Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Affairs and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. James A. Visser


This study examined disruptions in collaborative governance in four state coastal zone management commissions or councils in California, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. The comparative case study used qualitative analysis of pre- and post- disruption conditions. The disruption was defined as a chain of events that started with a loss or diminished level of public trust in the decision-making of the commission or council. The loss of public trust led to changes in the external environment meta-variable (political action) that affected (disrupted) the institutional design and relationship dynamics meta-variables of the commissions or councils.

To better understand the effects of disruption on the collaborations, a conceptual model was derived from the literature review of collaborations and collaborative governance.The study sought to identify (a) how the pre-disruption meta-variables and outputs of the collaborations were consistent with or different from the expectations of the conceptual model derived from the literature, and (b) how the disruptions to these collaborations impacted their post-disruption institutional design, relationship dynamics, public trust, and policy outputs, thus assessing the resiliency of collaborations.

The study revealed that the conceptual model represented the activities of the coastal zone commissions and councils and identified the importance of key meta-variables to effective collaborative governance. Public trust was shown to play multiple significant roles in collaborative governance, and the resiliency of collaborations was discussed, calling for further research.

The study also revealed that post-disruption actions in three of the four cases strengthened the collaborative model, enhanced transparency in decision-making, and restored public trust and policy outputs. The fourth case (South Carolina) had the opposite results as expected, as the disruption eliminated collaborative decision-making.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access