Social Capital in Marine Management Collaborative Networks: Lessons learned in the Coral Triangle and the Philippines
Pietri, Diana Meredes
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There has been a recent proliferation of collaborative ecosystem management approaches that create interlinked individuals working together to address socio-ecological problems. In these collaborative networks, through cooperating toward shared goals, participants create and maintain relationships, build trust, and share knowledge – thus generating forms of social capital. Social capital, goodwill fostered among connected individuals, is a crucial component of network success and facilitates collective action and social learning, while also helping members address problems they could not realize on their own. Despite the shift toward larger-scale and more collaborative marine management approaches, thus far there has been limited empirical examination of the importance of social capital in influencing the effectiveness of these efforts. Therefore, in this dissertation I explore the role of social capital and the links between social capital and network effectiveness in three collaborative marine management networks operating at various geographic scales: the Regional Exchange (REX) network of Southeast Asia and Melanesia’s Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) and the Philippine’s Southeast Cebu Coastal Resource Management Council (SCCRMC) and Danajon Double Barrier Reef Management Council (DDBRMC). I explored participant perceptions of their experiences and observed the structure of relationships among network members. I used a mixture of qualitative interviews with participants in each network, social network analysis with members of CTI-CFF and the SCCRMC, and participant observation at network events. I found that in all three networks, new relationships were developed across socio-cultural boundaries among individuals who had not worked together previously, such as individuals in different Coral Triangle countries and from different municipalities active in the SCCRMC and DDBRMC. The networks nurtured the development of local leaders (e.g., national government representatives in the Coral Triangle, Philippine municipal managers), who served as key sources of information and new knowledge and linked network subgroups, thus helping generate social capital. The ability of the networks to achieve their goals, foster social capital, and sustain efforts was strongly influenced by the presence of governance mechanisms to streamline network activities. In the SSCRMC, for instance, strong governance mechanisms provided a platform for coordinating efforts and enabling members to work together efficiently toward goal achievement. Though social capital was created to varying degrees among network members, there was still a need in all three networks for diffusion of the knowledge and social capital gained through the networks to other relevant levels of management, like local communities. The new framework I applied to observe these networks linking key elements of social capital and components of collaborative effectiveness offers a novel analytic approach for examining collaborative network effectiveness and can be applied to other similar networks. My findings offer empirical evidence illustrating how social capital can help networks achieve goals that eventually may result in improved socio-ecological outcomes and are applicable to the design and implementation of other ecosystem management networks. The CTI-CFF REX network, SCCRMC, and DDBRMC demonstrate some of the tangible benefits of social capital and underscore the value of and need to invest in collaborative ecosystem management networks.
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