Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Community Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Manuel Riemer

Advisor Role



Background: Studies investigating organizational collaboration report increased goal achievement in the case of collaboration but identify that developing effective collaborations is challenging. An increasing number of researchers and practitioners are applying emerging research tools such as social network analysis to study collaborations and many of those who have applied social network analysis suggest, anecdotally, that it is a useful process tool aimed at increasing understanding of collaboration and informed decision-making among collaborative members.

Aims: The main objectives are to: (1) Empirically study networking and collaboration among environmental organizations in Waterloo Region; (2) Contribute to theory and practice development by examining definitions, values, and practices of organizational collaborations by local practitioners; and (3) Investigate the usefulness of social network analysis as a process tool to improve collaboration.

Method: I used a sequential methods design with two phases. In Phase 1 I obtained and analyzed statistical data representing the level of networking and collaboration among local organizations. Using social network analysis, I produced sociograms (i.e., graphs) and statistical measures of the level of networking and collaboration in the Waterloo Region in 2011. In Phase 2, I conducted three open-ended semi-structured focus groups and seven interviews to discuss collaboration practice and the use of the social network analysis as a process tool. Using a systematic qualitative data analysis approach similar to grounded theory, I analyzed the different aspects related to collaboration practices and the use of social network analysis as a process tool to inform collaboration.

Results: Study findings demonstrate that: (A) the majority of environmental organizations in Waterloo Region are well networked, collaborate broadly, and show a high level of cohesion; (B) environmental organizations in Waterloo Region share similar definitions of collaboration, and tend to apply many of the tasks and steps identified in the literature as good/emerging practice; and (C) social network analysis as a process tool is perceived as useful when assessing and developing organizational collaboration.

Conclusion: The findings reveal that the environmental organizations in Waterloo Region have exemplary collaborative capacity through their networking and cohesion from which other geographic locations could learn. The findings also reveal that collaboration practice, to some degree, differs from theories of good/emerging collaborative practice, potentially due to the fact that theory may be too idealistic while practice may be too realistic, suggesting a need for organizations to move beyond the immediate needs (realities) toward more idealistic practice to increase their collaborative successes and for scholars to potentially adjust their theories to become more realistic and thus increase uptake. Finally, the findings suggest that network analysis has the potential to produce valuable outcomes as a process tool. These findings will be of particular interest for those studying organizational collaboration and the practitioners trying to improve effectiveness of organizational collaboration not just in the environmental field.

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