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Cross-level linkages in an ecology of climate change adaptation policy games

Matthew Hamilton, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan
Mark Lubell, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California at Davis
Emilinah Namaganda, Department of Geography, Geo-informatics & Climatic Sciences, Makerere University


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Social and ecological outcomes of environmental governance systems are shaped by interplay across the spatial levels at which policy actors and decision-making forums operate. We focus on the conditions under which actors participate in policy forums operating at higher or lower levels than the actors’ own level. We draw upon theories of network science and transaction costs to formulate and test predictions about the overall prevalence of such cross-level linkages as well as the conditions under which policy actors engage in these linkages. We estimate an exponential random graph model using data collected from a survey of climate change adaptation policy actors participating in decision-making forums operating at different spatial levels within the Lake Victoria region in East Africa. Within this governance system, efforts to improve adaptive capacity across national boundaries and diverse vulnerable populations hinge on how well policy forums operating at regional and higher levels attract the participation of actors with access to information about local conditions, the efficiency with which actors can disseminate funding and technical resources through more local policy forums, as well as other processes that occur via cross-level linkages. We find that actors are less likely to engage in cross-level linkages compared to within-level linkages. Conditioning on this general tendency, actors are even less likely to participate in forums operating at lower levels in which their collaborators also participate. By contrast, actors are more likely to participate in forums operating at lower levels when influential actors jointly participate. These findings, which highlight distinct roles of social and political capital in cross-level forum participation, have implications for efforts to improve climate change adaptation governance in the Lake Victoria region, as well as other multilevel governance systems.

Key words

climate change adaptation; cross-level linkages; East Africa; exponential random graph models (ERGM); policy networks

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087