lava, Santa Fe-Pojoaque, Sierra, Socorro, and Valencia) and seven main counties (Bernalillo, Cibola, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Socorro, Torrance, and Valencia). It is also home to six Native American pueblos—Cochiti, San Felipe, Santo Domingo, Santa Ana, Sandia, and Isleta. Policy actors, mostly federal and state government agencies, have a strong presence in the MRG partly due to the multi-state nature of the Rio Grande water commons, as well as the extensive amount of public lands in this area. Internally, the MRG water governance is also controlled by inter-governmental agreements between the federal government and the pueblos. The presence of multiple internal (state and local) and external (federal) actors and legal agreements/mandates make the MRG an ideal case study for polycentric governance.

Using the archival snowball network sampling approach, I collected information from more than 700 websites and archival documents using Google and LexisNexis searches (e.g. online newspaper articles, academic documents, government documents, annual reports, grant databases, budget documents, memorandum of understandings, and action/strategic plans). However, the data was limited to the past 10 years, which reduced the number of websites and archival documents analyzed to 473. The dataset was prepared, analyzed and presented using multiple software programs including sna and statnet suites in R, and Cytoscape.

The paper finds, among others, that polycentrism in the MRG water governance could simply imply increased probability for inter-actor collaborations as actors make strategic decisions to build cross-scale and cross-sector relationships to address the scale-mismatch problem in managing natural resources. The implications of this and other findings to theory, methods, and policy are discussed in the paper’s conclusion.