Too much of a good thing? Building social capital through knowledge transfer and collaborative networks in the southern Philippines
IWC Project Officer Declan Hearne has published a paper in the International Journal of Water Resources Development, co-authored by IWC Program Manager Bronwyn Powell, which explores how a local multi-stakeholder network has been able to influence decision making in a cluster of river basins in southern Philippines.
The paper highlights how better understanding of social capital is required if networks are to bridge different interest groups and create a more supportive environment for collective implementation of policy.
Declan has worked and lived in the Davao river basins in the Philippines, and this article, based on research conducted for his thesis, is the culmination of almost a decade of shared experiences and partnerships with local and international stakeholders.
Meaningful engagement of diverse stakeholders is essential for ensuring support for science-based responses to complex watershed challenges. The collaborative network in the Davao river basins provides evidence of an approach that enabled integration of science into local decision making and increased bonding social capital between shared-interest groups.
Insufficient attention towards bridging and linking social capital has allowed bottlenecks between policy and implementation to persist. This ‘dark side’ of social capital was evidenced by entrenched sector positions and lower levels of trust between different interest groups.
"The effectiveness of a network can rely on leaders who can bridge and link different interest groups," Mr Hearne said. "As one stakeholder put it: 'It is the ability of leaders within the network to transcend individual interest which is critical for getting different interest groups sitting at the same table and working out shared actions.' The challenge now is identifying systematic approaches that can guide networks in a process of building greater trust across different and often competing interest groups."
A social-learning approach is recommended to create new spaces for productive ‘bridging’ relationships.
Mr Hearne says, "It would be very interesting to follow up this single case study with a comparative study to see if similar challenges were experienced in other river basins. The Global Network of HELP (Hydrology Life Environment and Policy) River Basins or the Network of Asian River Basins (NARBO) would both make excellent case studies.
"In a separate study with local water utilities in Indonesia, we will be looking at the role of Social Contracts for building social capital among different stakeholders, and how increased trust can support better investments for improved service delivery to householders. This is a new project under the Australia-Indonesia Infrastructure Research Awards (AIIRA)."
*Declan Hearne & Bronwyn Powell (2014): Too much of a good thing? Building social capital through knowledge transfer and collaborative networks in the southern Philippines, International Journal of Water Resources Development, DOI: 10.1080/07900627.2014.898579