International Institute for Innovation in Governance



Social licensing and mining in South Africa: Reflections from community protests at a mining site

Mining companies are increasingly being required to adhere to the requirements of a social licence to operate. Although this licence is largely seen as an informal agreement, the South African government is increasingly looking to formalise it. Social and labour plans and community trusts to ensure local ownership are two policy approaches used to foster the idea of a social licence to operate. We consider a case in which much conflict has been experienced. Based on 10 in-depth interviews and an assessment of court documents and media reports, our case study shows that community trusts should not be viewed as automatically ensuring a larger degree of local buy-in. They are problematic in many ways. In practice they could increase community conflict. They do not address historical concerns about dispossession and exclusion, and formalising local ownership in law will not necessarily resolve local conflicts. To create a community trust it is first necessary to identify a community, and communities are not necessarily unified structures. And finally, governance requirements complicate community trusts.

Matebesi, S., & Marais, L. (2018). Social licensing and mining in South Africa: Reflections from community protests at a mining siteResources Policy.

Social networks, collective action and the evolution of governance for sustainable tourism on the Gili Islands, Indonesia

This article examines how social networks among actors in the tourism sector have facilitated the evolution of self-organized institutions for governance on the island of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. Increasing tourism for SCUBA diving and nightlife is driving rapid social-ecological change and challenges for sustainability in relation to waste management, social-political cohesion and conservation. While strong social networks were a sufficient means to initiate governance among the island’s few early businesses in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, an increasing number of actors (i.e., new SCUBA businesses and hotels) and more tourists are challenging the ability of social networks to be the foundation of effective governance, where there is now an evident need for the evolution of governance to more effectively address sustainability challenges. This article combines quantitative social network analysis with the qualitative analysis of interview data, participant observations and an ethnographic examination of the island’s changing social-political sphere of cooperation to examine the evolution of governance. Our results can be separated into two parts. (1) From past to present, examining how governance institutions and collective action have emerged from strong social networks. (2) From present to future, how these social networks are being undermined as the foundation for the island’s governance institutions that they created, due to growth and changing social-ecological conditions. This article draws on Evolutionary Governance Theory (EGT) as an overarching frame to examine the linkages between social networks and collective action, looking specifically at the role of multi-level governance, institutional change, path dependencies and discourse analysis.

Partelow, S., & Nelson, K. (2018). Social networks, collective action and the evolution of governance for sustainable tourism on the Gili Islands, IndonesiaMarine Policy.


Speculation, Planning, and Resilience: Case studies from resource-based communities in Western Canada

This paper investigates the linkages between speculation and resilience in resource-based communities (boomtowns) susceptible to economic swings (boom/bust) and reflect on the actual and possible roles of spatial planning to stabilize communities under conditions of boom, bust and speculation. The findings are based on a nested case study method, where the Western Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia are investigated more in detail through semi-structured interviews (N = 145) in 12 case communities. The paper shows that spatial planning must be understood broadly to discern its effects on community resiliency, with resiliency understood as the coordination of spatial organization. Planning, then, is crucial at two stages of development: in the choice of a settlement model and afterwards in the spatial embodiment of that model. The paper further highlights the importance of expectations and managing expectations in understanding and re-thinking the linkages between speculation and resilience, and the importance of associated ideologies in risk assessment and conceptualizations of resilience.

Deacon, L., Van Assche, K., Papineau, J., & Gruezmacher, M. (2018). Speculation, Planning, and Resilience: Case studies from resource-based communities in Western CanadaFutures.

Re-learning Public Spaces Summer School: 28 th June – 30th June and July 3rd 2018 (AMSTERDAM/WAGENINGEN)

You are welcome to join the Re-learning Public Spaces Summer School: 28 th June – 30th June and 3rd July. The Summer School will further develop your thinking about the social impact of your research. It is connected to an event that turns around the concept of traditional academic conferences, in the sense that participants will spend most of their time doing fieldwork and generating new insights, rather than solely reporting on their ongoing research. The Summer School will thus have the set-up of an Action Research Lab.

You can find the learning outcomes on the website:

Call for papers: Spatial planning & place branding: rethinking synergies and governance

In a special issue for European Planning Studies we intend to bring together experts on spatial planning and place branding to think explicitly on the relation between the two fields and the potential of  theories and practices in which the two are integrated.

