Poster Paper: The Role of Deliberation in a Collaborative Governance Approach to Reforestation Policy Implementation in Rural Shanxi, China.

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Exhibits (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

YU-RONG Joy Liu, University of Arizona

Policy implementation literature identifies participants' ability to engage with others is critical for overcoming the collective action dilemma and create change in highly uncertain and contentious situations (Moulton and Sandfort 2017). In collaborative governance settings, the engagement dynamics may be further complicated by the mandate or organizational culture of each participants' parent organizations or extended coalition network (Emerson and Nabatchi 2015). This paper integrates collaborative governance and policy implementation theories to study the collaborative dynamics within a reforestation policy implementation context in Shanxi province of northern China. Reforesting rural landscape have been a challenging task in China, where limiting water resource, complex geography and conflicting rural development policies create barriers for effective policy implementation. A collaborative approach where local government engages with a nonprofit organization to employ expertise and financial resources to defray the cost of tree-planting and improve tree survival has been an innovative way to address reforestation in the region. However, reforestation is constrained by local farmland politics and the larger socio-economic structure, a complex issue that involves multiple actors at multiple levels of governance in the decision-making process. This paper examines an empirical case study of collaborative governance in the realm of reforestation initiated since 2005. This paper asks in what settings and in what ways do collaborative participants employ deliberation to engage with others and create conditions to improve shared understanding and desired outcome. This paper draws on interview and participant observation with county and township government officials, village leaders and members of the nonprofit organization to understand the collaborative dynamics and how participants perceive the effectiveness of collaborative reforestation sanctioned under policy implementation. I use the Integrative Framework for Collaborative Governance (Emerson and Nabatchi 2015) to characterize the collaborative dynamics and trace the initiation of the collaboration from beginning to present-day development. I use the Strategic Action Field Framework for policy implementation (Moulton and Sandfort 2017) to analyze participants’ approach to enact change and solve problems under different structural and authority contexts. In contrast to common view that government authorities lack willingness and expertise to enact change and communicate with participants, most local officials in this study took initiative to resolve both technical and adaptive challenges through deliberating with villagers and establishing trust with nonprofit organization, even when they perceived the decisions made by the nonprofit were unreasonable for the villagers they represented. I also find that power relations and cultural difference constrained the engagement process and continue to affect mutual understanding, which delayed participants’ capacity for joint action. This finding suggests that participants' approaches to deliberation are dependent on their fiscal positions in the collaborative relationship. I also found that leadership's social skills are critical for sustained collaborative governance in contexts with low human and physical capitals. The paper concludes with discussions on management implications and research approach considerations for the study of policy implementation and environmental governance.