Building a foundation for knowledge co-creation in collaborative water governance: Dimensions of stakeholder networks facilitated through bridging organizations

Wietske Medema*, Jan Adamowski, Christopher Orr, Alison Furber, Arjen Wals, Nicolas Milot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The sustainable governance of water resources relies on processes of multi-stakeholder collaborations and interactions that facilitate the sharing and integration of diverse sources and types of knowledge. In this context, it is essential to fully recognize the importance of fostering and enhancing critical connections within and between networks of relationships between different government and non-government agencies, as well as the dynamics that are in support of the development of new knowledge and practices. In Quebec, a network of watershed organizations (WOs) has been put in place to serve as bridging organizations (BOs) for stakeholder groups in their watershed territories. Using the WOs as a case study, this research aims to contribute to a greater understanding of how stakeholder groups can be effectively connected to support knowledge co-creation through networked relationships facilitated by BOs. In line with this overall research aim, the following research objectives are proposed: (1) to assess the quality of the knowledge that is developed and shared through the WOs and their stakeholder networks; (2) to determine the characteristics of stakeholders participating in the WOs' networks that either hinder or support collaborations and knowledge co-creation; (3) to describe the collaborative processes and mechanisms through which the WOs facilitate stakeholder interactions and knowledge co-creation; and (4) to assess the quality of the relationships and interactions between stakeholders participating in the WOs' collaborative networks. A comprehensive literature review is provided of collaborative network dimensions that are in support of knowledge co-creation that forms the foundation of a research framework to assess knowledge co-creation processes that are facilitated through BOs and their collaborative networks. Documented experiences have been gathered through face-to-face semi-structured interviews, as well as a Quebec-wide survey distributed to all WOs and their staff. A total of 41 interviews were conducted, of which nine interviews were with staff members of six selected WOs. Stakeholder perspectives were captured through 33 interviews with diverse stakeholders from three of the six selected WOs. Additionally, interviews were also conducted with five decision makers at the Quebec provincial government level. The findings of this study point to some key challenges and constraints for the effective facilitation of collaboration and knowledge co-creation through the Quebec WOs and their stakeholder networks. Through diverse collaborative mechanisms, most WOs have, to an extent, succeeded in creating opportunities for learning through a renewed sense making of different practices (and related identities) through the development of their watershed master plans, as well as through the facilitation of new communicative connections and translation efforts between diverse stakeholder groups. Key challenges to their effectiveness have been relating to a limited capacity and resources, limited territory-wide impacts, as well as limited perceived legitimacy that hindered the WOs as BOs in their ability to facilitate effective knowledge co-creation. Areas for further research to overcome these challenges are in developing a greater understanding of how BOs can optimize resources and capacities available in their collaborative networks through, e.g., the development of boundary-crossing leaders and competences, as well as the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT).

Original languageEnglish
Article number60
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Bridging organizations
  • Collaborative water governance
  • Knowledge co-creation
  • Network dimensions
  • Stakeholder collaborations
  • Watershed organizations


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