We believe exploring the relation between spatial planning and place branding is useful and important because, on the one hand, the relation is still under- explored, while planning could use the insights in place-based value creation stemming from place branding, and place branding often lacks insight in how places might actually be changed or preserved through coordinated intervention. On the other hand, much of the literature on place branding in our view either under- estimates or over- estimates what branding can do, partly because of underlying ideological assumptions, partly because of simply a lack of insight in the functioning of governance, including spatial governance.

Bringing planning and branding closer together in theory and practice means seeing their relation in the context of governance. Planning in this view is spatial governance, the coordination of policies and practices affecting the organization of space. Place branding refers to the creation of value in space by reinforcing and representing the assets of the place in a cohesive manner, in an image and a narrative of the place itself.

Given this context various topics could be explored in this special issue:

  • planning and branding and participatory governance
  • planning and branding and sustainable development
  • planning/branding and the balance preservation/innovation
  • spatial planning as part of place branding
  • place branding as part of spatial planning?
  • planning/branding as core of a development strategy?
  • nature and environmental assets in planning/branding
  • cultural landscapes as meta- assets for planning/branding
  • planning/branding and policy integration
  • innovation and branding
  • design in planning/branding
  • power/knowledge in planning/branding
  • scales in governance/ multi- level governance
  • combining planning/branding for places with deep history
  • agriculture and new food cultures as drivers of planning/branding
  • planning/branding and the balance between collaboration and competition
  • models of branding or planning: caution with best practices

If you are interested in making a contribution to the special issue, please send an abstract of 300-500 words to the guest editors by Feb 15, 2018; for those invited to submit a full paper, please submit this to the guest editors by August 1, 2018; after an internal review and revision, the usual external review for the journal will take place.

Kristof Van Assche, Raoul Beunen and Eduardo Oliveira


Institutions and Urban Space

This paper develops an historical institutionalist approach to municipal governance, infrastructure, and property institutions, suggesting that the dense matrices of institutions in cities are co-evolutionary and path dependent. Property, infrastructure, and governance institutions play a central role in regulating capital investment in cities, structure urban change, protect and structure property’s meaning and value, and demonstrate enduringly different approaches between jurisdictions. The institutions in place when land is urbanized have profound impacts on the institutionalization and forms of urban property and the accompanying infrastructure created. The primary positive feedback that contributes to path dependence in cities flows from existing sets of property in any given jurisdiction. Cities from this perspective are path dependent landscapes of property that are differentiated primarily by the enduring imprint of the institutions that produce them.

Sorensen, A. (2017). Institutions and Urban Space: Land, Infrastructure, and Governance in the Production of Urban PropertyPlanning Theory & Practice, 1-18.

Community power and institutional dependence in the renewable energy sector

The speed and progress of transitions towards renewable energy systems varies greatly between European member states. Among others, these differences have been attributed to the emergence of grassroots initiatives (GIs) that develop radical ideas and sustainable practices. The goal of this paper is to understand the differences in the emergence of GIs for renewable energy in relation to the institutional characteristics of Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. We analyze the possibilities of GIs to emerge and act within three dimensions: the material-economic, the actor-institutional and discursive dimension. We conclude that conditional factors lie within the material-economic dimension in terms of the biophysical conditions, the structure of the economy, energy dependency and the energy market. Within the actor-institutional dimension, we conclude that the presence or absence of fossil fuel incumbents, such as regional utilities, strongly influence the possibilities of GIs. Within the discursive dimension, openness for alternative discourses proved to be enabling for GI-activities, as well as democratized knowledge production. In addition to these conditions of possibility, GIs can also act despite dominant institutions, albeit limited. Finally, GIs need a strong network with knowledge institutes, technology developers and political parties in order to achieve institutional change that enables GIs to flourish. Without institutional space, GIs remain subjected to the dominant power-relations, and cannot exert much influence upon the energy system.

Henk-Jan Kooij, Marieke Oteman, Sietske Veenman, Karl Sperling, Dick Magnusson, Jenny Palm, Frede Hvelplund (2017) Between grassroots and treetops: Community power and institutional dependence in the renewable energy sector in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. Energy Research & Social Science, 37: 52–64

Evolutionary Governance Theory enters the Canon of Planning Theory

‘From Habermas and Lefebvre to Rancière and Mouffe this handbook captures the zeitgeist of planning theory with contributions from some of the most innovative thinkers in their fields.’ Professor Phil Allmendinger

In a changing and often unpredictable globalized world, planning theory is core to understanding how planning and its practices both function and evolve. As illustrated in The Routledge Handbook of Planning Theory, planning and its many roles have changed profoundly over the recent decades; so have the theories, both critical and explanatory, about its practices, values and knowledges. The handbook presents key contemporary themes in planning theory through the views of some of the most innovative thinkers in planning.

