Can agencies of different feathers click together? Collaborating for NRM research in North East Victoria

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Abstract

Collaboration is vital in the NRM space as no one person or organisation can successfully address the complex and challenging socio-ecological issues facing Australia. Research institutes and on-ground organisations such as CMAs can each bring complementary expertise, experience and resources to develop solutions for these issues. They do so, however, in a social, institutional and external context that can compound and impede collaboration at the personal and organisational levels within and between these institutions.
While there has been longstanding interaction between NRM research institutions and regional implementation bodies, there is a dearth of successful instances of long-term collaboration between research and implementing NRM organisations in Australia, and even fewer peer-reviewed studies documenting these interactions or investigating barriers to the relationships and communication on which these collaborations are based.
This study investigated the perceived barriers for establishing and maintaining such collaborations, using a qualitative analysis of transcripts of interviews with 11 researchers from Charles Sturt University’s Institute for Land, Water and Society, and 12 managers and project officers from the North East CMA in Victoria. The barriers identified in the analysis are presented using a modified Unified Negotiation Framework that highlights the conflicts and barriers within collaborative NRM projects.
Analysis highlights the vital roles of face-to-face communication and relationship building in establishing and building trust and respect between individuals and the organisations as a necessary basis for collaboration. Interviewees highlighted the need for better prior understanding of the working environment for the other party regarding funding, timelines, available resources and staff availability, in particular the need to establish shared goals as the basis for future collaborations. Over time, this can provide a platform for improved communication and relationships between the organisations, and encourage more collaborative funding bids and projects to emerge from these strengthened relationships. It was recognised, however, that such enabling conditions such as leadership, positive personal attributes and a collaborative organisational culture were required, as well as appropriate levels of resourcing, funding and staff time. External drivers and influences such as political pressure, changes in policy, the centralisation of NRM priority setting, increased competition for diminishing government funding, and time limitations for project implementation were all seen to play a role in impeding communication and good relations in existing, and in developing new, collaborations between ILWS and NECMA. These pressures were seen to adversely influence organisational cultures, lead to increased staff turnover and diminish the value of past experiences, which further impeded communication and relationships at the individual and organisational level. To address these issues, the report suggests some initial joint actions to address and mitigate these barriers so as to encourage successful future collaboration between NECMA and ILWS.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAlbury
PublisherInstitute for Land, Water and Society Charles Sturt University
Commissioning bodyInstitute for Land, Water and Society
Number of pages67
ISBN (Electronic)9781864673524
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

Publication series

NameILWS Report
PublisherILWS
No.125

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