Boundary spanning in the context of stakeholder engagement in collaborative water management

Mark E. Burbach, Weston M. Eaton, Jodi L. Delozier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Boundary spanners are individuals able to reach across organizational borders to build relationships and interconnections to help better manage complex problems. What is not clear, however, are the skills that allow boundary spanners to cross diverse scales, sectors, and organizations. To address this gap, we use a qualitative case study approach to examine evidence for how boundary spanning skills are implemented in the context of stakeholder engagement for addressing water challenges in agricultural settings. We employ a hybrid deductive-inductive thematic analysis approach to examine interview data collected with 25 stakeholder participants as well as direct observation of engagement behavior. Interview instruments were designed to elicit responses related to six deductively derived skills of boundary spanning: relationship builder, authentic leadership, trustworthiness, autonomy, perspective-taking, and effective science communication. Our inductive analysis identified evidence for three additional boundary spanning skills. Our study finds that some boundary spanning skills were exhibited more than others, and their frequency of use varied throughout the engagement process, and certain skills were used interchangeably. This research provides guidance on what boundary spanning looks like in action, and thus provides guidance on identifying and enhancing these skills in stakeholder engagement for water resource management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-92
Number of pages14
JournalSocio-Ecological Practice Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Urban Studies


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