Thursday, September 15, 2016

Coping with the wicked problem of climate adaptation across scales: The 5-R Governance Capabilities

As part of a special issue on Working with wicked problems in socio-ecological systems a paper based on a collaborative effort between members of the Public Administration and Policy (Wageningen University) has been published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning. The paper builds on and extends the Governance Capabilities framework developed earlier by our group (see Termeer et al., 2013), and applies to the analysis of the governance of climate change adaptation. Each of the governance capabilities addresses a particular dimension of wicked problems, and absence of the capability leads to particular risks (see the table below).

This is the abstract of the paper:
Adapting social-ecological systems to the projected effects of climate change is not only a complex technical matter but above all a demanding governance issue. As climate change has all the characteristics of a wicked problem, conventional strategies of governance do not seem to work. However, most conventional governance institutions are poorly equipped to enable, or at least tolerate, innovative strategies. This paper analyses the various strategies used to cope with the wicked problem of climate adaptation across scales, and the institutional conditions that enable or constrain such strategies. For this, it relies on a theoretical framework consisting of five governance capabilities that are considered crucial for coping with wicked problems: reflexivity, resilience, responsiveness, revitalization and rescaling. This framework is used to analyse the governance of adaptation to climate change at three different levels: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its activities to assist adaptation; the European Union and its climate adaptation strategy; and the Netherlands and its Delta Program. The results show that conventional governance strategies are rather absent and that mixtures of reflexive, resilient, responsive, revitalizing and rescaling strategies were visible at all levels, although not equally well developed and important. In contrast to the literature, we found many examples of enabling institutional conditions. The constraining conditions, which were also present, tend to lead more to postponement than to obstruction of decision-making processes.
Termeer, C. J. A. M., Dewulf, A., Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, S. I., Vink, M. J., & Vliet, M. van (2016). Coping with the wicked problem of climate adaptation across scales: The Five R Governance Capabilities. Landscape and Urban Planning, 154, 11–19.

The paper can be found at or downloaded here

Monday, August 22, 2016

Governing adaptation to climate change through continuous transformational change?

UKCIP report on transformational adaptation
In an attempt to contribute to the debate on incremental and transformational adaptation to climate change (see e.g. Kates et al. 2012 or UKCIP report on transformational adaptation), Katrien Termeer, Robbert Biesbroek and myself have revisited the transformational change debate in organisational sciences, and come up with an alternative conceptualization of 'continuous transformational change'. The resulting article has been published on-line in the Journal of Environment Planning and Management.

Transformational change: governance interventions for climate change adaptation from a continuous change perspective

This is the abstract: 
Although transformational change is a rather new topic in climate change adaptation literature, it has been studied in organisational theory for over 30 years. This paper argues that governance scholars can learn much from organisation theory, more specifically regarding the conceptualisation of change and intervention strategies. We reconceptualise the divide between transformational change and incremental change by questioning the feasibility of changes that are concurrently in-depth, large scale, and quick; and the assumption that incremental change is necessarily slow and can only result in superficial changes. To go beyond this dichotomy, we introduce the conceptualisation of continuous transformational change. Resulting intervention strategies include (1) providing basic conditions for enabling small in-depth wins; (2) amplifying small wins through sensemaking, coupling, and integrating; and (3) unblocking stagnations by confronting social and cognitive fixations with counterintuitive interventions. These interventions necessitate a modest leadership. Governing transformational change thus requires transformation of the governance systems themselves.
The article can be found at or downloaded here

Termeer, C. J. A. M., Dewulf, A., & Biesbroek, G. R. (2016). Transformational change: governance interventions for climate change adaptation from a continuous change perspective. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, on-line first. doi:10.1080/09640568.2016.1168288

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Systematic literature review on adaptive governance of social-ecological systems (open access)

The result of a systematic review on adaptive governance has been published in the journal Environmental Science and Policy. The review has been conducted as part of the Mountain-EVO project, by Timos Karpozouglou, Julian Clark and myself. The review identifies adaptive capacity, collaboration, knowledge/learning, and scaling as key dimensions of adaptive governance scholarship, and explores the value of theoretical multiplicity for advancing adaptive governance ideas.

Advancing adaptive governance of social-ecological systems through theoretical multiplicity

This is the abstract:

In recent years there has been rising scientific and policy interest in the adaptive governance of social-ecological systems. A systematic literature review of adaptive governance research during the period 2005–2014, demonstrates a vibrant debate taking place that spans a variety of empirical and theoretical approaches. The particular strength of adaptive governance is that it provides a theoretical lens for research that combines the analyses of novel governance capacities such as adaptive capacity, collaboration, scaling, knowledge and learning. As a way to give greater depth and analytical rigour to future studies over the next decade and beyond, we highlight the added value of theoretical multiplicity (i.e., focusing on the combination of theories to address complex problems). We argue that theoretical multiplicity can encourage stronger synergies between adaptive governance and other theoretical approaches and can help address epistemologically grey areas in adaptive governance scholarship, such as power and politics, inclusion and equity, short term and long term change, the relationship between public policy and adaptive governance.

This open access paper can be found at or downloaded here.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Social media as a new playing field for the governance of agro-food sustainability

Tim Stevens has published his first paper as part of his PhD project in the Informational Governance programme at Wageningen University!
Social media as a new playing field for the governance of agro-food sustainability
The paper is based on a literature review and puts forward three different patterns in social media activities in relation to the governance of agro-food sustainability. It has been published in the first 2016 issue of Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

This is the abstract:

Social media bring various stakeholders of the agro-food system together into a new playing field. This article reveals the dynamics of this playing field and the ways in which this can influence the governance of agro-food sustainability. We delineate three pathways that highlight the ways in which social media can have implications for the governance of agro-food sustainability; firstly, hypes on agro-food sustainability issues, secondly, opportunities for the self-organization of food movements, and thirdly, data for new forms of agro-food governance. We conclude that while mass self-communication on social media forms an emergent force that disrupts agro-food governance, it also generates data that forms a resource for powerful players to regain control.

This is the full reference: Stevens, T., Aarts, N., Termeer, C. J. A. M., & Dewulf, A. (2016). Social media as a new playing field for the governance of agro-food sustainability. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 18, 99–106. doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2015.11.010

The paper can be found at or downloaded here