Where to meet?

Clarion Congress & Hotel, Cosmos 3C


Thomas Vetter *
Anthropology Institute, University of Neuchâtel, Rue de Saint-Nicolas 4, 2000 Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Topic: Nudging ‘good’ land management practices through co-production? An anthropological analysis of collaborative governance in the context of agricultural diffuse pollution

Keywords: agri-environmental governance; collaboration; co-production; diffuse pollution; UK


Partnership working has become a new normative principle within agri-environmental
governance. With more and more benefits becoming attributed to closer multi-stakeholder
collaboration, more public monies are being directed towards this cause especially within
Europe. These benefits have been studied widely and are usually presented in terms of their
contributions to environmental, economic and/or social objectives. However, in contrast to
these reported outcomes of partnership working, the practical ways towards them have hardly
received any attention. What does it mean to work together on a day-to-day basis? More
specifically, how do stakeholders become trusted partners, bridge interests and coordinate
their actions? Which discursive spaces open up or are closed down, and how are they used to
achieve common objectives? What codes of conduct become established within partnerships
and how does this emerging collaborative working culture in turn affect wider governance
outcomes, expectations and aspirations? Answers to these questions are not only important to
better understand the factors that contribute to successful ways of partnership working, but
also to account for its limitations. This paper responds to this research need by drawing on the
example of Farm Herefordshire. This cross-organizational partnership promotes profitable
farming, healthy soils and clean water to address the problem of diffuse pollution from
agricultural practices within the Wye catchment area in the UK. The insights from this case
study contribute to the literature on three fronts: (i) It closes an empirical gap. Most insights
about partnership working derive from case studies in Germany, Australia, and the
Netherlands, yet detailed accounts of similar examples are largely missing for the UK; (ii) The
paper follows Prager’s (2015) prompt to study such modes of collective action holistically and
bottom-up to capture all their contributions and implications. It does so by employing an
ethnographic research approach to investigate the social interactions and struggles that
characterize joint working. This commands attention to the backstories, the actual work
meetings, the discussions, the processes of consensus building, and the joint actions
undertaken; And (iii), the paper connects with wider social science concerns around the
underlying processes and practices of governmentality that – according to Jasanoff (2004) –
are essential for establishing social and ecological orders. Thus, the paper explores how
everyday practices of partnership working contribute to the co-production of institutions,
discourses, identities, and representations – which in this case become strategically deployed
to nudge ‘good’ farming practices.

Go back to the workgroup WG 16 A