Exploring Cross-Sectoral Collaboration for Sustainable Development: A Case of Tourism

University dissertation from IIIEE, Lund University

Abstract: The importance of cross-sectoral collaborative initiatives, that is partnerships of governments, civil society and the private sector, was elevated due to the belief that the issues of SD are a collective responsibility of all societal actors. The assessment of these initiatives is ranging dramatically; from giving them a status of an unbeatable solution for the SD challenges, to blaming them for being a mere lip service for the SD cause. These controversies in the assessment of networks drew the interest of the author to the area and raised her ambition to contribute to the understanding of how cross-sectoral networks collaborate towards achieving sustainable development (SD). The cross-sectoral collaborative networks are investigated within the context of tourism, a sector known as notoriously non-collaborative with regards to anything that falls outside of the ordinary market transactions. Cross-sectoral collaborations are exposed to the multitude of ideas that belong to the domain of SD. They select a set of ideas that constitute their individual repertoire and seek to put them into practice locally in order to achieve improvements relevant for their particular context. These considerations led to the formulation of the following research questions: 1. What are the critical factors that influence idea selection by the cross-sectoral networks for sustainable development? 2. What are the critical factors that influence the idea implementation process by the cross-sectoral networks for sustainable development? This thesis is an explorative study that deals with eight case studies in five European countries: Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Spain and Greece. The empirical data are considered from two analytical perspectives: one that looks at the networks as tools for creating public goods relevant for the context of networking and another that pictures networking as a social process. These perspectives are considered complementary for providing concepts for the analysis. This research highlights critical structural, dynamic and contextual characteristics affecting the networking process and its results, and creates an understanding of how the cross-sectoral networks select SD ideas and implement them in practice. The research emphasises the role of networks as translators of broad SD idea into the localised context of networking, as well as, of individual preferences of networkers into common network agenda. Networking is a complex process full of contingencies. Thus, the translation processes do not always lead to the outcomes, which networks were aiming for or to the significant SD achievements expected from the networks by the ideologists of collaboration. The thesis suggests a conceptual approach that accommodates for studies of such a complex phenomenon as the cross-sectoral networking for SD. Is also suggests a multi-level system for capturing varied, and not always foreseen, results of networking.

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