Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type

Dissertation Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)


Public Policy and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Mark W. Davis, Ph.D., MPA

Committee Member

Angela Kline, Ph.D., MPA

Committee Member

Michelle L. Wade, Ph.D., MPA


As rural governments in the United States tackle areas of public policy that are increasing complex alongside a reality of diminishing resources, collaborative processes and action networks are employed not as a best practice of the new governance, but out of necessity to create and sustain a response. Existing literature discusses the considerations and attributes of these processes and networks holistically, but does not differentiate between the work done internationally, in urban settings, or in rural areas. This dissertation seeks to address the need to target rural action networks to determine what best practices and themes can be gleaned from their successes and challenges and judge those findings against the body of literature that exists. A comparative case study of five networks located in rural Caroline County, Maryland confirms that while successful rural networks unknowingly conform to the literature, there are specific differences in how rural networks are organized and managed. These findings also speak to the setting and position of the government actors in which the network is placed and where a culture of collaboration and cooperation has been established. These findings are believed to be six considerations that emerging rural networks may use as best practices to appropriately plan, organize and manage their response and further their chance of success towards policy goals.