Stakeholders and social influence in a shadow network: Implications for transitions toward urban water sustainability in the Colorado River basin

Amber Wutich, Christine Demyers, Julia C. Bausch, Dave D. White, Abigail Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Shadow networks can play an important role in facilitating transitions toward more sustainable and resilient social-ecological systems. Yet, few studies have explored the microdynamics of shadow networks to understand what makes them more or less effective in sustainability transitions. This article examines stakeholder roles and social influence in support of radical innovations over time in a shadow network focused on urban water sustainability in the Colorado River basin. Using qualitative analysis of meeting transcripts and social network analysis, we analyzed the roles of stakeholders from market, government, and scientific sectors in advocating for and influencing other shadow-network members to consider incremental and radical innovations over a 5-year period. The results show that, in our case, stakeholders from the market sector suggested most of the radical innovations. Government-aligned stakeholders mostly supported others’ suggestions and facilitated support for niche innovations to become more widespread. Science stakeholders were supportive of others’ proposals but were never the source of new ideas for radical innovations; they focused more on interrogating the evidence for and efficacy of others’ proposals. These results illustrate how shadow networks can nurture support for radical innovations over time, even when most network members are aligned with the current regime. This research yields new insights about shadow networks in sustainability transitions, and points to the need for more focused analysis of stakeholder roles and social influences within shadow networks to help understand how radical innovations gain support and become better institutionalized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number28
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • Colorado River basin
  • Radical innovation
  • Shadow networks
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Sustainability transition
  • Water management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Stakeholders and social influence in a shadow network: Implications for transitions toward urban water sustainability in the Colorado River basin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this