Collective identity and collective action in the management of common pool resources : a case study of Doro !Nawas Conservancy in Namibia.
Conservation is increasingly understood to require collective action, particularly in the context of community based conservation. This thesis is premised on the proposition that understanding the dynamic nature of the relationship between collective identity and collective action is fundamental to management of common pool resources such as are created through establishment of community conservancies in Namibia. I used collective identity and resilience theories to develop a framework for exploring change in collective action in the Doro !Nawas conservancy in Namibia. The framework is based on the assumption that change in collective action is dependent upon the temporal changes in two attributes of collective identity; identification and affective commitment. It is suggested that the framework also yields insight into how these may be applied in adaptive management. The research is informed by an interpretive paradigm accepting that collective identity and collective action are social constructs and that personal meanings could be revealed through in-depth interviews and documentary analysis. Computer aided software (Nvivo), manual analysis and a mix of inductive and deductive analysis yielded excerpts, codes and themes that were used to interpret change in the two attributes. The framework I proposed to understand how identification and affective commitment influence collective action was helpful as a general model but it tends to convey a degree of cohesion and homogeneity that does not reflect the real situation, particularly during the ‘collapse’ phase when members of the collective respond to disturbances. My results show that collectives, including organisations, should be understood as collectives of individuals and groups of individuals who express differing levels of identification and affective commitment. Narratives can be used to track change in identification and affective commitment in collectives. Thus, the identification and affective commitment of members is reflected in the language they use to express feelings, thoughts and experiences toward the collective and behaviours that are supportive or destructive to collective identity. A need for incorporating collective identity into adaptive management is identified. I suggest that incorporating collective identity in strategic adaptive management would make those who engage with the process mindful of the collective identity, and therefore more inclined to manage collective identity in order to achieve the collective action required for successful common pool resources management. I use the findings of my research to identify four issues for further research in community based collectives: firstly, research that focuses on the how to design institutional arrangements for conservancies and similar organisations that are more accessible and responsive to the collective; secondly, research on understanding the role and influence benefit sharing can have in sustaining a collective identity that is supportive of conservancies and how it would contribute to making these systems more resilient; thirdly, research to determine how strategic adaptive management can be restructured and implemented in conservancies and protected areas so that it helps to sustain a collective identity and the collective actions that are required to secure them for future generations; finally, whether the long term intentions of community based conservation might be better served if the instruments of governance and the procedures for their application were engineered to make these social ecological systems more robust and if so, how this might be achieved.