Policy issue interdependency and the formation of collaborative networks
Johanna Hedlund, Örjan Bodin, Daniel NohrstedtCollaborative governance is praised as a response to rising interdependency across complex societal and environmental problems. Such problems require policy actors to collectively focus on multiple challenges, or policy issues, that also exhibit interdependencies through common and overlapping policy processes and/or biophysical linkages. Still, we know little about how policy issue interdependencies, as a significant aspect of complex problems, drive collaboration. Here we investigate whether and how policy issues and policy issue interdependencies influence actors’ selection of collaborative partners. We test two alternative models. The first assumes that partner selection is driven by actors’ engagement in policy issues and their interdependencies. The second model emphasizes social positions and actor attributes. We apply these models to two venues for collaborative water governance in the Norrström basin, Sweden. Our results demonstrate that in the first venue, actors consider both alternatives in their selection of partners, but avoid collaborating over policy issue interdependencies. In the second venue, only actor and relational attributes are driving social tie formation. This analysis helps in disentangling if and how collaboration can effectively address environmental problems that are associated with multiple and often interdependent policy issues.