International Institute for Innovation in Governance



Environmental governance theories: a review

This article synthesizes and compares environmental governance theories. For each theory we outline its main tenets, claims, origin, and supporting literature. We then group the theories into focused versus combinatory frameworks for comparison. The analysis resonates with many types of ecosystems; however, to make it more tangible, we focus on coastal systems. First, we characterize coastal governance challenges and then later link salient research questions arising from these challenges to the theories that may be useful in answering them. Our discussion emphasizes the usefulness of having a diverse theoretical toolbox, and we argue that if governance analysts are more broadly informed about the theories available, they may more easily engage in open-minded interdisciplinary collaboration. The eight theories examined are the following: polycentricity, network governance, multilevel governance, collective action, governmentality (power / knowledge), adaptive governance, interactive governance theory (IGT), and evolutionary governance theory (EGT). Polycentricity and network governance both help examine the links or connections in governance processes. Polycentricity emphasizes structural configurations at a broader level, and network governance highlights agency and information flow within and between individuals or organizations. Collective action theory is helpful for examining community level governance, and helps analyze variables hindering or enabling self-organization and shared resource outcomes. In contrast, multilevel governance helps understand governance integration processes between localities, regions, and states across administrative, policy, or legal dimensions. Governmentality is helpful for understanding the role of discourse, power, knowledge, and narratives in governance, such as who creates them and who becomes governed by them with what effect. Adaptive governance helps analyze the links between context, change, and resilience. IGT helps examine the interdependencies between the systems being governed and the governing systems. EGT is helpful for unpacking how coevolutionary processes shape governance and the options for change.

Partelow, S., A. Schlüter, D. Armitage, M. Bavinck, K. Carlisle, R. Gruby, A.-K. Hornidge, M. Le Tissier, J. Pittman, A. M. Song, L. P. Sousa, N. Văidianu, and K. Van Assche. 2020. Environmental governance theories: a review and application to coastal systems. Ecology and Society 25(4):19.

Mitigating boom & bust cycles: the roles of land policy and planning

A special issue of Land Use Policy, edited by Kristof Van Assche, Monica Gruezmacher, Leith Deacon

The focus of this special issue is on the struggle by communities in many parts of the world to manage radical ups and downs. The cycles of ‘boom and bust’ are diverse, transcending the often referenced dependency on a dominant resource, and many different responses can be observed.

The special issue presents a global collection of experts who have diverse experiences with, and perspectives on boom and bust. The articles emphasize land use tools (e.g. policies and plans) as means to mitigate the consequences of boom and bust on impacted stakeholders, communities, and regions. The articles present a wide variety of responses to boom and bust, some coordinated into strategy, others less so. In some cases, cycles are anticipated, in others, a community aims at reinvention after a dramatic downturn. 

Taming the boom and the bust? Land use tools for mitigating ups and downs in communities
Kristof Van Assche, Monica Gruezmacher, Leith Deacon

Land use tools for tempering boom and bust: Strategy and capacity building in governance
Kristof Van Assche, Monica Gruezmacher, Leith Deacon

Long run agricultural land expansion, booms and busts
Edward B. Barbier

Dealing with the bust in Vorkuta, Russia
Nikolay Shiklomanov, Dmitry Streletskiy, Luis Suter, Robert Orttung, Nadezhda Zamyatina

Mining towns and urban sprawl in South Africa
Lochner Marais, Stuart Denoon-Stevens, Jan Cloete

The social impact management plan as a tool for local planning: Case study: Mining in Northern Finland
Leena Suopajärvi, Anna Kantola

Evolutionary governance in mining: Boom and bust in peripheral communities in Sweden
Simon Haikola, Jonas Anshelm

Long distance commuting: A tool to mitigate the impacts of the resources industries boom and bust cycle?
Fiona Haslam McKenzie

Regional economic transformation: Changing land and resource access on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island
Etienne Nel, Sean Connelly

Planning strategies for dealing with population decline: Experiences from the Netherlands
Raoul Beunen, Marlies Meijer, Jasper de Vries

Problem-Based solutions from the classroom to the Community: Transformative approaches to mitigate the impacts of boom-and-bust in declining urban communities
Jesus J. Lara

Urban expansion, the politics of land, and occupation as infrastructure in Kinshasa
Filip De Boeck

Governance and the coastal condition: Towards new modes of observation, adaptation and integration

The conceptual framework of evolutionary governance theory (EGT) is deployed and extended to rethink the idea of coastal governance and the possibilities of a coastal governance better adapted to challenges of climate change and intensified use of both land and sea. ‘The coastal condition’ is analyzed as a situation where particular modes of observation and coordination were possible and necessary, and those observations (and derived calculations of risk and opportunity) are valuable for the governance of both land and an argument is constructed for a separate arena for coastal governance, without erasing the internal logic of pre-existing governance for land and sea. This entails that coastal governance is destined to be a place of (productive) conflict, as much as of policy integration. Policy integration will be more difficult and more important in coastal governance, as this is an arena where the effects of many land based activities and activities at sea become visible and entangled. Policy integration in coastal governance does however require deep knowledge of the governance path and existing forms of integration there (e.g. in planning), and it exists in an uneasy tension with the requirements of adaptive governance. This tension further contributes to the complexity and complex-prone character of coastal governance. Neither complexity nor conflict can be avoided, and coastal governance as an image of balanced decision- making is (positively) presented as a productive fiction.

Van Assche, K., Hornidge, A. K., Schlüter, A., & Vaidianu, N. (2019). Governance and the coastal condition: Towards new modes of observation, adaptation and integrationMarine Policy.


New book: Theory and applications

EGTIIThis new book in the series on Evolutionary Governance Theory (EGT) presents empirical studies and theoretical reflections on the most important concepts and their interrelations. Through this book we learn how communities understand themselves and their environment. Authors from different disciplines develop the EGT framework further and apply it to a wide range of governance issues covering topics such as welfare state governance, networks of power, climate change, water governance, natural resource management etc. The contributors reflect on the possibilities and limitations of steering, intervention, management and development in a world continuously in flux.

The book bridges the gap between more fundamental and philosophical accounts of the social sciences and applied studies, offering theoretical advancement as well as practical recommendations.

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