Panel Paper: The Perfect Amount of Help: An Examination of the Relationship between Collaboration and Capacity in Urban Sustainability Initiatives

Friday, July 20, 2018
Building 3, Room 209 (ITAM)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Rachel M. Krause1, Angela YS Park1 and Christopher Hawkins2, (1)University of Kansas, (2)University of Central Florida

Many municipalities are taking meaningful action in pursuit of climate protection, environmental and energy objectives. These issues are complex and transboundary and thus provide fertile ground for collaboration, particularly in metropolitan regions. However, despite the many benefits that can result from collaboration, it also entails risk (e.g. will partners follow through as promised?) and cost (e.g. negotiations, monitoring, etc). As a result, particularly for high risk activities, cities have incentive to be selective about who they collaborate with. In some cases, cities, particularly those with considerable internal resources and capacities, might find it easier to “go it alone.” We pull from the literature on collaboration risk, transaction cost economics, and organizational capacity to develop hypotheses about the relationship between capacity and collaboration in urban sustainability initiatives. Drawing data from the Integrated City Sustainability Database as well as archival sources including the Annual Survey of Public Employment, our analysis finds that the number of partners a city collaborates with on climate and energy issues depends on local administrative capacity. Moreover, preliminary results show an inverted U-shaped relationship between the resources devoted to sustainability and the scope of the collaborative network, which suggests that cities with mid-level capacity have the largest collaborative networks. These findings have theoretical and practical implications for understanding the use of collaborative networks to resolve coordination problems.