Imperial College London Featured PhD Programmes
Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University Featured PhD Programmes
University of Reading Featured PhD Programmes

Sustaining partnership approaches – evaluating effectiveness, health and longevity of agri-environmental collaboratives

Project Description

A multitude of partnerships have developed between actors from the farming, environment, conservation, community, business and government sectors. Some of these collaborative groups are project-oriented and have a defined lifespan, while others are set up with the expectation to make a long-lasting contribution to managing natural resources sustainably. The latter approaches are more conducive to social processes such as building trust and social capital among the various stakeholders (Prager, 2015, Wynne-Jones, 2017). It is increasingly recognised that social capital is a crucial factor in maintaining natural capital. Nevertheless, securing sufficient funding for their activities is a recurring issue for many multi-stakeholder partnerships, and engaging with funders’ project timescales and accountability requirements may erode momentum and partner buy-in, human capital and social relationships (Short et al., 2011, Mills et al., 2011).

Given these challenges, some collaboratives dissolve or go dormant, or regroup as a different partnership. Evaluating the effectiveness and health of groups needs to take temporal aspects into account. In addition, the focus of the group may change, either in response to changed group membership or political priorities, and particular attention will need to be paid to the (institutional) level that groups work at (Prager, 2010) and the crafting of institutions by local actors (Short, 2015).

The aim of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness, health and longevity of agri-environmental collaboratives in order to generate insights on what makes sustainable partnerships. This will include an investigation of factors that contribute to effective groups, and the impact of regrouping/transformation of groups on their activities and outcomes. ‘Outcomes’ refer to the effects on the natural resources that groups are targeting as well as effects on social relationships and economic viability of the individual stakeholders and wider communities.
To cover the temporal aspect, previously collected datasets on agri-environmental collaboratives in Germany and the Netherlands are available for analysis. In particular, this includes landcare associations (Landschaftspflegeverbände) in Germany (Schomers et al., 2015), and agrarische natuurverenigingen, environmental cooperatives and successor organisations in the Netherlands (van Dijk et al., 2015). Engagement with umbrella organisations such as Boerennatuur and Deutscher Landschaftspflegeverband is essential. However, also a different set of collaboratives could be investigated, depending on data availability and language skills.

The research will build on the literature on multi-stakeholders partnerships, agri-environmental collaboratives, social capital and holistic evaluation.
Methods will include analysis of existing interview and survey data, collecting current empirical data through follow up interviews, focus groups or surveys, and document analysis of available project and activity reports, evaluations, policy documents. It may also be useful to include participant observation or ethnographic elements.

The PhD student will be able to select and adjust the theoretical framework used in the project (e.g. social-ecological systems, concept of boundary and intermediaries, social capital, institutional analysis), refine the focus of the evaluation and select the case study region(s). They can shape the study by making use of their own contacts and building links to NGOs and policy in order to feed results into future strategies for collaborative management of natural resources.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in geography, rural or environmental sociology, rural development, agriculture, ecology, political sciences, sustainability.

Excellent English communication skills (speaking, writing, comprehension) and proficiency in one further language, preferably German or Dutch
An interview will be undertaken with suitable candidates before an offer is made.

Knowledge of and expertise in social science methods; aptitude for transdisciplinary research


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geography
• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘Self-funded’ as Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:

• All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary)
• Detailed CV
• Details of 2 academic referees

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr K Prager ( with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ()

Funding Notes

This project is advertised in relation to the research area of Human Geography. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for Tuition fees, living expenses and maintenance. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting View Website. THERE IS NO FUNDING ATTACHED TO THESE PROJECTS. Additional research costs will be required (above tuition fees and living expenses) and these should be discussed with the supervisor


Mills, J., D. Gibbon, J. Ingram, M. Reed, C. Short, and J. Dwyer 2011. Organising Collective Action for Effective Environmental Management and Social Learning in Wales. The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension 17(1):69-83. 10.1080/1389224X.2011.536356
Prager, K. 2010. Local and regional partnerships in natural resource management: The challenge of bridging institutional levels. Environmental Management 46(5):711-724.
Prager, K. 2015. Agri-environmental collaboratives as bridging organisations in landscape management. Journal of Environmental Management 161:375-384.
Schomers, S., B. Matzdorf, C. Meyer, and C. Sattler 2015. How Local Intermediaries Improve the Effectiveness of Public Payment for Ecosystem Services Programs: The Role of Networks and Agri-Environmental Assistance. Sustainability 7(10):13856-13886. 10.3390/su71013856
Short, C. 2015. Micro-level crafting of institutions within integrated catchment management: Early lessons of adaptive governance from a catchment-based approach case study in England. Environmental Science & Policy 53, Part B:130-138.
Short, C., R. Griffiths, and J. Phelps 2011. Inspiring and Enabling Local Communities: an integrated delivery model for Localism and the Environment. Report to Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and Natural England. Cheltenham: CCRI.
van Dijk, W. F. A., A. M. Lokhorst, F. Berendse, and G. R. de Snoo 2015. Collective agri-environment schemes: How can regional environmental cooperatives enhance farmers’ intentions for agri-environment schemes? Land Use Policy 42:759-766.
Wynne-Jones, S. 2017. Understanding farmer co-operation: Exploring practices of social relatedness and emergent affects. Journal of Rural Studies 53:259-268.

Email Now

Insert previous message below for editing? 
You haven’t included a message. Providing a specific message means universities will take your enquiry more seriously and helps them provide the information you need.
Why not add a message here

The information you submit to Aberdeen University will only be used by them or their data partners to deal with your enquiry, according to their privacy notice. For more information on how we use and store your data, please read our privacy statement.

* required field
Send a copy to me for my own records.

Your enquiry has been emailed successfully

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2020
All rights reserved.