Women in Ambalabe participating in the sewing machine project, one of the legitimacy-granting activities conducted in this community. Photo Lova Randrianasolo. Madagascar Conservation & Development

Understanding the role of organizational legitimacy within the realm of the community-based conservation approach

Armand Randrianasolo, Arilova A. Randrianasolo


Many organizations throughout the world utilize community based conservation (CBC) strategies to incorporate rural communities into conservation efforts. One key component to the success of these strategies is to gain trust within the communities which reside in the vicinity of the targeted areas for conservation. The research reported here introduces the concept of organizational legitimacy into the realm of CBC strategy by proposing how dimensions of legitimacy (pragmatic, moral, and cognitive) are related to community trust and attitudes. Employing institutional theory, this paper proposes that (i) pragmatic and moral legitimacy produce trust, (ii) trust positively influences cognitive legitimacy, and (iii) cognitive legitimacy influences attitudes. The Missouri Botanical Garden’s (MBG) CBC efforts in Madagascar’s Ambalabe and Mahabo communities served to empirically examine these propositions. The survey yielded 101 usable responses from community members in Mahabo and Ambalabe. A structural model was estimated to test the propositions and the results provided support for the premise that organizational legitimacy is needed to gain trust and influence favorable attitudes toward the organization. Since CBC strategies rely on trust between organizations and communities, the findings of this research provide implications for organizations seeking to implement CBC strategies. The findings do so by implying that in order to build trust with communities, organizations should first establish legitimacy, which not only helps build trust, but also indirectly affects attitudes toward the organization and its activities.



De nombreuses organisations à travers le monde utilisent les stratégies de la conservation communautaire pour intégrer les communautés rurales dans les efforts de conservation. Un élément clé du succès de ces stratégies est de gagner la confiance des communautés qui résident dans les zones ciblées. La présente recherche introduit le concept de légitimité organisationnelle dans le domaine de la stratégie de conservation communautaire en indiquant comment les dimensions de la légitimité (pragmatique, morale et cognitive) influencent la confiance et les attitudes de la communauté. Utilisant la théorie institutionnelle, ce document propose que (i) la légitimité pragmatique et morale entraîne la confiance, (ii) la confiance influence positivement la légitimité cognitive, et (iii) la légitimité cognitive prédit les attitudes. Afin d'examiner empiriquement ces propositions, les efforts déployés par le Missouri Botanical Garden dans les communes d’Ambalabe et de Mahabo à Madagascar ont été utilisés pour collecter les données. Cette technique d'échantillonnage a donné 101 réponses utilisables venant des membres des communautés des deux communes. Un modèle structurel a été estimé pour tester les propositions et les résultats obtenus et soutient l'hypothèse selon laquelle la légitimité organisationnelle est nécessaire pour gagner la confiance et susciter des attitudes favorables à l'égard de l'organisation. Puisque les stratégies de conservation communautaire s'appuient sur une relation basée sur la confiance entre les organisations et les communautés, les résultats de cette recherche montrent que si des organisations cherchent à mettre en œuvre des stratégies de conservation communautaire, elles doivent d’abord établir leur légitimité afin de gagner la confiance des communautés respectives.


community based conservation; trust; attitude; Madagascar

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