Date of Award

8-2007

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Advisor

Wright, Brett A

Committee Member

Backman , Kenneth F

Committee Member

Anderson , Denise M

Committee Member

Layton , Patricia A

Committee Member

Mainella , Fran P

Abstract

The partnership phenomenon has received considerable attention as an alternative management strategy for public agencies. The current political culture of fiscal constraint and 'doing more with less' has caused a groundswell of interest in collaborative, partnering, and resource sharing arrangements (Selin & Myers, 1995). Partnership offers a process to increase involvement through democratic means and provide a viable approach for expanding the range of services offered, enhancing the opportunities of park visitors, and building a sense of community pride (Vaske, Donnelly, & LaPage, 1995). Partnerships between public agencies and corporations are rapidly becoming an accepted mechanism to generate additional park and recreation resources that could not otherwise be provided with existing public funds (Mowen & Everett, 2000).
The growing practice of partnerships has created a need for understanding key elements of partnership success and failure, how partnerships address park and recreation management paradoxes, and guidelines for best practices (Mowen & Kerstetter, 2006). There have been numerous calls in the literature to address the partnership phenomenon in a theoretical manner (Gray, 1989; Gray & Wood, 1991; Huxham, 2003; LaPage, 1995; Uhlik, 1995; Wondolleck & Yaffee, 2000). Yet, despite the growing literature, few empirical partnership assessments have been pursued. Using the framework of the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1991), this study investigates the potential for parkland managers to implement partnership and collaborative strategies to support their parks.
National Park Service (NPS) managers, supervisors, and executives participated in a web survey (n=1,906) examining partnership attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control. Questions were designed to address respondents' intention to perform partnership behavior as well as drivers of that intention. For the purpose of this study normative variables were operationalized as statements of the importance of selected knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA's), thought to be critical competencies in engaging successfully in partnerships. Control variables were operationalized as the perceived level of preparedness or competence to perform these same KSA's.
Analyzes revealed that the majority of NPS employees are currently engaged in partnerships (76%) and reported that their past experience was rewarding and productive (70%). Respondents averaged 8.61 partnerships in the previous five years. Descriptive findings revealed respondents hold a generally positive attitude towards partnering however, reported bureaucratic and organizational constraints within the agency as barriers to forming partnerships. Three explanatory variables were found to be significant predictors of partnership behavioral intention, which included partnership attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control. Respondents who intend to partner were 1.8 times more likely to report partnership competencies were important, and 1.57 times more likely to feel prepared regarding performing partnership competencies. Furthermore, attitude was the strongest predictor of partnership behavioral intention. Respondents with a supportive attitude towards partnering were three times more likely to engage in partnerships than those who held less favorable attitudes. While the theory of planned behavior proved to be significant predictor of employee's behavioral intention to partner, the additional predictor variables of agency characteristics and past partnership experience were not significant and did not strengthen, or increase the predictability of the model. In conclusion, since the normative and control measures were operationalized as the importance of, and preparation to perform partnership competencies, the findings of this study have direct implications for the education and training community.
Understanding partnership attitudes and behaviors are increasingly important in managing our national parks as government fiscal climates change and budget cuts are implemented. Achieving a better understanding of the scope, motivations, and perceived limitations of engaging in partnerships will be important to the NPS in meeting the demands of providing access to, and protecting resources, in times of fiscal constraint.

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