Measuring, mapping and quantifying the effects of trust and informal communication on transboundary collaboration in the Great Lakes fisheries policy network

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Global Environmental Change, 2019, 54 pp. 6 - 18
Issue Date:
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© 2018 The Authors Ecosystem-based management of fisheries and other transboundary natural resources require a number of organizations across jurisdictions to exchange knowledge, coordinate policy goals and engage in collaborative activities. Trust, as part of social capital, is considered a key mechanism facilitating the coordination of such inter-organizational policy networks. However, our understanding of multi-dimensional trust as a theoretical construct and an operational variable in environmental and natural resource management has remained largely untested. This paper presents an empirical assessment of trust and communication measures applied to the North American Great Lakes fisheries policy network. Using a scale-based method developed for this purpose, we quantify the prevalence of different dimensions of trust and in/formal communication in the network and their differentiated impacts on decision-making and goal consensus. Our analysis reveals that calculation-based ‘rational trust’ is important for aligning mutual goals, but relationship-based ‘affinitive trust’ is most significant for influencing decision-making. Informal communication was also found to be a strong predictor of how effectively formal communication will influence decision-making, confirming the “priming” role of informal interactions in formal inter-agency dealings. The results also show the buffering and interactive functions of these components in strengthening institutional resilience, with procedural trust undergirding the system to compensate for a lack of well-developed relationships. Overall, this study provides evidence to suggest that informal communication and multi-dimensional trust constitute a crucial element for improving collaboration and reducing conflict in the networked governance of transboundary natural resource systems.
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