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Strengthening Environmental Stewardship in Perth, Western Australia: An Investigation of Linkages between Organisational Social Capital and Information and Communication Technologies in Environmental Community Organisations

Dhakal, Subas Prasad (2010) Strengthening Environmental Stewardship in Perth, Western Australia: An Investigation of Linkages between Organisational Social Capital and Information and Communication Technologies in Environmental Community Organisations. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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      Abstract

      Environmental Community Organisations (ECOs) play an important role in the ongoing stewardship of the natural environment in Australia. This ranges from managing urban nature reserves to the mounting of public campaigns in order to curtail further environmental degradation. Many of these organisations, however, operate in challenging circumstances in which access to human and financial resources are scarce. The utility of social capital to overcome resource scarcities coupled with the potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for fostering social capital have been increasingly acknowledged. Yet little research exists on the appraisal of social capital in ECOs and the implications of the association between social capital and ICT.
      It is the contention of this thesis that by providing additional means to harness social capital, ICT uptake in ECOs can benefit environmental stewardship strategies. The aim of this thesis is twofold. Firstly, it aims to assess social capital in ECOs in the Perth region of Western Australia. Secondly, it aims to investigate the extent to which ECOs are making use of ICTs to enhance social capital. I propose a research framework that recognises intra-organisational and inter-organisational interactions as a basis to conceptualise and ascertain social capital in ECOs. Then, I use a combination of quantitative and qualitative data (including a survey of 81 organisational leaders, interviews, and website content analysis) in order to explore the level of social capital, the trend of ICT uptake, and the implications of the interplay between ICT and social capital.
      The results show that having a higher level of social capital (greater intensity of organisational interactions) places ECOs in a better position to acquire funding and volunteers. Moreover, in spite of ICT uptake being mostly limited to email and websites, findings indicate that not only ICT supplements social capital, but also that social capital influences ICT uptake. The research also demonstrates the usefulness of the adopted framework to empirically ascertain social capital and gauge an association between ICT and social capital in the context of community organisations.
      These findings are consistent with the view that social capital is a necessary ingredient of community organisations that often have to do ‘more with less’. While it might be the case that not every ECO requires high level of social capital or needs to adopt ICT, as ICTs become increasingly ubiquitous in an organisational context, ECOs that are either unable or unwilling to adopt ICTs can be disadvantaged because of reduced opportunities to harness social capital. Although my focus is on ECOs in Perth, the implications of findings of this thesis are equally pertinent to similar community organisations across Australia and abroad.
      Key words: Community organisations, Community informatics, Environmental stewardship, Perth region, Social capital

      Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
      Murdoch Affiliation: School of Sustainability
      Supervisor: Marinova, Dora, Richardson, Ingrid and Barns, Ian
      URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/3012
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