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Information Exchange in Governance Networks - Bridging Across Political Divides

Environmental Policy
Public Policy
Survey Research
Mario Angst
Universität Bern
Mario Angst
Universität Bern
Laurence Brandenberger
Universität Bern

Information exchange is the basis for learning and adaptive capactiy in natural resource governance. It has been shown to be more effective if information sources are diversified. This makes it imperative to understand the factors that might impede the flow of information within a governance system. We focus on a singularly important factor in this regard and study if differences in policy beliefs reduce the likelihood of sharing technical information between organizations.

Policy beliefs are general attitudes toward problems and the long-term goals that should be pursued in a specific field of policy. We start from the the normative premise that differences in policy beliefs should not influence the sharing of neutral information between actors, as actors lose access to valuable sources of knowledge if they only receive information from a subset of like-minded others.

We gathered data about technical information exchange among organizations involved in Swiss water governance, along with their policy beliefs, in a nation-wide online survey (n = 184). We then used the resulting dataset to build an exponential random graph model controlling for a large number of possible factors theoretically considered likely to influence the likelihood of two organizations exchanging information. To assess the effect of differing policy beliefs, our main independent variable of interest, we constructed a difference matrix representing belief distance between organizations and included this information in our model.

Preliminary results indicate that that organizations show a strong tendency to share information with other organizations similar to them in terms of beliefs. However, the information exchange network overall forms one large component, which conceals the processes of fragmentation along policy beliefs at first sight. These results suggests that decision-makers in complex governance systems should try to identify major ideological cleavages and actively encourage information exchange among organizations with different policy beliefs.
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