What makes ecosystem governance successful? A comparative study of twelve Swiss wetlands combining social network analysis and causal loop diagramming

Mario Angst, Manuel Fischer, Martin Huber

Contact: mario.angst@wsl.ch

Ecosystem governance often involves the interplay of a variety of actors, forming a governance network. Governance networks have been subject of increasing scholarly attention. However, research on the influence of governance networks on environmental outcomes is currently facing three main shortcomings. First, and most crucial, there is little research relating networks to outcomes yet, even though this has always been one of the main factors motivating the literature. Second, there are very few comparative, multi-case network studies involving a standardized data gathering procedure. Most current studies are single case studies or combine multiple previous studies not designed to be comparative from the outset. This is problematic, as advancing the field toward systematic multi-case comparisons is needed to generate stronger evidence about determinants of governance outcomes. Third, there is also a lack of studies relating governance networks to case context such as institutional settings and specific ecological challenges in a systematic way. We will present first results from a comparative multi-case study, which addresses all of these dimensions. It will enable us to answer a main overarching research question: What structural features of governance networks in relation to characteristics of an associated ecosystem governance problem are associated with successful governance outcomes? Our work builds on recent literature on social-ecological networks. We employ techniques of causal loop diagramming (CLD) to extend this approach. We suggest that combining CLDs with actor networks in an integrated network approach provides a formalized and systematic way to link actor networks to underlying governance challenges. Our project leverages the power of this integrated network approach in a multi-case analysis, comparing twelve network representations of Swiss wetland governance case studies. We are currently gathering data in all cases using a three-step approach. First, we identify relevant governance issues and organisational actors within a given case through document analysis. Second, we conduct individual, in-depth CLD sessions with representative expert stakeholders. Third, we conduct an internet survey in all cases among all actors. Through the survey, we gather actor's issue involvement, collaborative and conflictive relations between actors, as well as their subjective assessment of governance outcomes. We then combine a synthesized CLD and actor network by linking actors to areas of the CLD they are active in. This results in a structured representation of each case as a multi-level network graph. We will analyze motifs within the multi-level networks representing different patterns in how actor networks address interrelated ecological system components. By investigating a number of such motifs and compare their occurrence related to a probable baseline distribution per case, we can gauge whether some motifs occur dis-proportionally less or more often in a given case. To do so, we are currently developing an R-package, which will be made available to facilitate similar analyses in the future. We will then assess how specific network characteristics, such as functional fit or issue centralization, are related to governance outcomes. We will consider a multi-dimensional set of procedural (eg. survey-based judgements of participation quality) and biophysical outcome variables.

← Schedule