Guest post: Networks for Mangrove Protection in Costa Rica

(by Barbara Schroeter)

mangroves

Costa Rica is one of the world´s biodiversity hotspots. In the southern Pacific Cost of the country, the Golfo Dulce region contributes to a rich biodiversity thanks to mangrove and other wetland ecosystems. Mangroves are important for carbon storage, as they store up to five times more carbon than tropical forests which makes them important for combatting climate change. But mangroves also prevent soil erosion, protect the shorelines against storms, offer habitat for birds, mammals and sea animals and can be used by humans for recreation. In Costa Rica, mangroves are public property, but without clear guidelines how to be preserved and far from being valued as important by everyone.

To engage in mangrove conservation the Civil-Society Organisation (CSO) Fundación Neotrópica set up a Community Blue Carbon Project. Together with the local communities, mainly the fishermen, they promote conservation activities in wetlands. They recollect mangrove seeds and create nurseries, reforest the mangroves, monitor the survival rate and teach environmental education at schools and try to rise awareness in the communities to sensitize to the importance of mangroves and wetlands in general. This project is financed by national donor companies which stimulate voluntary compensations for carbon production of their respective clients.

We used Net-Map to investigate the network of this project. Particularly, we wanted to find out about the role of the CSO in the whole network. The results revealed about the CSO´s position and function that it is a multi-level boundary spanner, bringing together actors from the local, regional, national and international level to make the project work. The CSO is also a guarantor of power balance between the national and the local level supporting negotiations, communication and knowledge exchange between them. Finally, the CSO is a permanently engaged intermediary, as it is interested in a long term development and empowerment of the local people.

These findings may help similar CSOs to reflect their organization structure and activities. If you want to find out more, check here:

Publication:

Schröter, B., et al. (2018): More than just linking the nodes: civil society actors as intermediaries in the design and implementation of payments for ecosystem services–the case of a blue carbon project in Costa Rica, Local Environment. https://doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2018.1460808

 

Foto: Mangrove nursery in Osa, Barbara Schroeter

 

Do your networks own you – or do you own them?

Image

Does the bear eat you or do you eat the bear (Polar Bear Family and Me by Gordan Buchanan)

Does the bear eat you or do you eat the bear?

Coming back from the largest meeting of social network analysts, the Sunbelt Conference of the International Network of Social Network Analysis (INSNA) I realize that my approach to this question might be different from the mainstream in the field. Most researchers who are interested in social networks will ask a variation of the following questions:

  • How does the network you are embedded in determine what you get (depending on research interest the “what” can be as diverse as “money”, “weight gain” and “HIV/AIDS”)? Or:
  • How is your network determined by who you are (looking at the network differences between men and women, rich and poor, sick and healthy, new and old staff etc.)

I guess, that’s what most researchers do, looking at how one thing is determined by something else. I am much more interested in the practical and proactive question:

  • Once you understand your network, what can you do about it?

Network researchers make a compelling case (backed up with a lot of evidence) that network structures do indeed influence what you can achieve or what risks will come your way. And it is obvious that different people have networks are structured differently. But wouldn’t it be great to get a better understanding of what individuals and groups can (and cannot) do to improve their network structure and content to be happier, achieve more of what they want, get out of painful, limiting and dysfunctional network relations?

Have you been able to change your networks? Why did you do it and how? What was difficult? What was easy? Did it change what you can give and get? I’d love to hear from you.

And if you want to find out what happens to the man in the glass box as he is visited by a hungry ice bear (picture above), you will find an amazing video here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/01/04/polar-bear-arctic-gordon-buchanan_n_2410791.html

Making invisible water governance networks visisble – the case of the Okanagan valley (by Nelson Jatel)

Okanagan valey (Kelowna, copyright by Destination Partners)

This is an interesting application of Net-Map in the water sector. You can read Nelson’s thesis here. This is the abstract:

“This is a study of water governance in the semi-arid Okanagan valley, British Columbia, Canada. The human dimension of water governance is often overlooked and in this study I use Social Network Analysis (SNA) to gain new insights into the characteristics of the Okanagan water governance network. I explore some of the perceptions held by British Columbia water professionals to pierce the ‘veil’ of opaque decision-making processes – formal and informal – that play a central role in Okanagan water governance. My thesis question for this study is: how does the relationship among actors influence water governance in the Okanagan basin, British Columbia Canada? This study is a descriptive analysis of the social and institutional characteristics of the Okanagan Basin water governance network as it relates to water scarcity policy and practice. I conducted in-depth interviews with British Columbia water experts involved in water scarcity in the Okanagan. Collected data was analyzed using text analysis and SNA. Prominent themes that emerged from the interviewees included: a need to improve the provincial government’s commitment to water governance, public apathy, a lack of succession planning of senior water professionals, a need to improve communications with First Nations, and the need to address tensions that detract from improving water governance in British Columbia. The influence of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, a unique regional local government body in British Columbia, is shown to exert a significant and positive influence on funding and communication relationships within the Okanagan watershed network. Network data is applied to create benchmark Okanagan water governance network diagrams and these diagrams are compared and contextualized using previously developed network archetypes. Social network diagrams are useful to develop a benchmark or snap shot in time of the water governance network and provide practical insights into how policy and communication strategies may be applied to improve communication and social learning among actors in the network.”