Environmental Management

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 675–689 | Cite as

A Framework for Assessing Collaborative Capacity in Community-Based Public Forest Management

  • Antony S. Cheng
  • Victoria E. Sturtevant


Community-based collaborative groups involved in public natural resource management are assuming greater roles in planning, project implementation, and monitoring. This entails the capacity of collaborative groups to develop and sustain new organizational structures, processes, and strategies, yet there is a lack of understanding what constitutes collaborative capacity. In this paper, we present a framework for assessing collaborative capacities associated with community-based public forest management in the US. The framework is inductively derived from case study research and observations of 30 federal forest-related collaborative efforts. Categories were cross-referenced with literature on collaboration across a variety of contexts. The framework focuses on six arenas of collaborative action: (1) organizing, (2) learning, (3) deciding, (4) acting, (5) evaluating, and (6) legitimizing. Within each arena are capacities expressed through three levels of social agency: individuals, the collaborative group itself, and participating or external organizations. The framework provides a language and set of organizing principles for understanding and assessing collaborative capacity in the context of community-based public forest management. The framework allows groups to assess what capacities they already have and what more is needed. It also provides a way for organizations supporting collaboratives to target investments in building and sustaining their collaborative capacities. The framework can be used by researchers as a set of independent variables against which to measure collaborative outcomes across a large population of collaborative efforts.


Collaboration Collaborative capacity Community-based natural resource management Public lands National forests USDA Forest Service 



Financial support for the research used in this paper was provided by the Ford Foundation, the Joint Fire Science Program, the McIntire-Stennis program administered through Colorado State University, and the USDA Forest Service via cooperative agreements, direct grants, and Research Joint Venture Agreements. We wish to thank the three anonymous reviewers for making valuable suggestions for improving the manuscript. Special thanks goes to colleagues, practitioners, and graduate research assistants who have contributed to field work, data analysis, insights, and critical reviews of the ideas presented in this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forest & Rangeland StewardshipColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologySouthern Oregon UniversityAshlandUSA

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