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Burning through organizational boundaries? Examining inter-organizational communication networks in policy-mandated collaborative bushfire planning groups

Brummel, Rachel F., Nelson, Kristen C., Jakes, Pamela J.
Global environmental change 2012 v.22 no.2 pp. 516-528
burning, government agencies, group size, interviews, planning, New South Wales
Collaboration can enhance cooperation across geographic and organizational scales, effectively “burning through” those boundaries. Using structured social network analysis (SNA) and qualitative in-depth interviews, this study examined three collaborative bushfire planning groups in New South Wales, Australia and asked: How does participation in policy-mandated collaboration affect bushfire communication networks amongst organizational representatives? Inter-organizational communication networks became more active, less centralized, and more closely connected during planning than they had been prior. However, efforts to institutionalize collaboration were intrinsically biased towards placing administrative power and influence in public agencies. Further, collaborative planning groups did not maintain “during planning” levels of network activity and structure after planning was completed. In one case, the mandated planning process had a negative impact on inter-agency communication networks. Contextual aspects such as group size, history of inter-organizational conflict and fire occurrence, and process management were important in the development of inter-organizational networks. Though communication diminished after planning was completed, participation in the collaborative planning effort may serve as an important basis for the continuation of inter-organizational relationships beyond the scope of the planning process.