The Routledge Handbook of Planning Theory includes a chapter on Evolutionary Governance Theory. The chapter analyses the presence, the origins and the potential of co- evolutionary perspectives in planning theory. It pays particular attention to Evolutionary Governance Theory, as a comprehensive perspective on co- evolution in spatial planning and governance. The co- evolutionary approach to planning presents a middle ground between (social) engineering approaches on the one hand and theories completely disqualifying planning and steering on the other. Both ends of the spectrum have often been criticized for respectively overestimating the steering possibilities of governments and the organizing capacities of markets. Planning theory embedded in governance theory can help to analyse and understand a particular governance context, to delineate the possibilities and limits of planning in that context, and to determine which planning efforts are most likely to have a positive impact. In a co-evolutionary perspective, context as such, and governance context in particular, are never fixed, never stable: all elements and structures are continuously influencing each other.

The co-evolutionary perspective as developed in EGT opens up planning theory for a series of relevant concepts from different disciplines, relevant for the analysis of current and potential forms of planning in a community, while conversely giving theories and practices of planning a firm place within governance. The chapter shows how a co-evolutionary perspective is a very useful lens for both analysis and change, for the development of new planning perspectives or for the deliberate circumvention of a current planning system.

Power/knowledge and natural resource management: imagining, creating and protecting the commons

This special issue of Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning draws the attention to ongoing concerns about the management of natural resources (NRM): their exploration, extraction, processing, and commodification is still happening in ways that are perceived to be socially unjust and ecologically unsustainable. The special issue seeks to highlight how the Foucaultian notion of power/knowledge remains underused and underdeveloped in the realm of environmental and resource governance. The contributors argue that any improvement in NRM to social justice or sustainability will have to pass through the knot of power/knowledge. Revealing the actual functioning and effects of current NRM opens potential for critical thinking, shifts power relations and questions the core assumptions of experts or economic outcomes.

Content of the special issue:


Power/Knowledge in Natural Resource Management

The will to knowledge: natural resource management and power/knowledge dynamics
Kristof Van Assche, Raoul Beunen & Martijn Duineveld

Partnerships for development in the extractive sector: protecting subterranean interests?
Javier Arellano-Yanguas & María del Pilar Bernal-Gómez

Partnerships for Development (PfD) is the antidote that extractive industries have used over the last decade to counteract the proliferation of conflicts with local communities. Normatively, the concept of ‘partnership’ positions companies as actors on an equal footing with others in their attempts to collaborate to achieve development outcomes. This article analyses how the PfD strategy has been crafted and implemented in the extractive sector and assess its potential to contribute significantly to local development. Using the Foucauldian framework on power/knowledge and genealogy, we explain how, in a relatively short time, the interaction between context, preexisting discourses, and actors’ interests shaped the PfD discourse and made it famous. The second part of the paper goes beyond the normative conceptualisation and analyses the implementation of PfD through the case studies of the Antamina copper mine in Peru and the Pacific Rubiales oil operation in Colombia. The companies use the PfD discourse to advance their interest vis-à-vis the different stakeholders, minimising the risk of conflicts and cultivating their reputation. These companies resort to the fragmentation of bargaining spaces and rely on the legitimacy provided by paid experts. The result is that PfD has limited capacity to promote local sustainable development.

Small-scale fisheries within maritime spatial planning: knowledge integration and power
Svein Jentoft

The coasts hold great potential for ‘Blue Growth’, and major industrial and infrastructural developments are already happening there. Such growth, however, comes with risks to marine ecosystems and coastal communities. Competition for space and resources intensifies, turning the coast into an area of social and political conflict, including contestation about knowledge. I argue that there is a need for institutional innovation that allows knowledge integration and conflict resolution to be more interactive and synergistic. The paper critically analyses discourses and practices of interactive governance and co-management while visiting Foucault’s power/knowledge concept for investigating the normativity and effects of participation discourses and practices. This is followed by a discussion of multiple governance paths and their different combinations of resources and forms of expert and local social and ecological knowledge so as to see how they can help resolve conflicts, and enhance governability within maritime spatial planning (MSP) in a way that also serves to create a level playing field for all stakeholders. A particular focus will be on the small-scale fisheries sector, which is the lest powerful stakeholder and the most vulnerable to external pressures. Will MSP help to empower or further marginalize small-scale fishers and fisheries communities?

