Craig W. Thomas

University of Washington, Seattle
Evans School of Public Policy and Governance

109 Parrington Hall
Box 353055
Seattle, WA
98195-3055 |  Visit Personal Website

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I am working on several projects related to the processes and performance of collaborative partnerships. One project looks at how science is incorporated into collaborative decision-making and implementation. Another looks at the extent to which state-sponsored collaborative partnerships expand interorganizational networks. A third project develops a theoretical explanation as to why policy making principals promote the use of collaboration over other policy tools. These projects are all part of a longer term research agenda analyzing the performance of collaborative partnerships in terms of social and environmental outcomes.

Koontz, Tomas M., and Craig W. Thomas. 2012. "Measuring the Performance of Public-Private Partnerships: A Systematic Method for Distinguishing Outputs from Outcomes." Public Performance and Management Review 35-769-786.
Abstract: The shift from government to governance and the increasing reliance on public-private partnerships are well documented trends. But there is less clarity regarding how to measure the performance of these new arrangements. Performance measures based on traditional forms of government, such as centralized planning and regulation, are relatively straightforward. In systems of governance, however, the wide range of policy tools for enabling and encouraging public-private partnerships – such as grants, contracts, and technical assistance – requires more nuance in distinguishing outputs from outcomes. Choosing appropriate output and outcome measures is necessary for holding public-private partnerships accountable for performance. Drawing on evidence regarding inconsistent use of performance measures from the Performance Assessment Rating Tool (PART), we develop a classification system for defining outputs and outcomes for different types of programs. We use PART data to demonstrate the need for a consistent classification scheme and to illustrate our program-based categories of output and outcome measures for both direct government provision and public-private partnerships. The purpose is to aid practitioners participating in, and academics studying, public-private partnerships and performance management systems more generally.
Scullion, Jason, Craig W. Thomas, et al. 2011. Evaluating the Environmental Impact of Payments for Ecosystem Services in Coatepec (Mexico) Using Remote Sensing and On-Site Interviews." Environmental Conservation 38: 426-434.
Abstract: Over the last decade, hundreds of payments for ecosystem services (PES) programmes have been initiated around the world, but evidence of their environmental benefits remains limited. In this study, two PES programmes operating in the municipality of Coatepec (Mexico) were evaluated to assess their effectiveness in protecting the region’s endangered upland forests. Landsat satellite data were analyzed to assess changes in forest cover before and after programme implementation using a difference-in-differences estimator. Additionally, surveys and interviews were conducted with local residents and a subset of PES programme participants to evaluate the programmes’ social and environmental impacts, particularly the effect of the programmes on landowner behaviour. The remote-sensing data show that deforestation was substantially lower on properties receiving PES payments compared to properties not enrolled in the programmes, but the programmes did not prevent the net loss of forests within Coatepec. Moreover, the on-site interviews suggest that the payments may have had little impact on deforestation rates, and that other factors contributed to the conservation of forests on PES properties. These findings suggest that risk-targeted payments, robust monitoring and enforcement programmes, and additional conservation initiatives should be included in all PES schemes to ensure environmental effectiveness.
Thomas, Craig W., and Tomas M. Koontz. "Research Designs for Evaluating the Impact of Community-Based Management on Natural Resource Conservation. 2011. Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research 3(2): 97-111.
Abstract: Community-based management has increasingly replaced centralized planning and regulation as an alternative means for conserving natural resources. But there is little empirical evidence to suggest whether community-based management has a positive or negative impact on the actual condition of natural resources. If, as is commonly argued, conservation success depends largely on local context, then we must think carefully about the entire causal chain of community-based management activities, from the inputs supporting decision-making processes to management outputs and environmental outcomes. We accordingly discuss appropriate methodologies for demonstrating the causal impacts of community-based management on natural resource conservation.
Khagram, Sanjeev, and Craig W. Thomas. 2010. "Toward a Platinum Standard for Evidence-Based Assessment by 2020." Public Administration Review 70, S100-106.
Abstract: We argue for a scientifically rigorous, contextually valid, practically relevant, and stakeholder inclusive Platinum Standard for evidence-based assessment to improve public administration and third-party governance in the 21st century. The Platinum Standard would encompass two contending gold standards. The first gold standard, based on experimental methods, counterfactuals and average causal effects, is better known and more institutionalized in practice. The second gold standard, based on case studies, comparative methods, triangulation, and causal mechanisms, is less known. The Platinum Standard incorporates both sets of standards and provides a framework for integrating them in practice. It recognizes the wide array of goals and methodologies appropriate for assessing the performance of public administration and third-party governance initiatives in a dynamic and globalizing world. The two gold standards currently compete for prominence in the field of evidence-based assessment. By 2020, these gold standards should be part of a more inclusive Platinum Standard.
Thomas, Craig W. Athur Bradley Sol, and Tyler Davis. 2010 "Special Interest Capure of Regulatry Agencies. A Ten-Year Analysis of Voting Behavior on Regional Fisheries Management Councils. 2010. Policy Studies Jonal 3, 447-464.
Abstract: This paper tests capture theory by analyzing voting behavior on U.S. Regional Fishery Management Councils. Some seats on the councils are reserved for state and federal agency representatives; others, for political appointees. The political appointees primarily represent special interests (specifically, commercial and recreational fishing interests); a smaller number of appointees represent public interests. We use logistic regression to model the vote of state and federal agency representatives on the councils as a function of the votes of commercial interests, recreational interests, and public interests. We find evidence that some state agencies are captured by special interests from their states, but not systematic evidence across all states. Of the sixteen states in our sample, we find state agency representatives voted with commercial interests in five states; with recreational interests in three states; and with both special interests in two states. These ten states support the capture hypothesis; the other six states do not. At the federal level, we find no evidence that federal agencies were captured. We conclude that the gubernatorial-driven appointment process leads to capture at the state level by promoting voting blocs among state agency representatives and special interests from those states. Federal agency representatives, by contrast, are better able to maintain their distance from state-level politics on the councils, and thereby enhance their ability to vote independently on fishery management measures.
Jantarasami, Lesley C., Joshua J. Lawler, and Craig W. Thomas. 2010. "Institutional Barriers to Climate-Change Adaptation in National Parks and Forests of Washington State." Ecology & Society 15(4), 33.
Abstract: Climate change will increasingly challenge ecosystem managers' ability to protect species diversity and maintain ecosystem function. In response, the National Park Service and the United States Forest Service have promoted climate-change adaptation as a management strategy to increase ecosystem resilience to changing climatic conditions. However, very few examples of completed adaptation plans or projects exist. Here, we examine managers' perceptions of internal and external institutional barriers to implementing adaptation strategies. We conducted semi-structured interviews (n=32) with regional managers and agency staff in six park and forest units in Washington State. We found that internal barriers, including unclear mandates from superiors and bureaucratic rules and procedures, are perceived as greater constraints than external barriers related to existing federal environmental laws. Respondents perceived process-oriented environmental laws (e.g., National Environmental Policy Act) as enablers of adaptation strategies and prescriptive laws (e.g., Endangered Species Act) as barriers. Our results suggest that climate-change adaptation is more often discussed than pursued, and that institutional barriers within agencies limit what can be accomplished.

Substantive Focus:
Energy and Natural Resource Policy
Environmental Policy PRIMARY
Governance SECONDARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY