Environmental Management

, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 16–31 | Cite as

Emergence of Collaborative Environmental Governance: What are the Causal Mechanisms?

  • Julia BairdEmail author
  • Lisen Schultz
  • Ryan Plummer
  • Derek Armitage
  • Örjan Bodin


Conflict in environmental governance is common, and bringing together stakeholders with diverse perspectives in situations of conflict is extremely difficult. However, case studies of how diverse stakeholders form self-organized coalitions under these circumstances exist and provide invaluable opportunities to understand the causal mechanisms that operate in the process. We focus on the case of the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve nomination process, which unfolded over several years and moved the region from a series of serious conflicts to one where stakeholders came together to support a Biosphere Reserve nomination. Causal mechanisms identified from the literature and considered most relevant to the case were confirmed in it, using an 'explaining outcomes' process tracing methodology. Perceived severity of the problem, institutional emulation, and institutional entrepreneurship all played an important role in the coalition-building process. The fear of marginalization was identified as a potential causal mechanism that requires further study. The findings here contribute to filling an important gap in the literature related to causal mechanisms for self-organized coalition-building under conflict, and contribute to practice with important considerations when building a coalition for natural resource management and governance.


Environmental governance Causal mechanism Collaboration 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All data collection procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Sustainability Research CentreBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Tourism StudiesBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada
  3. 3.Stockholm Resilience CentreStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  4. 4.School of Environment, Resources and SustainabilityUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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