Tag Archives: adaptive governance

Visualizations of Adaptive Governance

Inspired by a recent course I taught, and my colleague’s Garry Peterson’s search for visualizations of social-ecological systems, (also here), I found myself looking for illustrations of adaptive governance – that is, modes of governance that play out at multiple levels, and that are able to link institutional, with ecosystem dynamics (see Folke et al. 2005 [PDF].  Here are a few examples of how this has been illustrated in the literature. If you have other examples, please add them in the comment field!

This first one is from Andersson and Ostrom (2008), and their analysis of decentralization of natural resource management, and the need to link these initiatives in a wider polycentric setting.

This second one is from Berkes (2007), and explores institutional linkages at multiple levels, for a conservation project in Guyana.

This illustration is from Hahn et al. (2006), and builds on several articles published about Kristianstad Vattenrike (Sweden).

This beautiful visualization is based on a network analysis by Ernstson et al (2010) about network governance of urban ecosystems in Stockholm.

And lastly, one illustration from a report [PDF] from the finalized European project Governance and Ecosystems Management for the CONservation of  BIOdiversity (GEM-CON-BIO). The figure shows an analytical framework applied for a range of case studies recently published in PNAS.

Scale-crossing brokers: new theoretical tools to analyze adaptive capacity

Social network structure for ecosystem governance.

Social network structure matters for adaptive capacity. A key position are 'scale-crossing brokers' that link actors interacting with ecosystem processes at different ecological scales.

Together with colleagues from Stockholm University we have just published an article in Ecology and Society called:

Scale-crossing brokers and network governance of urban ecosystem services: the case of Stockholm

Henrik Ernstson, Stephan Barthel, Erik Andersson and Sara T. Borgström, Ecology and Society 2010: 15 (4), 28.

The article synthesizes empirical studies of urban ecological management in Stockholm. However, it also contributes to the theoretical discussions on adaptive governance of social-ecological systems (e.g. special issue in Global Environmental Change, Folke et al. 2005, Duit and Galaz, 2008). As such, the article is of interest for studies in marine, forest and agricultural systems.

Here I present some key theoretical ideas. (See also blog at Stockholm Resilience Centre.).

Framework for assessing adaptive capacity – linking ecological processess and social network structure

The article builds a theoretical framework that links ecological processes to social network structures to assess the adaptive capacity of ecosystem governance. In effect, the article pushes present theorizations in at least three aspects: 1) spatial complexity, 2) the role of social network structure, and 3) how to handle cross-scale interactions.

1) Spatial complexity

First, it builds a framework to more explicitly account for spatial complexity (and thus the complexity of the ‘resource’ in question). This is primarily done through empirically focus on the ecological processes of seed-dispersal and pollination, which are processes important for the re-generation and resilience of local ecosystems in the fragmented urban landscape of Stockholm.

2) Social network structure as intermediate variable

Second, the paper ‘looks’ beyond individual actors and their direct ties to others (often the case in the literature on for instance ‘bridging organizations’). Instead, actors that interact with ecological processes are seen as embedded in patterns of communication and social relations. This means that the paper acknowledges ‘social network structure’ and how this intermediate variable (not individual, not institution) mediates the agency of single actors, and the performance of the whole network to respond to change.

To capture social dynamics we take the idea from sociology that, just as ecological patches are part of greater scale patterns, social actors are part of emergent social network structures that constrain and shape social dynamics (Wasserman and Faust 1994). […] social network patterns are consequently an outcome of localized interactions between pairs of actors, and no actor can fully control the emergent structure. [This] allows for human agency, but an agency constrained and mediated through the network structure itself (Emirbayer and Goodwin 1994).

3) Cross-scale interactions and scale-crossing brokers

Third, the paper pushes the understanding of what it would mean for a set of identifiable actors to handle cross-scale interactions in social-ecological systems. This is done through developing a network model of how certain actor groups engage in ecological processes at different scales through their social practice, and to theorize a key network position called ‘scale-crossing broker’ (building on Burt’s notion of brokers):

Thus, by accounting for the structure of social networks between actor groups, and how they link to ecological scales, our resulting model consists of actor groups interacting both with each other and with ecosystem processes at different spatial scales, and at spatially separate sites [see figure at top].

A final central aspect of our model is the network position of scale-crossing broker [which is defined] as a social network position that links otherwise disconnected social actor groups which, through their social practices, interact with ecosystem processes at different ecological (and spatial) scales and at different physical sites.

