Networks of Collaboration

Over the past few months, there have been a number of great research projects on collaboration networks.  In the coming weeks, I’ll highlight some of the work of Mark Lubell (UC-Davis), Ramiro Berardo (Ohio State), Orjan Bodin (Stockholm Resilience Centre), and many others.  For now, I’d just like to share some of my humble efforts.  Drawing on fieldwork that Abby York and I conducted a few years back (ages ago as measured by the number of children we’ve had since then), we put together some simple network metrics to see how networks of collaborating organizations change over time.  The paper is available electronically at:  Open Article (for those without institutional library access, please see my website for proofs).

The main takeaways that I’d like to focus on here are: 1) the power of even some very simple network analyses to gain insight into collaborative endeavors, 2) how organizations can act as policy entrepreneurs and work across multiple cohorts and collaborations to accomplish their broader goals, and 3) how collaborations can be used to share risk.

For now, I’d like to focus on the second of these takeaways.  In southern Arizona, where this research took place, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) played a central role in establishing and coordinating many of these collaborations.  What’s interesting is how an organization’s strategy emerges in the social network.  Here TNC was able to leverage their land ownership and active management into a leadership role in multiple overlapping collaborative networks.  They served as an archetype of a boundary organization, linking science and policy, and brought NGOs, researchers, and government agencies into partnership.

Let me close with a photo from the region and one of the prominent collaborations in the area – the Malpai Borderlands Group – a collaboration of ranchers, federal and state agencies, and TNC, among others.

images

(with credit to TNC, of course)

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