Environmental Management

, 48:825 | Cite as

Who’s in Charge: Role Clarity in a Midwestern Watershed Group

  • Kristin Floress
  • Linda Stalker Prokopy
  • Janet Ayres


Studies of collaborative watershed groups show that effective leadership is an important factor for success. This research uses data from in-depth interviews and meeting observation to qualitatively examine leadership in a Midwestern collaborative watershed group operating with government funding. One major finding was a lack of role definition for volunteer steering-committee members. Lack of role clarity and decision-making processes led to confusion regarding project management authority among the group, paid project staff members, and agency personnel. Given the important role of government grants for funding projects to protect water quality, this study offers insight into leadership issues that groups with Clean Water Act Section 319 (h) funds may face and suggestions on how to resolve them.


Authority Collaboration Collaborative leadership Principal–agent problem Section 319(h) Watershed management Watershed groups 


  1. Behn RD (1995) The big questions of public management. Public Administration Review 55:313–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bentrup G (2001) Evaluation of a collaborative model: A case study analysis of watershed planning in the intermountain west. Environmental Management 27:739–748CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bidwell R, Ryan C (2006) Collaborative partnership design: The implications of organizational affiliation for watershed partnerships. Society and Natural Resources 19:827–843CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bonnell JE, Koontz TM (2007) Stumbling forward: The organizational challenges of building and sustaining collaborative watershed management. Society and Natural Resources 20:153–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Born SM, Genskow KD (2001) Toward understanding new watershed initiatives: A report from the Madison Watershed Workshop. University of Wisconsin–Extension, Madison, WIGoogle Scholar
  6. Braun D, Guston DH (2003) Principal-agent theory and research policy: An introduction. Science and Public Policy 30:302–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brooks AC (2002) Can nonprofit management help answer public management’s “big questions”? Public Administration Review 62:259–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Caers R, Du Bois C, Jegers M, De Gieter S, Schepers C, Pepermans R (2006) Principal-agent relationships on the stewardship-agency axis. Nonprofit Management and Leadership 17:25–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cheng AS, Mattor KM (2006) Why won’t they come? Stakeholder perspectives on collaborative national forest planning by participation level. Environmental Management 38:545–561CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chess C, Hance BJ, Gibson G (2000) Adaptive participation in watershed management. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 55:248–252Google Scholar
  11. Chrislip DD, Larson CE (1994) Collaborative leadership: How citizens and civic leaders can make a difference. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CAGoogle Scholar
  12. Coleman JS (1990) Foundations of social theory. Belknap Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  13. Conley A, Moote MA (2003) Evaluating collaborative resource management. Society and Natural Resources 16:371–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cook BJ, Wood BD (1989) Principal-agent models of political control of bureaucracy. American Political Science Review 83:965–978CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dakins ME, Long JD, Hart M (2005) Collaborative environmental decision making in Oregon watershed groups: Perceptions of effectiveness. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 41:171–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Danter KJ, Griest DL, Mullins GW, Norland E (2000) Organizational change as a component of ecosystem management. Society and Natural Resources 13:537–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Floress K, Mangun JC, Davenport MA, Williard KWJ (2009) Constraints to watershed planning: Group structure and process. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 45:1352–1360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gray I, Williams R, Phillips E (2005) Rural community and leadership in the management of natural resources: Tensions between theory and policy. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 7:125–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Griffin CB (1999) Watershed councils: An emerging form of public participation. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 35:505–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grigg NS (1999) Integrated water resources management: Who should lead who should pay? Journal of the American Water Resources Association 35:527–534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hardy SD, Koontz TM (2008) Reducing nonpoint source pollution through collaboration: Policies and programs across the U.S. states. Environmental Management 41:301–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heifetz RA, Sinder RM (1988) Leadership without easy answers. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  23. Heifetz RA, Kania JV, Kramer MR (2004) Leading boldly: Foundations can move past traditional approaches to create social change through imaginative–and even controversial–leadership. Stanford Social Innovation Review Winter 2004. Stanford Graduate School of BusinessGoogle Scholar
  24. Huxham C, Vangen S (2000) Leadership in the shaping and implementation of collaboration agendas: How things happen in a (not quite) joined up world. The Academy of Management Journal 43:1159–1175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Inglis S, Alexander T, Weaver L (2003) Roles and responsibilities of community nonprofit boards. Nonprofit Management and Leadership 10:153–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Korfmacher KS (2000) What’s the point of partnering? American Behavioral Scientist 44:548–564CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Margerum RD (2008) A typology of collaboration efforts in environmental management. Environmental Management 41:487–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Miller GJ (2005) The political evolution of principal-agent models. Annual Review of Political Science 8:203–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Moe TM (1984) The new economics of organization. American Journal of Political Science 28:739–777CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moore EA, Koontz TM (2003) A typology of collaborative watershed groups: Citizen-based, agency-based, and mixed partnerships. Society and Natural Resources 16:451–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Prokopy LS (2008) Ethical concerns in researching collaborative natural resource management. Society and Natural Resources 21:258–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ringquist EJ (1995) Political control and policy impact in EPA’s Office of Water Quality. American Journal of Political Science 39:336–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ryan CM (2001) Leadership in collaborative policy-making: An analysis of agency roles in regulatory negotiations. Policy Sciences 34:221–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schuett M, Selin S (2002) Developing a profile of collaborative natural resource initiatives and partners. Northern Journal of Applied Forestry 19:1–6Google Scholar
  35. Schuett MA, Selin SW, Carr DS (2001) Making it work: Keys to successful collaboration in natural resource management. Environmental Management 27:587–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Selin SW, Schuett M, Carr D (2000) Modeling stakeholder perceptions of collaborative initiative effectiveness. Society and Natural Resources 13:735–745CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Strauss A, Corbin J (1998) Basics of qualitative research. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  38. Weingast BR, Moran MJ (1983) Bureaucratic discretion or congressional control? Regulatory policymaking by the Federal Trade Commission. Journal of Political Economy 91:765–800CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wondolleck JM, Ryan CM (1999) What hat do I wear now? An examination of agency roles in collaborative processes. Negotiation Journal April:117–133Google Scholar
  40. World Bank (online) Social capital assessment tool. Available at: http://www.go.worldbankorg/A77F30UIX0. Accessed: August 26, 2010
  41. Yin RK (2009) Case study research: Design and methods, 4th edn. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin Floress
    • 1
  • Linda Stalker Prokopy
    • 2
  • Janet Ayres
    • 3
  1. 1.College of Natural ResourcesUniversity of Wisconsin–Stevens PointStevens PointUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forestry and Natural ResourcesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.Department of Agricultural EconomicsPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations