International Institute for Innovation in Governance



Advancing Post-Structural Institutionalism: Discourses, Subjects, Power Asymmetries, and Institutional Change

Colin Hay’s and Vivien Schmidt’s responses to my previous critical engagement with their respective versions of neo-institutionalism raise the issue of how scholars may account for the ideational power of political processes and how ideas may generate both stability and change. Even though Hay, Schmidt, and I share a common philosophical ground in many respects, we nevertheless diverge in our views about how to account for ideational power and for actors’ ability to navigate a social reality that is saturated with structures and meaning. There continues to be a need for an analytical framework that incorporates discourse and a constitutive logic based upon the power in ideas. Post-structural institutionalism (PSI) analyzes discourse as knowledge claims by means of the concept of a constitutive causality, analytically identified in respect to institutions, such that the substantive content of ideas/discourse provides ideational power and generates immanent change.

Larsson, O. (2019). Advancing Post-Structural Institutionalism: Discourses, Subjects, Power Asymmetries, and Institutional ChangeCritical Review, 1-22.


Power/knowledge and natural resource management: Foucaultian foundations in the analysis of adaptive governance

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. Download: here

Partnerships for development in the extractive sector

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.

This paper is part of a forthcoming special issue in the Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning on power/knowledge in natural resource management

Arellano-Yanguas J. & del Pilar Bernal-Gómez, M. (2017) Partnerships for development in the extractive sector: protecting subterranean interests? Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning.

A typology of material events

Many of contemporary issues, like urban development, climate change, biodiversity conservation, or food security, demand for interdisciplinary approaches that bring together scientist with different ideas about reality and the nature of knowledge. Whereas some focus on the material reality of our world, other focus on the social structures through which humans construct an understanding of that world. This paper presents a framework for going beyond the traditional dichotomy between discourse and materiality. Drawing on the work of one of the most influential sociologists, Niklas Luhmann, it explores the different ways in which materiality can relate to discursive dynamics. Five different events are distinguished: silent, whispering, vigorous, fading and deadly events. These events constitute the spectrum in which changes in the environment affect communication and action. This typology helps to better understand the diversity of societal responses to an ever changing environment.

Duineveld, M., Van Assche, K., & Beunen, R. (2017). Re-conceptualising political landscapes after the material turn: a typology of material events. Landscape Research, 1-10.

The Tragedy of the Grabbed Commons

Rural populations around the world rely on small-scale farming and other uses of land and natural resources, which are often governed by customary, traditional, and indigenous systems of common property. In recent years, large-scale land acquisitions have drastically expanded; it is unclear whether the commons are a preferential target of these acquisitions. Here we argue that the contemporary global “land rush” could be happening at the expense of common-property systems around the world. While there is evidence that common-property systems have developed traditional institutions of resource governance that make them robust with respect to endogenous forces (e.g., uses by community members), it is less clear how vulnerable these arrangements are to exogenous drivers of globalization and expansion of transnational land investments. In common-property systems, farmers and local users may be unable to defend their customary rights and successfully compete with external actors. We define the notion of “commons grabbing” and report on an exploratory study that applied meta-analytical methods, drawing from the recent literature on large-scale land acquisitions and land grabbing. Informed by political economy and political ecology approaches, we coded selected cases on the basis of acquisition mechanisms, claims and property rights, changes in production system, and coercive dynamics, and explored the interactions between the different variables using association tests and qualitative comparative analysis. We found that the majority of the cases included in this analysis (44 of 56) could be examples of commons grabbing.

Dell’Angelo, J., D’Odorico, P., Rulli, M. C., & Marchand, P. (2016). The Tragedy of the Grabbed Commons: Coercion and Dispossession in the Global Land Rush. World Development.

The Politics of Land Use in the Korup National Park

Recently, the call to combine land change science (LCS) and political ecology (PE) in the study of human-environment interactions has been widely discussed by scientists from both subfields of geography. In this paper, we use a hybrid ecology framework to examine the effects of conservation policies on the environment and the livelihood of the people of the Korup National Park (KNP). Using techniques in both PE and LCS, our results show that conservation policies, politics, and population are the primary drivers of environmental change in the KNP. We conclude by arguing that a deeper understanding can be garnered by combining LCS and PE approaches to analyze and contribute to the people and parks debate.

Siewe Siewe, J. M. Vadjunec1 and Beth Caniglia (2017) The Politics of Land Use in the Korup National Park. Land 2017, 6(1), 7

Analysing institutional change in environmental governance: exploring the concept of ‘institutional work’

Understanding how institutions change is critical to improving environmental governance at all scales. In this paper we explore the concept of ‘institutional work’ within broader theorising about institutional change and evolving governance. Institutional work focuses on the role of actors in creating, maintaining, or disrupting institutional frameworks (Lawrence et al., 2009. It is a concept that has been proposed in the organisational studies literature, and offers promising opportunities for pushing forward thinking on institutional change, which remains one of the most pertinent but challenging topics for strengthening environmental governance in a complex and rapidly changing world. In this paper, we rethink and redefine institutional work to make it fit for use in the context of multi-actor, multi-level environmental governance. We survey key theories about institutional change in the literature, and argue that institutional work should have a central place within this theorising. Drawing on these insights, we argue that institutional work should involve both the actions taken by actors, as well as the resulting effects. We identify a critical need for attention to the multi-actor nature of institutional work in environmental governance, including its fundamentally political character, the cumulative effects of action taken by multiple actors, and communicative and discursive dimensions. More attention also needs to be given to the temporal dimensions of institutional work such as the recurring and sequential order of actions. Overall, the concept of institutional work opens up new possibilities for tackling the longstanding challenge of institutional change in environmental governance.

The paper is published in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management

Beunen, R. & Patterson, J.J.  (2017) Institutional Change in Environmental Governance: Exploring the Concept of ‘Institutional Work’. Journal of  Environmental Planning and Management. Online first: DOI:10.1080/09640568.2016.1257423

The role of institutional and stakeholder networks in shaping social enterprise ecosystems

This paper draws upon prior research that built a theoretical framework for the emergence of social enterprise ecosystems based upon biological evolutionary theory. It seeks to extend this previous research by practically applying the theory to the development of stakeholder and institutional networks across Europe. Data from in-depth semi-structured interviews and focus groups were analysed using Constant Comparison Method. Data were generated from discussions with 258 key stakeholders in 10 countries across Europe, exploring the historical, political, social, legal and economic factors that influence the patterns of social enterprise seen in each country. The results identify the emergence of four social enterprise ecosystem types (Statist-macro; Statist-micro; Private-macro; Private-micro). These are used to explain the differences found in each of the 10 country’s social enterprise ecosystems. The results are discussed in relation to evolutionary theory in social entrepreneurship and how ‘genetic’ and ‘epigenetic’ factors lead to the divergence of social enterprise ecosystems, and the impact that this has on the stakeholders and institutions that are present within.

Hazenberg, R., Bajwa-Patel, M., Mazzei, M., Roy, M.J. and Baglioni, S. (2016) The Role of Institutional and Stakeholder Networks in Shaping Social Enterprise Ecosystems in Europe. Social Enterprise Journal 12 (3)

Symposium on learning and innovation in resilient systems

Resilience has become a fashionable buzzword in recent years. The term is frequently found in many different discourses ranging from nature conservation (WWF’s adaptation and resilience program), sports psychology (teaching athletes about resilience), to development work (resilience in rural areas). It appears that everything (cities, companies, software) and everybody (managers, children, teachers) can and should be resilient. With our current knowledge of future challenges like climate change, globalisation and food security resilience can offer a way to develop strategies to cope with uncertainties.

The Dutch Open University organises a 2-days symposium on learning and innovations in resilient systems, on 23rd and 24th March 2017, in Heerlen, the Netherlands. The symposium offers an unique opportunity to discuss these topics, in an interdisciplinary environment. Focusing on (i) information and computer systems, (ii) organizational and management systems, and (iii) environmental systems.

We invite scientists from all disciplines to debate how and to what extent innovations and learning processes in various systems contribute to the transition towards (more) resilient systems, be it individuals, organisations, et cetera. We welcome theoretical papers, methodological papers, and empirical studies or combinations thereof; and invite abstracts that discuss and examine innovations and learning for resilience from various angles.

We are delighted that we can announce the following keynote speakers that will contribute to the symposium:

  • Prof. Dr. Ir. Carl Folke, Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • Prof. Dr. Ir. Petra de Weerd-Nederhof, University of Twente
  • Prof. Dr. Ir. Yasmin Merali, University of Hull
  • Prof. Dr. Ir. Bart Jacobs, Radboud University Nijmegen

Practicalities and submission deadlines:

Interested participants/authors are encouraged to submit 250 word abstracts by 15th October 2016 as a first step towards full paper development. Please send your abstract to

Authors will be notified of acceptance/rejection by 15th December 2016; contributing authors are expected to submit a full first draft of their paper by 1st February 2017.

Finally, more information can be found on our website:

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