.|  Baltimore Ecosystem Study
Governance and Social Networks: Comparative and Longitudinal Analyses of Urban Stewardship Networks
  • Michele Romolini, Center for Urban Resilience, Loyola Marymount University, michele.romolini@lmu.edu
  • Shawn E. Dalton, Thrive Consulting, Canada, shawn@shawndalton.com
  • J. Morgan Grove, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, jmgrove@gmail.com

We seek to characterize the natural resource governance systems of the Sustainable City, and how they have changed during the transition from "Sanitary to Sustainable." We are motivated by the recent rise of urban sustainability policies and programs. It has become widely proposed that the success of these sustainability initiatives will require a form of adaptive governance in which city agencies must partner with, and even cede authority to, organizations from other sectors and levels of government. Yet the resulting collaborative networks are often poorly understood. The study of networks has been a challenge for researchers, both at large scales and over time. This may be especially the case in urban environments, where many diverse actors work on a patchwork of varying projects covering multiple land uses and types. The need for comparative and longitudinal studies in this area is evident, as cities are looking to adaptive management strategies to respond to the needs of a rapidly changing population and landscape. Indeed, a heightened understanding of governance network structures, functions, locations, and outcomes could contribute to the likelihood of their success.
The intent of this study is to conduct such comparative and longitudinal research, through two research projects:
1. An Assessment and Comparison of Environmental Stewardship networks in Baltimore and Seattle
This research project examines the environmental governance structures of two urban areas, Baltimore and Seattle, by evaluating their environmental stewardship networks. This research combined qualitative and quantitative methods, and was organized into three overarching research questions to understand urban environmental stewardship networks on multiple levels.
  • First, we asked "what is environmental stewardship?" in an effort to develop a conceptual stewardship framework to provide a shared platform for emerging research across cities.
  • Second, we asked "what is the composition and network structure in each city, and how do these compare?" in an effort to characterize the networks and identify similarities and differences that may impact governance functions.
  • Third, we asked "what are the relationships among environmental conditions and environmental stewardship networks in Baltimore and Seattle, and how do these two cities compare?" in an effort to characterize the geographic distribution of stewardship organizations and networks and determine whether variations in network presence were related to variations in different types of land cover.
Some of the resulting data are summarized and illustrated below:
What is Environmental Stewardship?
Cognitive mapping was used to elicit interpretations of the term "environmental stewardship" from 23 long-term practitioners representing 17 organizations in Baltimore and Seattle. Despite differences in size, mission, scope of activities, and geographic location, practitioners across organizations and cities conceptualized environmental stewardship in similar ways. While acknowledging the ecological aspects of stewardship, participants emphasized the individual and organizational social dynamics of environmental stewardship purposes, motivations, processes, and outcomes. They described stewardship as a collective, circular process of learning and action over time. These results are summarized in a preliminary conceptual framework that can serve to support ongoing research and program collaborations within the study cities and across other metropolitan areas.


Figure 1: Conceptual Framework of Environmental Stewardship, Derived from Conceptual Cognitive Mapping Data from Seattle and Baltimore Practitioners.

What is the composition and network structure in each city, and how do these compare?
Through two citywide surveys in Baltimore and Seattle, data were collected on the attributes of environmental stewardship organizations and their network relationships. Social network and comparative analyses were conducted to examine a) the organizational composition of the network, and b) how information and knowledge are shared throughout the network. Similarities were found in the number of actors and their distribution across sectors, but considerable variation was found in the types and locations of environmental stewardship activities, and in the number and distribution of network ties in the networks of each city. Baltimore's stewardship information network was 30% more centralized than Seattle's (39.25% vs. 9.25%). In Baltimore, the ten most well-connected organizations (6% of the network) held 53% of the ties related to providing information about the local environment. Both cities had a substantial number of organizations that had no ties to any other in the information network. In Baltimore, 15% of the network (25 organizations) was disconnected. In Seattle, 13% of the network (19 organizations) was disconnected.

Figure 2: Network Diagrams of Baltimore and Seattle Environmental Stewardship Organizations Responding to the Question: "With Whom Do You Share Information About Environmental Stewardship?"

What are the relationships among environmental conditions and environmental stewardship networks in Baltimore and Seattle, and how do these two cities compare?
We collected data in each city about organizational relationships and locations of stewardship activities. Social network and spatial regression analyses were applied to these data to explore relationships among variations in neighborhood land cover and network measures. Both the number of organizations and the number of ties between them correlated significantly with the percentage of tree canopy in Baltimore neighborhoods. Seattle had similar trends, but the relationship appeared weaker (Romolini et al. 2013).


Figure 3: Neighborhood Distribution of Environmental Stewardship Organizations and Tree Canopy Cover in Seattle and Baltimore.

