Defense Date

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

William Jr Bosher

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the definitions, benefits, challenges, methods and perceived levels of current collaboration of Virginia’s 47 Soil and Water Conservation Districts, each a political subdivision of state government. The study was guided by the following questions (1) What is collaboration and how is it used by political subdivisions of state government? (2) What collaborative strategies are used specifically by soil and water conservation districts? (3) At what level are districts currently collaborating? (4) At what level do districts prefer to collaborate? A mixed methods research survey was used. The quantitative section measured current perceptions of collaboration based on six indicators of successful collaborations as determined and tested by the Amherst Wilder Foundation—environment, membership, process and structure, communication, purpose, and resources—through use of its Collaborative Factors Inventory. The qualitative portion allowed further exploration into how districts are utilizing collaboration at a grassroots level. Desired levels of collaboration were also captured. The entire district population—district directors, associate directors, and staff—was surveyed and responses analyzed to better understand collaborative efforts. The results indicate that collaborations occur because of both the resource benefits received and the support of a greater cause—or a mix of relational exchange and resource dependency theories. Of the six collaborative indicators, resources proved the greatest area of concern. The process and structure variable was found to be a second needed area of growth. Trust issues with key partners, a component of the membership variable, were also identified as hindering collaboration. Overall, current perceived levels of collaboration occur between coordination and coalition, or a three to four on a five point scale. However, districts identified a desire to operate more often at the coalition level. By focusing on improvement to process and structure needs as well as resource issues, trust will improve and desired levels of collaboration can be reached. This study will enrich the existing literature by expanding on the use of collaboration as it relates to political subdivisions. Findings will be of value to all conservation districts, with greatest value to Virginia. Partner agencies, policymakers, and public administrators will further benefit by gaining insights into the collaborative process.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

April 2014

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