Natural capital and the political economy of wetland governance in Alberta
Marian Weber, Naomi Krogman, Lee Foote & Rebecca Rooney

The legitimacy of wetland decisions depends on how science and values are integrated and reflected in wetland management decisions. Natural capital and ecosystem services (ES) have become integral to how we think about ecosystem management however there is no consensus on how these concepts should be applied in management. Through the example of Alberta’s wetland policy, we show how policies designed to mainstream natural capital and ES in decision-making are aligned with liberal governance arrangements that emerged in the nineteenth century. There is a governance gap between individual wetland decisions and collective ecological outcomes. The Alberta wetland policy highlights three challenges to embracing the natural capital metaphor in a liberal government context: lack of consensus on policy objectives; case by case enforcement of policy leading to continued wetland drainage; and minimal consequences for non-compliance. The combination of norms about what is fair in terms of government intervention in land use decisions and scientific uncertainty about wetland ecosystem function makes it difficult to achieve consensus on limits to wetland loss contributing to continued loss of wetland ecological function. The discussion highlights the necessity of renewed political discourse about freedom, power, and justice in relation to collective economic and ecological security.

Governing the water user: experiences from Mexico|
Edwin Rap & Philippus Wester

This article traces a policy shift that makes the ‘water user’ the main subject of water governance. From a Foucauldian perspective on governmentality these new subjectivities accompany neo-liberal governmental technologies to devolve autonomy from state institutions to an active user base, whilst retaining some ‘control at a distance’. The expectation is that individual subjects will incorporate control mechanisms and internalize norms and that this leads to new publicly auditable forms of self-regulation. The article questions the underlying assumption that policy necessarily accomplishes its strategic effects through governmentality. For this purpose, it draws on an ethnographic case study of how policy produced a new power/knowledge regime and how different societal actors and ‘user’ groups responded to that. The study specifically investigates the Mexican policy of irrigation management transfer during the 1990s, by which government transferred the public control over irrigation districts to locally organized water users’ associations (WUAs). The article argues that governmental technologies make and govern the ‘water user’ by discursively and materially constituting an organizational arrangement for user management (WUA), more than by directly acting on individuals’ self-regulated conduct. The analysis contributes to a broader reflection on the role of power/knowledge in natural resources management and decentralized resources governance.

Power/knowledge and natural resource management: Foucaultian foundations in the analysis of adaptive governance
Kristof Van Assche, Raoul Beunen , Martijn Duineveld & Monica Gruezmacher

In this paper, we present a conceptual framework extending Foucaultian insights on the relations between power and knowledge to link up with current insights into studies of natural resource management (NRM) and more broadly environmental studies. We classify discourses in NRM according to understandings of social–ecological systems and argue that grasping those larger contexts can push NRM in a different direction, forming a base for more informed and inclusive decision-making. We then reconstruct the importance of materiality, the physical world, for the functioning of NRM within social–ecological systems. The concept of livelihoods is added to our developing Foucaultian frame, as material/discursive entwinements which structure responses of many stakeholders in NRM. Finally, we present an expansion of Foucaultian NRM into adaptive governance thinking as a logical outcome of basic insights into power/knowledge, developed and contextualized in current NRM and its critical analyses.

Materiality in natural resource management: a systems theory view
Vladislav Valentinov

This short paper is a commentary on Van Assche et al.’s article [(2017). Power/knowledge and natural resource management: Foucaultian foundations in the analysis of adaptive governance. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, this issue]. A Luhmannian systems-theoretic perspective proposed in this commentary reaffirms the Foucaultian conceptualization of natural resource management as a site for the interaction of discourses constituting social reality through radical entwinements with materiality, with livelihoods being a key example of such entwinements. Several extensions of Duineveld et al.’s argument are proposed. First, the Luhmannian perspective stresses the problematic nature of such entwinements in view of the inherent system–environment adaptation problems. Second, the idea of livelihoods advocated by the authors is interpreted as the reflection of the sensitivity to the environment beyond the limits imposed by the systemic operational closure and complexity reduction. Third, it is argued that even though specific discursive constructions of materiality may underpin adaptive governance with respect to specific environmental segments, they cannot guarantee system–environment adaptation in any general sense, primarily in view of the unknowability of the environment and the incommensurability of discourses.

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