Document Type


Publication Date



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Division of Forestry and Natural Resources


Leadership has emerged as a central factor in sustainable regional development. Complex regional development initiatives need dynamic leaders to convene diverse stakeholders, sustain participation, leverage external resources, and achieve collective impact. This study researched the deeper meanings and application of backbone leadership using case study research examining a collaborative, regional initiative known as the Mon River Valley Coalition (MRVC). The MRVC is a regional and community-based economic revitalization program that promotes economic and environmental sustainability by capitalizing on the outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism potential of the Monongahela River. Through an inductive logic process, this research study analyzed the role and capabilities exhibited by backbone leaders associated with the MRVC. The data revealed that backbone leadership has been important to the cumulative success of the Monongahela River Valley Coalition. Study results highlight the backbone leadership roles and capabilities demonstrated by the leadership team both internally and external to the coalition. Sustainable development leaders work in uncharted waters—beyond the safe harbors of government, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. Research is needed that elaborates the integrative work that these sustainability leaders do. Studies such as this one can illuminate the pathway for those to follow.

Source Citation

Selin, S. Elaborating the Role of Backbone Leadership Organizations in Sustainable Tourism Development: The Monongahela River Valley Coalition. Sustainability 2017, 9, 1367.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited



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