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Brokers of relevance in National Park Service urban collaborative networks

Elizabeth E. Perry, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, Clemson University
Daniel H. Krymkowski, Department of Sociology, University of Vermont
Robert E. Manning, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont


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Conservation agencies are increasingly tasked with furthering their relevance with the public, in addition to protecting the natural and cultural resources in their care. Relevance is imperative to sustaining and diversifying invested stewards of these resources and support for their continued protection. Collaborative networks among organizations sharing similar goals and diverse audiences can facilitate relevance by connecting conservation agencies to new partners, ideas, and audiences. In particular, brokers, or organizations connecting other organizations in these networks, may be well positioned to enhance relevance. Brokers’ diverse network connections may give them a unique function with regard to relevance. Their different roles connecting within, between, or among groups may also illuminate where relevance connections exist and can be forged. In this investigation, we examined different brokerage roles in U.S. National Park Service (NPS) collaborative networks and their potential implications for enhancing NPS relevance. The NPS’ mission is centered on the dual goals of relevance and resource conservation. Recognizing the need for enhanced relevance and related supportive collaborative networks, the NPS recently established its Urban Agenda, specifically aimed toward building “relevancy for all Americans” and a “culture of collaboration.” We conducted a quantitative network analysis in three sites with NPS Urban Agenda investment: Detroit, Tucson, and Boston. We compared the sites’ current to desired networks, i.e., present to potential networks, to determine which brokerage roles have more or less opportunity for growth and what broker-specific measures and broader network attributes may mean for collaboratively striving toward greater NPS relevance. Our findings suggest that specific organizational categories may be current brokers of relevance as well as potential leverage points for further diversification of partners, ideas, and audiences. In examining these organizational categories and brokerage roles, the NPS and other conservation agencies can strategically, and with foresight, emphasize certain areas for relevance-related networking development.

Key words

Boston; brokerage; density; Detroit; G&F brokerage; Gould and Fernandez brokerage; National Park Service; relevance; social network analysis; Tucson; urban

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087