Essays on Determinants and Outcomes of Collaborative Governance in the Field of Environmental Management

My dissertation studies collaboration as both dependent and independent variables from comparative perspectives. My dissertation has three objectives 1) extending network theories to the level of individual officials and comparing the effects of these theories on motivating policy makers’ collaborative decisions; 2) evaluating the collaborative performance of top-down mandated networks in China; 3) exploring the collaborative performance of bottom-up voluntary coproduction networks in the United States. I designed and conducted a series of studies in these topics with both experimental and panel data methods in both river and energy policy areas.

Chapter 1: Micro Foundations of Network Formation: Experimental Evidence from American Municipal Governments
The first essay studies the determinants of intergovernmental network formation, which is a direct response to early calls for scholarly attention to causal mechanisms of network theories. When studying collaboration as a dependent variable, we often focus on network ties between organizations and collect data after the networks have formed. This approach is either “too late” or “too aggregate” to explain organizational leaders’ individual motivations for network formation. And we lack analytical tools to distinguish and compare the causal mechanisms from overlapping network theories. Therefore, I apply a nationwide conjoint survey experiment of American municipal policy makers to test and compare three fundamental network theories: rational choice, ideological homophily, and social capital. My results indicate that municipal officials’ collaboration decisions are jointly driven by all three theories, but ideological homophily contributes a relatively smaller explanatory power than do the other two theories. This experimental approach of network analysis advances network theories and provides new opportunities to study collaborative governance.

Chapter 2: The Effectiveness of Network Administrative Organizations in Governing Inter-jurisdictional Natural Resources
My second essay is an interdisciplinary project, in which I collaborate with hydrologists from the Guangdong Research Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower (GRIWRH) to evaluate the outcomes of a top-down mandate network approach using network administration organizations (NAOs) in river governance. In the existing literature, collaborative outcomes are often measured at either the organization (network node) or the entire network level. However, we lack “edge level” outcomes to evaluate structured interactions among network actors, especially for natural resources across political jurisdictional boundaries. Therefore, I evaluate collaborative outcomes of an inter-jurisdictional river, which reflects collaborative efforts between two neighboring municipal governments. At the beginning of 2018, Guangdong Province in China enacted a NAO reform to coordinate inter-city rivers’ management. Using the synthetic control method, I find that the reform effectively reduced the inter-jurisdictional river site’s pollution level, which suggests that the NAO model outplays the jurisdictional fragmentation in China’s river governance.

Chapter 3: Bottom-up Approach to Flight Climate Change: An Empirical Assessment of the Community Choice Aggregation Programs (Research Proposal)
Other than the mandated networks, my third essay further explores how the bottom-up voluntary coproduction networks fight climate change in the context of the United States. Compared to the traditional federal led environmental policy solutions, local organizations may have better capacity to promote environmental consensus with residents and interest groups. However, how large an impact the bottom-up collaborative efforts can achieve is still a missing puzzle. To answer this research question, I am conducting a state level policy analysis on the Community Choice Aggregation Programs (CCAs), which allow citizens, governments and utility industries to collectively promote affordable renewable energy. I use the difference-in-differences design and the generalized synthetic control method to identify the CCAs’ treatment effects on state energy consumption and air quality.