“Give me a place to stand on and I will move the earth”
Governance is a key-concept in the pathway to a sustainable future of our planet. All major issues, whether we are talking about sustainable urban development, food security, the conservation of biodiversity, rural development or dealing with the effects of climate change, require interventions that will dramatically change the way in which we organise our societies. Dealing with these challenges requires use to rethink the ways in which societies and environments are governed. Over the years it has become clear that this is not an easy challenge. Many attempts for improvement have not just failed, but often brought along a wide range of unintended negative effects.
It is a challenge that urges us to go beyond what has worked in the past. We need to develop, test and evaluate new governance arrangements, new policies, new institutions, new organisations, new forms of cooperation and learning, new knowledge etcetera.
The International Institute for Innovation in Governance wants to connects researchers all over the world. We organize workshops, research seminars and develop online learning environment and make scientific research available to all those that are interested via open-access publications.
The work from the institute starts from the assumption that successful governance reforms and the introduction of new policy instruments should start with obtaining a better understanding of how our societies function, how they are governed and which possibilities there are for innovation and change. The complexity and ambiguity of many contemporary societal challenges, require us to rethink governance and to revise the ways in which we organize our society in a fundamental way.
Effective and legitimate governance depends on a thorough understanding of governance; from understanding its multiple forms, ranging from global cooperation to the particularities of local practices and the multitude of linkages between them. This requires us to answer questions like: What is governance? How can governance be conceptualized and understood? And what kind of framework is most useful in unraveling the complexity and dynamics that characterize governance?
Governance is dynamic. Planned interventions can set in motion a wide range of changes, changes which conversely might influence the outcomes of these intervention and even the organisations who introduced them. In this sense governance could be understood as a web in which every element is in various ways connected to many other elements. Changing one element, or even the attempt to change it, can set everything in motion.
This picture can be complicated further if we take into account that interventions are not just coming from one side, but from many. This polycentric nature of governance implies that many people and organizations are simultaneously trying to change their environment and the way this environment is governed. Sometimes these attempts are coordinated; very often they are not. Either way none of these attempts could be understood in isolation. Rather their effect should be analysed as being constituted in a web of interventions and in the interplay between all the different players that try to pursue certain goals.
Governance should be understood as an evolutionary process, or more precisely as a complex web of interwoven evolutionary processes. From such evolutionary perspective it is easy to understand why changing governance can be so difficult, and more particularly why the more fundamental changes that are needed to address contemporary challenges are as hard to design as to implement. The difficulties relate to the presence of powerful discourses that tend to reproduce themselves over and over again and to various other path-dependencies that make it difficult to rethink and revise the ways in which we understand and organize our societies. At the same time we see that governance is continuously evolving. Change does occur; and policies, plans and laws do sort effects. One of the important scientific challenges lies in a better understanding of these processes of change. We need a deeper insights in the dynamics and mechanisms that influence the evolution of governance and the possibilities and limitations for creating, planning and directing change. Changing governance first and foremost requires a thorough understanding of governance.
Understanding governance requires a theoretical approach that addresses the complex and dynamic character of governance. Evolutionary Governance Theory (EGT) is a novel perspective on the way markets, laws and societies evolve together. It can be of use to anyone interested in development, markets, public sector reform, public administration, politics and law. EGT delineates in an entirely new manner the spaces open for governance experiments. It builds on a broad range of theoretical sources that includes institutional and development economics, social systems theory, post-structuralism, actor- network theories, planning theory and legal studies, makes new linkages between these different theories possible and it offers novel ways of conceptualizing governance and its elements.
This website is a platform for these novel approaches to governance. It provides an overview of concepts, approaches and it provides a growing overview of books and articles in which empirical studies and theoretical reflections are presented.
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