Columbia River Calling

An Introduction To My Dissertation Research

I’ve blogged about the Columbia River Treaty and the reviews by Canada for over two months.  So today, I thought I’d briefly share a little about my dissertation research.  Simply stated, I am developing a framework for evaluating (and improving) how we make decisions in water governance and then applying the framework to the two reviews of the Columbia River Treaty.  If you would like to learn more about what I am doing and how I am doing it, keep reading.

My research consists of two components:

The development of a framework for the evaluation of water governance decision making processes (i.e., how we make decisions) and an investigation of what aspects of a process impact water governance outcomes.

Practitioners and academics agree that the process for making a decision impacts the outcome, both in terms of content and the degree the decision is accepted and viewed as legitimate.  However, it is difficult to document that link.  My research investigates which characteristics of water governance decision making processes contribute to good water governance outcomes.  I’ve developed a meta-or-synthesis framework based on existing frameworks that will allow me to evaluate decision making processes in water governance as well as the resulting decision and process byproducts (e.g., trust, new scientific information) and then explore which aspects of the process contributed to the decision and byproducts.  The framework can also be used by water managers with a practical tool for evaluating and improving water governance processes.

Two case study applications of the framework.

I will soon apply the framework I developed to the recent reviews of the Columbia River Treaty in Canada and the United States. These two case studies are compelling applications of the framework for a number of reasons. First, they demonstrate two different water governance processes striving to make the same decision in the same basin (i.e., recommend continuing with the Treaty as is, terminating the Treaty, or pursuing modifications to the Treaty) allowing for comparison. At the same time, the unique contexts for the US and Canadian reviews will aid in identifying potential barriers or building blocks to good water governance decision making processes in the Columbia River Basin. Finally, completed recently (December 2013 and March 2014), these processes are fresh the minds of those involved and therefore evaluation is timely. I also hope that the lessons learned that I identify in my case studies will be used for future decision making processes within the basin.

How am I doing this work?

The framework is based on a review of the literature, including peer-reviewed sources and government grey literature.  I identified 23 frameworks which can be used to evaluate water governance decision making processes–some are very broad and others are very detailed.  From those frameworks, I developed a synthesis or meta-framework to evaluate a decision making process and the decision made by the process.  I also identified process byproducts (or outcomes outside of the official decision) from the literature.  Data for the case studies will be collected using a mixed methods approach. I will incorporate semi-structured interviews and focus groups to talk with federal agencies, First Nations/Tribes, state/provincial governments, local governments, stakeholder groups, and the public from the two reviews. Participants will also be given a survey to assist with the evaluation of the reviews and ensure that all participants answer a baseline set of questions. Participants will share their experiences with either review, including providing feedback on the Treaty review process as well as discussing what aspects of the process contributed to the Treaty review recommendations and other outcomes of the reviews.

I’m looking forward to getting out into the field for data collection soon.

Blogger Kim Ogren by the Columbia River below Grand Coulee Dam - March 2013

Blogger, Kim Ogren, by the Columbia River below Grand Coulee Dam – March 2013

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *