University Of Tasmania
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Inclusive policy networks for participatory place branding: enhancing stakeholder engagement using an action intervention methodology

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posted on 2023-05-27, 11:23 authored by Ripoll Gonz‚àö¬8lez, L
Recent scholarly research on place branding highlights that hierarchical models aimed exclusively at economic development often serve short-term instrumental purposes that fail to acknowledge the complex and dynamic nature of places. Similarly, the rise of Web 2.0 technologies and the network society has challenged formal, top-down, business-oriented brand communication by enabling and amplifying horizontal, often contested, communications about places by a large number of actors including grass roots activists. In light of such concerns, scholars have called for research into holistic models of stakeholder engagement that better reflect the communicative process of co-creation of place identities and images. Reflecting the challenges that new forms of horizontal and non-linear communication exchanges in the network society have brought about, this dissertation develops an alternative, bottom-up, participatory model of place branding that countenances greater involvement of actors, particularly from civil society. Situated within the broad paradigm of participatory action research, the study applies the alternative model employing the method of sociological intervention to investigate stakeholder interaction in the processes of developing and managing place brand identities. The before-and-after research design utilises interviews and focus group discussions to empower participants to collectively reflect on their practices and communicative interactions, as well as on the potential for collaboration towards sustainable place branding. The participatory, intervention methodology is applied to the case of Tasmania, an island-state and region in the Commonwealth of Australia. Tasmania's brand is made up of strong formal government-led destination and country-of-origin brands focused on high quality, niche produce and a clean and green environment and supported by the positive reputation of major agribusinesses. However, these formal attempts are challenged by other private business brands emphasising alternative cultural and tourism experiences; and by civil society organisations highlighting environmental concerns such as threats to world heritage areas and unsustainable aquaculture. The State's regional branding process is particularly relevant to this study because its reputation has been driven by this contestation between public, private and civil society branding attempts, generating a brand architecture that often results in uncoordinated and ineffective branding efforts. Employing the method of sociological intervention in the case of Tasmania, the research found that participants gained an appreciation of the value of the alternative, network-based model, recognising its potential to enhance effective place branding practices in Tasmania. However, they also identified several impediments to the development and operationalisation of such a model for enhanced collaboration linked in particular to existing expectations, institutions and power relations. Overall, participants' discussion of the alternative network governance approach demonstrated the potential of policy networks as more inclusive, effective and legitimate governance arrangements to operationalise participatory place branding than current top-down approach. A further finding was that the use of the participatory action research and intervention methodology is itself a practical tool to achieve more holistic stakeholder engagement.


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