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The Network Governance of Urban River Corridors

Alison R Holt, University of Sheffield
Peter Moug, University of Sheffield
David N Lerner, University of Sheffield


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Urban centers can provide important ecosystem services to society both through green spaces and river corridors. However, urbanization has impacted rivers, and as a consequence, there is increasing support for their sustainable management. The governance of urban river corridors reflects a trend toward stakeholder participation and partnership working in urban regeneration. The integration of ecological, social, and economic knowledge required for their sustainable management is achieved through networks of people and organizations that cross multiple sectors. However, little is known about the structure and function of such governance networks. We address this through a case study that explores the network structure of a multi-stakeholder collaboration tasked with developing a city-wide strategy for the sustainable management of urban river corridors in Sheffield, UK. We combine interpretive policy analysis and social network analysis to reveal the network structure and leadership characteristics of the group. We aim to explain why the group are having difficulty reaching a shared strategic vision for the river corridors and why they feel the group lacks representativeness. Our findings show that the network needs to become better connected to support an ongoing process of deliberation and negotiation for a shared vision. In addition, there is a limited diversity of stakeholders that will affect the legitimacy of the group and their ability to manage for a range of ecosystem services of benefit across society. We conclude that governance processes need to account for a diversity of actors that may change through time, and link regional and city networks to local interests.

Key words

ecosystem services; interpretive policy analysis; leadership; legitimacy; network governance; social network analysis; urban river corridors
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087