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Brokering Water Quality Narratives: The Role of Boundary Organizations in a Collaborative Governance Approach to Agricultural Nonpoint Source Pollution

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Rudnick, Jessica
Conference: In Defense of the Commons: Challenges, Innovation and Action, the Seventeenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Lima, Peru
Conf. Date: July 1-5
Date: 2019
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/10602
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: North America
Subject(s):
Abstract: "In complex social-ecological systems, collaborative governance approaches reliant on boundary organizations are theorized to facilitate cooperation between actors in conflict and build the trust necessary to achieve desired policy outcomes. These boundary organizations or “policy brokers” can serve as leaders to empower stakeholders to participate in governance and decision-making processes and mediate challenging discussions to resolve points of conflict. In addition to brokering policy options, boundary organizations also play a role in brokering policy narratives, thus shaping different actors’ perceptions of the policy process, willingness to participate, and policy preferences. This paper integrates policy process theories, and specifically the Narrative Policy Framework, with literatures from science communication, translational ecology and organizational management on boundary organizations in a novel way to explore the use of narratives by boundary organizations. To concretize this theoretical integration, I present an empirical case study of boundary organizations serving to implement a nonpoint source water pollution regulatory program in California. As the first regulatory nonpoint source program in the United States, California’s Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program takes a decentralized, collaborative governance approach, in which local water quality coalitions operating as boundary organizations build cooperation among stakeholders and implement regulations to reduce nonpoint source pollution from agriculture. Using a mixed methods approach to integrate interview, survey and participant observation data, I evaluate when and how the coalitions use policy narratives, what narrative strategies they employ, and the efficacy of those narratives in establishing themselves as effective boundary spanners and reaching collaborative governance goals."

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