Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Mark Burbach

Date of this Version



Delozier, J.L. (2018). Boundary spanners and trust development between stakeholders in integrated water resource management: A mixed methods study. Unpublished master's thesis, The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Mark E. Burbach. Lincoln, Nebraska : August, 2018.

Copyright (c) 2018 Jodi L. Delozier


Natural resource issues are inherently complex, even more so are those that involve the management of water. Because watersheds tend to cross multiple jurisdictional and geographical boundaries, a diverse set of stakeholders are needed to develop appropriate and sustainable management policy. This research sheds light on the importance of boundary spanners assisting in the development of trust between stakeholders in integrated water resource management (IWRM). Previous literature has explored the advantages to boundary spanning leadership in business practice, emergency management, university and community management as well as fish and wildlife management, but has failed to address the area of integrated water management. Boundary spanners are key to establishing stakeholder relationships, providing safe spaces for open and honest communication, and aiding in trust development.

Through a mixed-methods approach, we posed the following research questions: 1) Do boundary spanners cultivate trust between stakeholders within the IWRM process? 2) How do boundary spanners cultivate trust between stakeholders within the IWRM process? The quantitative phase surveyed individuals who had previous experience with IWRM in Nebraska. Demographic factors (age, education, and gender) and boundary spanning were used as predictors in a regression analysis of trust building between stakeholders. Power imbalance, scale of governance, conflict, and cooperation were used as moderators of the relationship between boundary spanning and trust building between stakeholders. Autonomy, authentic leadership, and trustworthiness were used as predictors of boundary spanning behavior. Boundary spanning predicted a large percentage of the variance in trust building between stakeholders. Power imbalance, scale of governance and cooperation did not moderate the relationship between boundary spanning and trust building; however, conflict was a weak, negative moderator.

In subsequent model testing using hierarchical regression, boundary spanning, cooperation, power imbalance, and scale of governance were found to be predictors of trust building with boundary spanning having the greatest influence on trust building between stakeholders. Authentic leadership, autonomy, trustworthiness, older participants, and females all positively influenced boundary spanners’ ability to influence trust building, with trustworthiness being the strongest predictor of boundary spanning. The qualitative phase involved interviewing 13 individuals who participated in the online survey and scored more than one standard deviation above the mean on boundary spanning behaviors. Seven themes emerged from the analysis of the interviews and increased our understanding of the role of boundary spanners in building trust between stakeholders. Boundary spanning behavior sets the stage for improved stakeholder relationships and enhances trust and the likelihood of a more successful IWRM outcome.

Adviser: Mark E. Burbach