, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 185-204

One size does not fit all: Matching breadth of stakeholder participation to watershed group accomplishments

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Abstract

The role of the public in US policy making has shifted substantially during the past several decades. This shift is particularly evident in environmental policy, where collaboration among multiple stakeholders is on the rise. Much of the literature on collaborative environmental management emphasizes the need for widespread community involvement, especially from private citizens. Many proponents of collaboration have argued that broad inclusion can lead to better environmental solutions while also establishing legitimacy, building social capital, and overcoming conflicts. Yet such broad inclusion may be costly in terms of time, energy, and resources, and it may not yield the desired results. Thus, a key question is how the breadth of public involvement is linked to collaborative group accomplishments. This study, using watershed groups in Ohio, demonstrates several links between group membership and results. Groups with a broader array of participants tend to excel in watershed plan creation, identifying/prioritizing issues, and group development and maintenance. In addition, groups comprised of a relatively balanced mix of governmental and non-governmental participants are more likely to list planning/research and group development and maintenance results than are groups comprised primarily of non-governmental participants. In contrast, groups with a narrower membership and groups that are composed primarily of non-governmental participants may focus more on pressuring government for policy change.