Understanding the role of organizational legitimacy within the realm of the community-based conservation approach
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 1 01 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.