In relation to the discussion on how governance systems can cope with slow changes on one hand, and rapid changes on the other, our answer indicates that we must look for this in the social network structure that links various actors across scales. In that sense, the scale-crossing broker becomes “a crossroad for possibilities” and could facilitate the “switching” between supporting localized social learning processes (in times of slow change), and centralized collective action (in times of rapid change):

Scale-crossing brokers can be seen as agents for nurturing the emergence of a purposeful social network structure, and for switching between a centralized collective action mode and a decentralized mode of social learning among a diverse set of local autonomous actor groups.

Assessing governance systems

As such, the scale-crossing broker becomes an analytical lens to use when assessing empirical governance systems. Upcoming research should thus aim to measure the extent to which you can find scale-crossing brokers in a particular system. Another such assessment tool lies in our conceptualization of a meso-scale in governance in the form of ‘city-scale green networks’ (see figure below).

In conclusion, and apart from its empirical findings not touched upon in this blog, the paper can be seen as bringing new theoretical ideas on how to discuss and analyze social-ecological complexity and adaptive capacity. For more information see the paper itself, the blog-post at Stockholm Resilience Centre, or my own blog In Rhizomia.

The article is part of a special issue in Ecology and Society on social network analysis and natural resource management.

Governance of complex ecological processes

Fig. 4. The figure demonstrates how one could identify the city scale green networks of pollination and seed dispersal in a particular area of Stockholm (suggested here by using digital mapping and ecological network analysis (cf. Andersson and Bodin 2008)). Note how certain local green areas are shared between the two city scale green networks, which give rise to network overlap (purple areas with bold vertical lines in city scale green network 2). Furthermore, it is suggested that midscale managers can take responsibility for particular city scale green networks. Taken as a whole, the figure demonstrates how particular ecosystem services can be viewed as embedded both in the physical landscape and within social networks of local actor groups (managing local green areas), scale-crossing brokers, and municipal to regional actors.

STEPS Book Launch: Science and Innovation for Development

The STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability, UK) just recently launched a book entitled “Science and Innovation for Development”. The STEPS Centre blog reports:

A large part of the book consists of reviews of different technologies relating to development. The reviews use the Millenium Development Goals as a starting point, and focus on agriculture, environment and health (with an unsurprising emphasis on scientific/technical aspects, given the authors’ backgrounds).

You can download individual chapters, or the whole book, here.

Special Issue Online: The Politics of Resilience

Does “resilience thinking” offer novel insights for social scientists such as political scientists, international relation scholars, lawyers and policy analysis experts? Or is it just a another ecological concept with little or no relevance for the social sciences? The topic is one of the most contested ones, as indicated by the popularity of a previous review of Hornborg’s critique of resilience theory posted a while ago. Here is another take on the issue.

In February 2009, we gathered a prominent group of social scientists in Stockholm, for a workshop to elaborate the implications of resilience theory for political science, law, and international relations. We also wanted to discuss its possible implications for critical global challenges such as environmental migration. Where lies the concepts strengths and weaknesses? Is it at all fruitful to talk about “social resilience”? And how do we get a better grip of the politics of learning, flexibility and multilevel governance in complex systems?

The result of these discussions are now available online in the special issue “Governance, Complexity and Resilience” for the journal Global Environmental Change. While the volume as a whole is still in production, a few of the articles are available online already. Just to give you a preview of its contents:

Dr. Koko Warner from the Institute for Environment and Human Security, examines the range of multiscale drivers that trigger environmentally induced migration, and elaborates a range of political and institutional implications. In her contribution, resilience thinking contributes to a wider understanding of the multilevel governance challenges facing policy-makers and a suite of organizations, in trying to deal with underlying social-ecological dynamics. The article is available here.

Prof. Jonas Ebbesson, law scholar from Stockholm University associated to the Stockholm Resilience Centre, elaborates the role of law in steering social-ecological systems. One interesting argument in the paper, is that while law often is viewed as static, and too rigid to rapidly changing circumstances, some aspects of legal thinking and the implementation of law also support aspects of resilience, such as openness and broad participation to cope with complexities and common risk. The article is available here.

Prof. Melissa Leach and colleagues from the STEPS Centre (UK), make a very timely contribution by looking closer at the politics of global epidemic preparedness and response. In their article, Leach and colleagues argue that resilience is inherently a matter of social framing by actors, especially when problems (such as emerging infectious disease) are driven by complex underlying social-ecological factors in contested social settings. The article is available here.

You can also find contributions from Prof. Susan Owens on the politics of learning [here], as well as from Prof. Oran Young and others at the journal’s webpage in the next few weeks.

In all, we hope that this volume is able to push the boundaries of resilience theory and thinking into new empirical and theoretical terrain. We look forward to hear what you think.