This week, the Ecological Society of America released a special issue of its Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment journal exploring network governance and large landscape conversation. The issue includes two open access articles from Erik Johnston, Network member and director of Arizona State University’s Center for Policy Informatics.
The first article, written by Johnston, Mart T. Imperial, Sonia Ospina, Rosemary O’Leary, Jennifer Thomsen, Peter Williams and Shawn Johnson, is titled “ Understanding leadership in a world of shared problems: advancing network governance in large landscape conversation.”
Abstract: Conservation of large landscapes requires three interconnected types of leadership: collaborative leadership, in which network members share leadership functions at different points in time; distributive leadership, in which network processes provide local opportunities for members to act proactively for the benefit of the network; and architectural leadership, in which the structure of the network is intentionally designed to allow network processes to occur. In network governance, each leadership approach is necessary to achieve sustained, successful outcomes. We discuss each of these approaches to leadership and offer specific practices for leaders of networks, including: shaping the network’s identity and vision, attracting members, instilling leadership skills in members, and advancing common interests. These practices are then illustrated in case studies.
The second article – “ Sustaining the useful life of network governance: life cycles and developmental challenges” – was written by Johnston, Imperial, Thomsen, Melinda Pruett-Jones and Kirsten Leong.
Abstract: Governance networks in large-scale landscape conservation are constantly changing as their constituent programs are created, are reconfigured, or cease to exist. Here, a four-stage life-cycle model is used to outline the challenges that network members face in designing healthy and useful governance processes, and a short description of the evolution of the Chicago Wilderness alliance helps to illustrate the dynamic nature of network governance. We deliberately use the concept of a “healthy and useful life” in place of more traditional measures of success because it highlights the constant nurturing that network processes require. The concept also draws attention to the fact that governance networks are a functional enterprise – even though they eventually come to the end of a life cycle, they most likely served useful functions while in operation.