I believe that a systemsview on environmental governance, one powered by network science, may offer important insights that are currently missed by popular methods of inquiry that either do not allow for an accounting of critical interdependencies or render context-specific findings that are difficult to generalize. Guided by systems thinking, my work examines (1) the development and diffusion of innovative solutions; (2) the efficacy of institutional designs in enabling stakeholder engagement; (3) leaders and change agents’ capacities to steer collective processes; and (4) how the interplay between environments and institutions encourages the emergence of different modes of networked governance. Much of the work described below is motivated by the recognition that cooperation itself can give rise to conflicts and vice-versa. These dynamics need to be understood and mediated to enable effective environmental governance. Network analysis allows us to unpack and tackle various types of cooperative and antagonistic dynamics.
Local governments: the new laboratories of democracy
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once referred to state governments as laboratories of democracy where new solutions to common problems are developed and experimented. Today, local governments across the globe continue to serve this critical policy making function. At the CEPB, I work with Gwen Arnold on a project which has three main foci. First, it explores how the structure of local government networks affects the efficacy of policy entrepreneurs in convincing local officials in California and New York to adopt fracking policies. Second, it evaluates how these social networks affect the innovativeness of local fracking policies. Finally, it analyzes the social mechanisms driving decision-makers’ participation in the diffusion of fracking policies. Our data on municipal policies and policy advocates comes from surveys, interviews, and the content analysis of public records.Theseresearch activities are financed through a 525,000 USD grant that we secured from the United States’ National Science Foundation (DRMS#565219).
Policy networks, translating learning into action?
My interest in cities as sites of transformation is not limited to their work on the ground, however. I am also interested in how their engagement in transnational networks determines their ability to improve their performance and exercise influence over others. The complex nature of today’s urban centers – their dense and diverse populations, the inequalities that define them, and their central role in regional economic and political interdependencies – adds to the complexity of governing what are already inherently complicated socio-environmental issues. In recognition of common challenges and policy goals, cities have taken on leadership roles, banding together in trans-municipal policy networks such as the C40 Cities and 100 Resilient Cities. Observing a growing tendency among cities to belong to more than one policy network with equivalent functions, Rachel Krause and I began to wonder if this redundancy is useful and if actor engagement should not be viewed on a network by network basis but instead across a patchwork of networks. We examine how a city’s position in overlapping networks impacts their ability to meet their sustainable development goals, reasoning that cities engage in more than one trans-municipal environmental policy network because they are able to reap benefits (in terms of resources, reputation/status, or influence) helpful for goal attainment, one of which is to become a recognized leader in these efforts.
Institutions in action: how institutions shape leadership, engagement, and collective action in collaborative networks
Recently, I launched a partnership with the Philippine Forest Foundation to understand what factors contribute to the (in)efficacy of Filipino community-based forestry. Today, the Philippines has an estimated 7 Mha of forest cover which is less than a third of the original 27 Mha. Since community-based forest management is the national strategy for forest governance (by Presidential decree in 1995), it is imperative that we learn more about this particular collaborative governance arrangement. My projectwill examine how the interplay between institutions and social structure shapes collective action; leadership; and stakeholder engagementin ways that influence forest governance outcomes. It begins by examining how IPs relate to nature, one another, and other actors in the socio-political ecosystem in the context of sustainable forest governance.It then goes one step further, engaging in an examination of how agency is affected by social roles, network position, and socio-spatial considerations. Finally, it will investigate how the institutional design of collaborative processes shapes coordination within the varied socio-ecological systems that are nested within wider socio-political eco-systems.
My most recent publications include:
"Policy expansion in local government environmental policymaking" in Public Administration Review, Early view: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/puar.12905/full
"Social Networks and Policy Entrepreneurship: How Relationships Shape Municipal Decision Making about High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing" in Policy Studies Journal, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/psj.12175/abstract
"Does Social Capital affect immigrant political participation? Lessons from a Small-N study of Migrant political participation in Rome" in Journal of International Migration and Integration http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12134-015-0434-0
"Institutions, information exchange, and migrant social networks in Rome" in Journal of Ethnic and Racial Studies, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2015.1077985