Knowledge Production and Use in Collaborative Environmental Governance: a Case Study of Water Allocation Planning in South Australia

Taylor, Brent
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University of Guelph

By permitting the integration of multiple forms of knowledge through joint fact-finding, it is suggested that collaborative governance approaches can produce more holistic and place-based understandings of environmental problems and help to alleviate conflict among stakeholders over the knowledge that is used to make decisions. Despite the central role of knowledge in collaborative processes, research in the collaborative environmental governance field to-date has provided limited practical insight into what they can and cannot achieve or how processes should be structured and run to produce successful outcomes related to knowledge production and use. This study seeks to address this gap in the literature through three specific research objectives: (1) to develop a theoretical framework for analyzing knowledge production and use in collaborative environmental governance; (2) to use the framework to analyze knowledge production and use in a real-world collaborative environmental governance process; and (3) to offer recommendations for designing or adapting collaborative environmental governance processes to better achieve the goals of collaboration related to knowledge production and use. A multiple case study approach was used to analyze knowledge production and use in a collaborative water allocation planning process in South Australia. The findings affirm that a number of theorized process and outcome criteria associated with successful knowledge production and use are achievable in practice. Despite limited evidence that local actors were involved directly in producing knowledge within the processes that were examined, the findings showed that participants in at least one of the cases were able to achieve a high level of understanding and acceptance of the knowledge used to base policy decisions, as well as to build social capital among scientists and local participants. This paradox draws attention to limits of current theories in the collaborative environmental governance literature for designing and implementing successful collaboration and offers important insights for evaluating collaborative processes. The study also provides a preliminary set of recommendations for structuring and executing collaborative processes to achieve successful outcomes related to knowledge production and use. While the findings of this study relate most directly to the water allocation planning system in South Australia, they are also transferable to other collaborative institutions, particularly those that are nested within a more traditional top-down system of governance.

environmental governance, knowledge production, collaboration, local knowledge, South Australia, case study