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Title: Empowering conservation partnerships : understanding the human-related dimensions of collaboration in conservation, using threatened felids as a model
Author: Napleton-King, Rosalind A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7427 8734
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2018
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This body of work offers an illustration of optimism and empowered hope in action: Via social science, it seeks to understand certain remarkable conservation efforts of human beings - to aid threatened wildlife species facing increasingly complex, urgent survival challenges from an ever-present, arresting backdrop of threats. This research considers and learns from the extraordinary, wide-ranging, multifaceted, impactful conservation efforts that occur for threatened wildlife - when multiple parties unite for their cause. Against many and fierce odds, conservation partnerships can form across boundaries of all types - national, cultural and sectoral. This study seeks to understand what could be incentivising and fuelling the array of macro-scale conservation efforts, seemingly boundless within and across nations, where regardless of mankind's differences - cultural, religious, professional, societal or otherwise - neither physical nor non-physical boundaries, nor the backdrop of threats to wildlife, appear to impede. This knowledge is crucially-needed to aid conservation outcomes: For many threatened species, cohesive effort is lacking - groups and organisations, between and within sectors, often act in fragmented manner. The upshot of these frequent situations of disparate working is that, despite common goals, bodies follow parallel but discrete tracks, seldom collaborating to maximise the potential of conservation outcomes and impact for their focal species. Conservation does not occur in a vacuum: It is increasingly acknowledged that the precarious state of the world's wildlife is fuelled by anthropogenic drivers. The array of threats to wildlife survival is intrinsically and intricately linked to multiple, complex, multi-layered social, political and economic human factors; in short, biodiversity conservation is beset with 'wicked' problems - issues so intricate and complex that they are extremely difficult to solve. In a once-biologically-rooted discipline, scholarly understanding of the multiple human dimensions of conservation is increasingly recognised as key to effective, impactful outcomes for threatened species. This research makes its contribution by exploring the human dimensions of conservation collaborative endeavours - a much-understudied field. To better integrate conservation for threatened species, there is urgent need for analysis of the human processes involved in conservation collaborative action. Examination of processes relating to connections within and between groups - and how consequent social networks are leveraged - relates pathways for understanding how partnerships and elaborate networks emerge to carry out collaborative endeavours. This research deeply considers micro level conservation interactions - and then relates them to the macro perspective of collaborative conservation action, considering how social capital between individuals influences the wider threatened species conservation movement. By using two multi-site case studies, to give depth of insight to this novel topic, I aim to understand the complexities of the human dimensions of conservation collaboration. Specifically, my objectives are to 1) develop an understanding of the overall array of actors and heterogeneity of effort contributed to the threatened species conservation movement, 2) examine human-related drivers to determine how social capital can influence the building of cross-sector, multi-background, multi-party conservation partnerships and their aggregates, and 3) examine human-related drivers to determine the operation and influence of social capital pertaining to collective action in cross-sector, multi-background, multi-party conservation partnerships and their aggregates. To answer objective 1, with a focus on 36 threatened wild cat species/subspecies, I take a novel approach to explore the array of actors and effort contributing to threatened species conservation. I undertake extensive content analysis of internet sources, examining the conservation actors and their exchanges that constitute the threatened species conservation movement. Once the preserve of biologists, I find the extant threatened species conservation movement has diversified to embrace an eclectic array of actors and effort, including novel actors and innovative contributions from backgrounds not previously associated with threatened species conservation - and, from actors commonly-recognised within conservation, diversification to offer innovative contributions. The results can be used by conservation actors from all backgrounds and sectors to pursue pathways highlighted, widening the aggregates of those working to conservation goals to benefit conservation outcomes and impact. This study also illustrates a novel method by which an overarching purposeful assemblage of aggregated actors, such as a movement, may be studied. To answer objectives 2 and 3, I conduct a case study, employing a social capital framework, based on conservation actors and their extraordinary, diverse, transboundary partnerships working to conserve the snow leopard Panthera uncia. I undertake documentary analysis, carry out extensive interviews - and narrative and social network analysis. To answer objective 2, I explore the human-related mechanisms by which eclectic, successful, visionary conservation partnerships are established. Following on from this, I answer objective 3 by exploring the complexities of inter-party relationships in operation during conservation collaborative action. I identify human-related mechanisms by which eclectic, successful, visionary conservation partnerships build and operate social capital to collaboratively aid a threatened species. By concomitant consideration of other factors considered important to partnership-building and collective action, I also identify overarching themes and every-day scenarios that empower the building of conservation partnerships and fuel their subsequent collaborative endeavours. This study provides a unique perspective of the influence of human-related drivers on the building of cross-sector, multi-background, multi-party collaborative partnerships in biodiversity conservation. It is the first study, to my knowledge, to identify mechanisms by which social capital is created and harnessed in conservation partnerships. The study places individual actors' interactions within the larger ecological and socio-political context in which the threatened species conservation movement operates and makes a novel contribution to social capital knowledge. The optimism embedded in this thesis is not fuelled by blind, uninformed hope, but empowered by research that is informed by real conservation issues and delivers practical, positive solutions as well as theoretical knowledge - in an accessible user-friendly manner. The findings of this thesis attest to the multi-faceted - and positive - nature of the human dimensions of collaborative conservation effort. Building social capital and harnessing it leads to a tipping point that moves conservation endeavour along a positive path - pivotal knowledge that can aid the many species currently passing 'under the radar' with respect to collaborative conservation effort. This study not only provides framework for practitioners of all sorts in conservation, but also transferable knowledge to aid partnership-building and globalised collective action embracing multiple backgrounds, cultures, sectors in many disciplines and theatres. In conclusion, the findings of this thesis advocate that the threatened species conservation movement would benefit from nurturing efforts to more diligently help human interactions - supporting and empowering people to build good relationships - so that we can holistically empower outcomes for wildlife and achieve our biological goals.
Supervisor: Fischer, Michael Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral