In Pursuit of Sustainability: Local Policy Output and the Roles of Community Capitals and Collaborative Governance
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Pursuing sustainability is a challenging task for any community, since sustainability can be defined in numerous ways and the mechanisms that lead to sustainable outcomes are not often clear and are dependent on each community’s environmental, social, economic, and political contexts. Using multiple and logistic regression and data from over one hundred cities of varying sizes across the United States, this dissertation examines this pursuit and identifies which variables are likely to lead to various types of sustainability policy. I explore the relationships between social, human, political, and cultural capitals, collaborative governance, several control variables, and what types of sustainability policy local governments pursue. More specifically, I examine the determinants of whether communities tend to focus on environmental, economic, and social sustainability policy, how well these communities balance these three pillars of sustainability, and how generally focused cities are on sustainability policies and ideas. To test how community capitals and collaborative governance lead to sustainable outcomes, I refine and use a quantitative model known as the Community Assets and Attributes Model (CAAM) to measure community capitals for each city, and I use word counts of key words associated with various aspects of sustainability found within city sustainability, climate action, and comprehensive plans to develop metrics for which types of sustainability policy cities are pursuing. These data are used in several regression models to determine how the independent variables of community capitals and collaborative governance are related to the dependent variables associated with sustainability policy output. Findings reveal that while community capitals and collaborative governance are related to local sustainability policy output in some limited and indirect ways, the primary variables associated with policy output include more traditional political and policy drivers and barriers, such as whether cities have independent sustainability offices, whether the local population believes it will be affected by climate change, and whether cities return to previous policy plans to update them as environmental, political, and financial contexts change. The meaning of these results, their relationship to community capitals and collaborative governance, and the avenues of future research opened up by this dissertation are discussed in detail.