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International Institute for Innovation in Governance

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institutions

Mapping institutional work

This paper investigates the potential of mapping institutional work in communities as a method for both analyzing and formulating local development strategy. Twelve Canadian case communities experiencing dramatic ups and downs (‘boom and bust towns’) serve as the empirical base. Analytically, it finds that institutional work for strategy takes on very diverse forms, some of them not described in the literature, and further identify a special class of institutional work associated with leadership. Normatively, it demonstrates that mapping institutional work can be a structured process of self-reflection underpinning strategy. For the Canadian case study, it finds that lack of local autonomy is often a stumbling block for strategy. More broadly, the paper conclude that mapping institutional work for strategy works best when governance evolutions are grasped as context, and when strategy itself is understood in its complex, multifaceted nature: a narrative, a way of linking institutions, and an institution in itself.

Van Assche, K., Gruezmacher, M., & Deacon, L. (2018). Mapping institutional work as a method for local strategy; learning from boom/bust dynamics in the Canadian west. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 1-21.

The paper is part of a special issue that explores the concept of institutional work in the context of environmental governance. It aims to develop a better insights in the actions that underly plannend and unplanned changes in evolving governance contexts.

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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.

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

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