Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D. is a 2010 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Richard Couto, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Al Guskin, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Randy Stoecker, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Tomas Koontz, Ph.D., External Reader


community-based watershed organization, collaborative watershed management, nonpoint source pollution, citizen professional, participatory action research, civil society, empowerment, citizen participation, helping relationship, adaptive leadership

Document Type


Publication Date



Although numerous local, state, and federal laws and policies address water pollution, many problems remain. To address these problems thousands of groups of citizens, who are concerned with their water resources - rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and groundwater - organized around the U.S. over the past several decades. To succeed, these community organizations need the resources and capacity to reach their goals. To gain capacity, some community organizations turn to people outside the organization for assistance. Citizen professionals are helpers who work jointly with an organization to help develop an organization's adaptive capacity to deal with challenges and achieve goals. Participatory action research exemplifies a process in which local stakeholders work collaboratively with a citizen professional. This study examines the role of the citizen professional as a combination of the principles of effective participatory action research and a helping relationship. The purpose of this study is to discover whether those characteristics, when utilized by someone who is helping a citizens group, such as a watershed organization, can continue or increase citizen participation and empowerment in community organizations as well as the successful pursuit of organizational goals. This study examines 14 cases of the helper's role in eight community-based watershed organizations; compares the helper's actions with the characteristics of citizen professionalism; examines the helper's actions for their impact on the success of the watershed organizations; and the continued or increased forms of participation and empowerment of the organization's citizen members. This study deals with the critical issues of watershed organizations and their role in the preservation and restoration of water quality. The significance of these issues extends to the role of citizens in policy issues; of citizen professionals in increasing the effectiveness of community organizations to participate in policy issues; and to democratic practice and civil society. The results of this study suggest: (1) the need for a bridge of shared leadership over the chasm of leaders and followers, and (2) the possibility of an avenue to approaching adaptive work in order to meet challenges such as environmental quality. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible at the OhioLINK ETD Center,