Date of Award

Winter 2008

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration and Urban Policy

Committee Director

John C. Morris

Committee Member

William M. Leavitt

Committee Member

Jack E. Robinson


Organizations face implementation challenges compounded by complex and interconnected public problems. In the environmental arena, the inabilities of individual organizations to resolve these problems independently are exacerbated by the scope, duration, and tremendous diversity of tasks coupled with a lack of funding. As a result, multiorganizational arrangements are created as public, private, and nonprofit organizations work together to implement policy. These relationships increase organizational capacities through the diversification of resources and expertise.

Multiorganizational implementation is complicated by various legal authorities, missions, goals, and operational procedures that guide individual organizations. One way to approach these complexities is to expand our understanding of the different types of interactions that occur between organizations. The purpose of this study is to explore the use of cooperation, coordination, and collaboration between 15 federal/state agencies, local governments, and nongovernmental organizations when working together to implement the Virginia Seaside Heritage Program.

Inquiry into the empirical presence of different types of multiorganizational interactions makes two contributions to theory. First, the Multiorganizational Implementation Model is developed and presented as a framework that utilizes the policy implementation and interorganizational theory literatures to distinguish between cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. A theoretical foundation for comparing different types of interactions creates opportunities for consistent theoretical inquiry. Second, this is the first time that a model focused on different types of multiorganizational interactions is applied to a policy implementation setting. Broadening the scope of current inquiry to explore different types of interactions improves our theoretical understanding of policy implementation in multiorganizational arrangements. A continuum of interaction may help theorists move beyond a narrow reconciliation of the top-down/bottom-up approaches towards a fourth generation of implementation research.

Textual data are gathered through document review and 34 semistructured interviews. Findings support the utility of the Multiorganizational Implementation Model in explaining interactions between organizations in this setting. In addition, administrators perceive collaborative interactions to occur within the multiorganizational arrangement when implementing the Virginia Seaside Heritage Program. Finally, interactions during multiorganizational implementation are initiated formally and informally in ways other than the current body of literature explores.


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