Thesis Review

Thesis title: The importance of Champions and Organisational Culture: Transitions to Sustainable Urban Water Mangement


At first, the thesis title sounds interesting in which, I assumed, it will discuss about the importance of champions explicitly. My initial intention is to take “the champions” as subject of my future master research; given the fact that a more democratic decentralization era in Indonesia has made some local governments hesitate to adopt national environmental policy appropriately. By having this thesis as reference, I expect to gather some insight on how champions can inspire other to a positive change. However, I became to know that champions alone will not lead into significant change as other attributes may contribute to positive change equally. The thesis review assignment has broadened my sense not only on how research is conducted, but also the fact that knowledge production processes is infinite contested arena.

The thesis was intended to determine, “how inter and intra-organizational integration is facilitated in the drive for more sustainable urban water management (SUWM).” Research was carried out in former 3 district councils under Auckland’s regional council, through semi-structured in-depth interview method. It was found that champions and organizational culture were key attributes that could drive organizational dynamic toward more integrated organization internally as well as externally (McElwee 2011). The author’s presumption on champions and organizational culture which are key attributes to the organizational change toward sustainable urban water management undermined other attributes that may not less important. Therefore, it is better to examine how far those two attributes influence the change instead of conducting an affirmation research.

The research question is clearly articulated but could be more focused. I got the impression, if the research was intended to test the assumption of champions and organizational culture as key attribute of inter and intra organizational integration with limited attention to other potential attributes that may relevant and essential. As presented on comprehensive literature review by Meene and Brown (2009), there are various attributes embedded across five themes around SUWM; administrative and regulatory, inter-organizational, intra-organizational, and human resource. It was revealed that instead of champions and organizational culture, attribute related to Administrative and regulatory, such as strategic planning and design, tools and instruments, guiding principles, and management and implementation were the most cited in sustainable urban water management literatures. Consequently, I found the thesis that I have to review has lost its sense of importance on the debate across Urban Water Management.

The sustainable urban water management is not relatively a new knowledge development nor has much significant academic debate that has been drawn by the thesis’ author. In fact, the idea of sustainable urban water management has risen long before Larsen and Gujer (1997) introduce the concept of sustainable urban water management in 1997. Furthermore, there are several “sect” on Sustainable Urban Water Management which should be taken into account by putting the debate on literature review. It seems, the author rely mostly to the literatures from Trans-Tasman based research, while other academic literatures were not drawn enough into the discussion. Research initiatives such as sustainable Urban Water Management research program that was supported by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA) and Stockholm Water Co, and the SWITCH research that involved consortium of 33 partners from 15 countries have produced lot of valuable research findings that could enhance the debate across thesis development process.

One out of three objectives set by the author seemed too broad to be captured under the research question frame. The thesis’ objective, to explore the role which ICM can play to initiate in the ground action toward sustainable development, was away from the key boundaries of research question. Integrated Catch Management (ICM) was supposed to be placed on greater sphere rather than put it on inter and intra-organizational integration. By using institutional capacity assessment framework, ICM could be placed all four spheres, human resource, inter-organizational, intra-organizational and administrative and regulatory spheres (Brown 2008). Thus, the author should put additional effort in elaborating ICM into SUWM. For example, recent, study has found evidence that the presence of champions was major contribution to successful implementation of ICM and SUWM. The champions provided leadership for institutional change in order to get community buy-in to the process (van Roon 2011). That article has broadened understanding to affirm three objectives of thesis study were manageable and well covered within the literature review as well as on the findings and discussion.

The methodology chosen is clearly articulated and adopted by the author to address the question; however representation of authorities and interviewee were too little. The number of district councils’ participant should be, at least, half from total number of district councils. The greater number of districts covered the greater information regarding inter and intra-organizational integration could be gathered and analyzed. Thus, it will lead to better understanding on how champions were lunged and affected to the organizational culture in broader senses. While numbers of interviewees from each of councils were too little to represent the comprehensive view of the council, the interview process itself seemed to be bias as the interviewees tend to answer what they know rather than what actually they were doing and practicing. The bias threat has been cautioned, especially when dealing with retrospective information (Bernard, Killworth et al. 1984).

Even though the research did meet its objectives in limited perspective, the contribution of the research to the literature is less significant. Other than no clear statement of the author in recognizing his work, there were lots of authors who have found evidence about champions and pour it into academic debate much earlier before the thesis was completed. Thus, the thesis becomes less attractive and has limited significance to the academic world.  Finally, in addition to above critics, the research has limitations and it has been addressed very well by the author. Indeed, one of the recommendations of the research should be observed further from the environmental management point of view rather than psychology perspective.


BERNARD, H.R., KILLWORTH, P., KRONENFELD, D. and SAILER, L., 1984. The problem of informant accuracy: The validity of retrospective data. Annual Review of Anthropology, 13, pp. 495-517.

BROWN, R.R., 2008. Local institutional development and organizational change for advancing sustainable urban water futures. Environmental management, 41(2), pp. 221-233.

MCELWEE, S.B., 2011. The Importance of Champions and Organisational Culture: Transitions to Sustainable Urban Water Management.

VAN DE MEENE, S.J. and BROWN, R.R., 2009. Delving into the “institutional black Box”: Revealing the attributes of sustainable urban water management regimes. Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 45(6), pp. 1448-1464.

VAN ROON, M., 2011. Low impact urban design and development: Catchment-based structure planning to optimise ecological outcomes. Urban Water Journal, 8(5), pp. 293-308.

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