2. Study and Longitudinal Analysis of Natural Resource Management Networks in the Gwynns Falls Watershed in Baltimore City, 1996-2011
We examined long-term changes in the environmental stewardship network in Baltimore City's Gwynns Falls Watershed by comparing two in-depth case studies separated by 15 years. Social network data were collected from organizations conducting stewardship activities in the watershed in 1996 (Dalton, 2001) and 2011 (Romolini, 2013). During this period, the Baltimore Sustainability Plan was formulated and enacted. The evaluation of the network over time reveals substantial changes in organizational composition and network structure within this region, as shown below. The trends reported here support the theory of a shift in governance of the Sustainable City. The 1996 study demonstrated a more polycentric, multi-sectoral, interconnected management regime than would be expected from traditional government in the Sanitary City (Romolini, 2013). Twelve years later, in 2011, these shifts were even more evident, as the governance network was less centralized and distributed largely among local non-profits and city agencies. The majority presence of the non-profit sector supports governance theories that public agencies rely more heavily on non-profit actors for the service and delivery of public goods than in traditional government systems.
Table 2: Changes in the GFW Organizational Network from 1996 to 2011.
Measure1996 Results2011 ResultsChange
Population36 organizations59 organizations+ 23 organizations (+64%)
Non-profit22 (61%)40 (68%)+ 7%
Public14 (39%)19 (32%)- 7%
City agency5 (14%)11 (19%)+ 5%
State agency4 (11%)3 (5%)- 6%
Federal agency5 (14%)5 (8%)- 6%
Network Density12.0%8.5%- 3.5%
Network Centralization36.0%21.5%- 14.5%




Figure 4: Changes in Structure of the Gwynns Falls Watershed Organizational Network from 1996 to 2011.

http://www.stewmap.net/ is a multi-city research portal, which includes content from this research in Baltimore and Seattle.
http://water.bniajfi.org/map/ is an interactive map of Baltimore's community-managed open spaces, which includes some data from this research and will be a platform to display spatial data as they are digitized.
Romolini, M. (2013). Governance of 21st century sustainable cities: Examining stewardship networks in Baltimore & Seattle. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Vermont, Burlington, VT.
Dalton, S. E. (2001). The Gwynns Falls Watershed: A case study of public and non-profit sector behavior in natural resource management. (Doctoral dissertation). Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Romolini, M. & Wolf, K. (2013, submitted). Comparing Professional Perceptions of Environmental Stewardship in Baltimore and Seattle. Manuscript submitted, Urban Forestry and Urban Greening.
Romolini, M., Grove, J.M., & Locke, D. (2013). Assessing and Comparing Relationships Between Urban Environmental Stewardship Networks and Land Cover in Baltimore and Seattle. Landscape and Urban Planning 120: 190-207.
Wolf, K.L., Blahna, D., Brinkley, W. & Romolini, M. (2013). Environmental Stewardship Footprint Research: Linking Human Agency and Ecosystem Health in the Puget Sound Region. Urban Ecosystems 16: 13-32.
Romolini, M., Brinkley, W., & Wolf, K. (2012). What is Urban Environmental Stewardship? Constructing a Practitioner?Derived Framework. USDA Forest Service Research Note (PNW-RN-566).
Romolini, M. "Now We Know; Where Do We Go? From Data to Management of Baltimore's Stewardship Network." Presented at the Baltimore Urban Waters Federal Partnership Quarterly Meeting, Baltimore, MD, 3/2013.
Romolini, M. "Preliminary Results of the Baltimore City Stewardship Mapping & Assessment Project (Stew-MAP)." Invited speaker at the Parks & People Foundation Board Meeting, Baltimore, MD, 1/2013.
Romolini, M. Governance of 21st Century Cities: Examining Baltimore's Stewardship Network. Presented at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study LTER Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD. 10/2012.
Romolini, M. "Environmental Networks & Governance of the 21st Century Sustainable City." Invited lecture for Georgetown University's "On the Edge: Urban Sustainability" lecture series, Washington, DC. 3/2012.
Romolini, M. "An Evaluation of Environmental Stewardship Networks in Baltimore and Seattle." Presented as part of the paper session "Connections among Environmental Stewardship and Land Cover in Urban Ecosystems" at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, New York, NY. 2/2012.
Romolini, M. "Understanding Urban Environmental Stewardship: Introducing the Baltimore City Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project." Presented at the Third Maryland Streams Symposium and Mid-Atlantic Volunteer Monitoring Conference, Westminster, MD. 8/2011.
Romolini, M. "From Sanitary to Sustainable Cities: An emerging role and reevaluation of environmental governance and polycentric networks in cities." Presentation as part of a panel session, "An 'All Lands, All Owners' Approach: Urban Sustainability, Governance Theory, and Polycentric Networks" at the Resilience 2011 Conference, Tempe, AZ. 3/2011.
Romolini, M. "Urban systems and resilience to climate change: A comparison of environmental governance networks in Baltimore and Seattle." Invited speaker at the National Science Foundation's LTER Mini-Symposium, Washington, DC. 3/2011.
Romolini, M. "Polycentric networks and resilience in urban systems." Presented as part of the organized oral session "Mechanisms of resilience in ecological and socio-ecological systems" at the 95th Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA. 8/2010.
Romolini, M. "A Study and Comparison of Natural Resource Stewardship Networks in Baltimore and Seattle." Presented at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study LTER Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD. 10/2009.