Comparative case studies of private landowner collaboration in north-central Indiana: Antecedents, process, and outcomes

Kenli Allyson Schaaf, Purdue University


This dissertation presents findings from a research project revolving around private landowner collaboration, as researched in two counties of north-central Indiana. Data for this project, which assumed the form of comparative case studies, were generated in two major phases of research, conducted during 2002--2005. In phase 1 (2002--2003), I conducted semi-structured interviews (n = 81) and participant observation with private landowners in the study counties, which revealed landowners' sentiments on land ownership, relationships with place and community, and attitudes towards collaboration. During phase 2, I hosted, facilitated, and researched a year-long series of Natural Resources Community Forums (2004--2005), which were designed to be an opportunity for landowners to work collaboratively to address natural resources issues. Participant observation, reflective journaling, and focus groups comprised the data collection techniques used in these Forums. Theories of collaboration, social capital, sense of community/community attachment, and sense of place informed the analytical framework. Grounded theory procedures structured the analyses, which were performed for each case and then assessed comparatively. In both cases, sense of place manifested through the building blocks of ownership, experience, knowledge, identity, and attachment. Community was described as social and place-based, as well as interest-driven. The majority of landowners felt as though they were part of their community, even though they were not necessarily involved in community activities. Favorable descriptions of community as rural and farming were pervasive in the interviews of both cases. Interviews with landowners in each case indicated that people held very positive attitudes towards working collectively, yet participation in forums designed to embody collaboration was received from less than 20% of the landowner invitees. In each case, the forums assumed different trajectories, due largely to the interests and commitment of participants. Additionally, social capital and sense of place were key elements of the process and shaped the outcomes of the forums. Participants were generally positive about outcomes in the forums, though many participants in the Woodbridge forums lamented the group's inability to take more tangible actions. Recommendations for the development of collaborative natural resources management in landscapes dominated by private ownerships conclude each article.




Broussard, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Forestry|Environmental science|Sociology

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