Date of this Version
Water 2018, 10, 346
The growing complexity and interdependence of water management processes requires the involvement of multiple stakeholders in water governance. Multi-party collaboration is increasingly vital at both the strategy development and implementation levels. Multi-party collaboration involves a process of joint decision-making among key stakeholders in a problem domain directed towards the future of that domain. However, the common goal is not present from the beginning; rather, the common goal emerges during the process of collaboration. Unfortunately, when the conflicting interests of different actors are at stake, the large majority of environmental multi-party efforts often do not reliably deliver sustainable improvements to policy and/or practice. One of the reasons for this, which has been long established by many case studies, is that social learning with a focus on relational practices is missing. The purpose of this paper is to present the design and initial results of a pilot study that utilized a game-based approach to explore the effects of relational practices on the effectiveness of water governance. This paper verifies the methods used by addressing the following question: are game mechanisms, protocols for facilitation and observation, the recording of decisions and results, and participant surveys adequate to reliably test hypotheses about behavioral decisions related to water governance? We used the “Lords of the Valley” (LOV) game, which focuses on the local-level management of a hypothetical river valley involving many stakeholders. We used an observation protocol to collect data on the quality of relational practices and compared this data with the quantitative outcomes achieved by participants in the game. In this pilot study, we ran the game three times with different groups of participants, and here we provide the outcomes within the context of verifying and improving the methods.