Investigating Consensus-Seeking Partnerships in Water Governance: A Case Study of Southern Alberta
Saunders, Katherine Margaret Cosgrove
MetadataShow full item record
Growing demand for public involvement in environmental governance combined with recognition that top-down approaches often are not well suited to dealing with local concerns has led to increased use of collaborative approaches. The consensus-seeking partnership is becoming a common tool in the landscape of collaborative water governance. These arrangements typically are used to provide advice on water management to policy makers. Partnership models based on consensus are grounded in a number of assumptions, including cooperation amongst multi-stakeholder participants, fair and high quality decision outcomes, and commitment to implement the results produced during the consensus seeking process. Conflicting research on the consensus model and its use as a collaborative decision-making tool indicates that these assumptions are difficult to achieve. This thesis investigates these assumptions through a study of the outcomes of consensus in collaborative advisory partnerships and the procedures necessary for ensuring success with the consensus partnership model. Data were derived from analysis of documents and interviews with study participants involved in water partnerships in Southern Alberta. The research revealed that a number of conditions are needed in consensus-based approaches to avoid negative outcomes such as lowest common denominator decisions. While the analysis focuses on experiences in Alberta, the lessons learned are broadly transferable and provide practitioners in water management a more accurate representation of the use of consensus in collaborative water partnerships.