Blog Contributor: Jillian Booth
The Brock-WWF Canada Partnership for Freshwater Resilience held a research participant webinar on Wednesday, April 7th, 2021 to present the results of the social network analysis performed on the flood planning network of the St. John River Basin.
The research lead, Dr. Julia Baird, introduced the members of the partnership and the work that has been done in the St. John River Basin thus far. The participants were informed that the results presented in this webinar build off the preliminary results previously presented by the partnership during the summit they held this past June 2020. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the webinar was held virtually through a live stream where participants remained anonymous to meet confidentiality requirements.
The Vice President of Resilient Habitats at WWF-Canada and the co-lead of the partnership, Simon Mitchell, explained the importance of the partnership’s work in building freshwater resilience and stewardship in New Brunswick and across Canada. This highlighted the importance of how knowledge mobilization can improve governance of a watershed and the surrounding community and environment. Social network analysis is useful as it can identify opportunities to collaborate and catalyze thinking into action and how to facilitate this moving forward.
The student research lead, Bridget McGlynn, presented the results of the study, explaining that social network analyses are used to study how people and organizations are connected and can identify the range and types of connection, in this case in communication, and collaboration. It was explained that understanding these structures can help add and transform decision-making systems to maximize the benefits received. Disclosing that the resulting network structures of the study do not capture the full picture as there were some non-respondents and discrepancies between respondents in terms of perspectives.
The results from the social network analysis found that there is communication throughout the entire basin, however, municipalities tend to communicate with other government agencies, and similarly, non-government organizations (NGOs) and watershed organizations tend to communicate more with each other than with others. In terms of collaboration throughout the basin, it is often happening within parts of the basin (upper, middle, or lower) with less collaboration between different parts of the basin. Organizations that work across multiple parts of the basin are thus important to whole-basin collaboration. The results from key informant interviews were used to identify key tasks to improve flood planning on a watershed scale. It was found that there is a lot of assessment work, knowledge sharing, and communication, and less application of these efforts through projects on the ground.
Moving forward, the connection between task engagement and effectiveness will be further analyzed due to the high interest expressed by participants during the webinar. Efforts to improve collaboration in flood planning in the St. John River Basin should focus on sharing the lessons learned between key actors to ensure long-term success. This includes addressing the current disconnects between upper, middle, and lower basin organizations that are further compounded by political boundaries especially between Maine, Quebec, and News Brunswick. Also, collaboration between upriver and down river organizations is needed, considering a good chunk of flooding comes from upriver. In addition, more support is needed for organizations to make stronger connections to the surrounding community through webinars and workshops. The findings from this study can be applied to build resilience across Canada against other climate change impacts, such as the increase in droughts.