Lecture for Module 10, Adaptive Governance
1. SES – the context of bridging organisations
2. Individuals or organisations?
3. Limitations of Adaptive Governance and
collaboration within bridging organisations
4. Do we study systems or agents with
5. Resilience and political ecology
A Social-Ecological System (Hahn et al. 2006 HumEcol)
The capacity to generate valuable ecosystem services depends on ecosystem
processes as well as the organizational and institutional capacity to
govern people, manage ecosystems and handling surprises.
legal and financial
Social-ecological systems (SES)
Three core features:
1. society and nature represent truly interdependent social-
ecological systems (SES);
2. social-ecological systems are complex adaptive systems;
3. cross scale and dynamic interactions represent new
challenges for governance and management in relation to
interdependent SES and ecosystem services.
These three core features provide a broad research direction,
and will continue to serve as a significant attractor that allows
for emergence of diverse approaches from different
disciplines within a common framing. The content and
direction of the framing is a central identity of the SRC that
distinguishes SRC research from multidisciplinary
collaborations in sustainability science.
(Stockholm Resilience Centre, Action Plan 2010-2013)
Search on Scopus for ”adaptive governance” AND ecosystems (2011)
1 Adaptive governance of social-ecological systems
Folke, C., Hahn, T., Olsson, P., Norberg, J. 2005
Annual Review of Environment and Resources 30, pp. 441-473 300
2 Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social-ecological systems analyses
Folke, C. 2006
Global Environmental Change 16 (3), pp. 253-267 228
3 Social-ecological transformation for ecosystem management: The development of adaptive co-management of a wetland
landscape in southern Sweden
Olsson, P., Folke, C., Hahn, T. 2004
Ecology and Society 9 (4) 91
4 Shooting the rapids: Navigating transitions to adaptive governance of social-ecological systems
Olsson, P., Gunderson, L.H., Carpenter, S.R., Ryan, P., Lebel, L., Folke, C., Holling, C.S. 2006
Ecology and Society 11 (1), art. no. 18 76
5 Scenarios for ecosystem services: An overview
Carpenter, S.R., Bennett, E.M., Peterson, G.D. 2006
Ecology and Society 11 (1), art. no. 29 31
6 Enhancing the fit through adaptive co-management: Creating and maintaining bridging functions for matching scales in the
Kristianstads Vattenrike Biosphere Reserve, Sweden
Olsson, P., Folke, C., Galaz, V., Hahn, T., Schultz, L. 2007
Ecology and Society 12 (1), art. no. 28 28
The context of bridging organisations
• Adaptive governance of coupled social and ecological systems is
about connecting actors and organisations at multiple organizational
levels to enable an ecosystem-based management. These actors
are connected in social networks and provide leadership, trust,
vision, meaning, and they help transform management
organizations toward a learning environment (Folke et al. 2005).
• Organizations that link diverse actors or groups through some form
of strategic bridging process are called “bridging organizations
(Crona & Parker 2012).
• As an integral part of adaptive ecosystem governance, bridging
organizations provide social incentives to individuals within
stakeholder groups by rewarding and creating space for
collaboration, value formation, and innovation (Hahn et al. 2006).
• Accomplishments by informal networking can be institutionalized in
land-use plans and other regulations
The context of bridging organisations
• Bridging organizations, or individuals performing these functions, are
crucial for successful governance, i.e. collaboration between agencies
and NGOs (Berkes 2009).
• Adaptive governance coordinates different types of networks. The
governance network typically includes national NGOs and civil
servants who can provide and mobilise institutional, financial and
political support as well as external knowledge. Local steward
networks typically include landowners and local NGOs and civil
servants concerned with the actual management (Schultz et al.
2007; Hahn 2011).
• The challenges of “legitimacy” and “accountability” are often treated
as similar in international governance while in local governance they
are obviously different. Informal self-organized governance networks
may increase legitimacy if a variety of stakeholders are involved, but
at the same time accountability becomes blurred when decisions are
• Question: is there a risk that self-organized governance networks
“take over” responsibility from the representative democracy?
Fig. 1. The governance network of Kristianstads Vattenrike Biosphere Reserve. The
nodes are agencies/organizations, except in five cases (noted by names) in which
the nodes could be described as individuals who created their own mandates within
their respective organizations. (Hahn 2011, E&S)
Individuals or organisations?
Kristianstad Wetlands – UNESCO
Man and Biosphere Reserve Sept 2005
•Performing essential functions in
crafting effective responses to
change in social-ecological
•Linking groups, networks and
organizations across levels,
creating the right links, at the
right time, around the right
•Accessing and combining
multiple sources of knowledge
•Enhancing vertical and
horizontal integration and social
Folke et al. 2005, Hahn et al. 2006, Olsson et al. 2007
Focus on understanding changes
• Role of social learning to overcome the tyranny of fixed
preferences and vested interests (“learning leadership”)
Besides this focus on leadership and learning, the researcher
also needs to analyse power:
• Any stakeholder benefitting from the status quo (of sub-
optimal ecosystem management) and powerful enough to
impede social learning processes?
• Is collaboration viable, is it possible to attract any key person
within this stakeholder group to a new vision? If not, then
Adaptive co-management (ACM) or Adaptive Governance of
SES (AGSES) are not suitable frameworks for analysis.
Adaptive Governance of Social-
Ecological Systems (AGSES)
“adaptive governance emphasises flexibility, experimentation, and
learning as strategies for anticipating and dealing with unintended
consequences. Such governance approaches are thus deemed
appropriate to situations of rapid change and high uncertainty.
Nevertheless, they tend to assume that there are shared goals
around what system properties should remain resilient, or that
consensus can be built through the governance process.”
(Leach, M, 2008, p 1791.)
• This critique misses the point: AGSES case studies don’t
assume but document HOW shared goals and (sufficient)
consensus have been accomplished.
• Still, Leach has a point: AGSES is not a good (normative or
analytical) framework for all case studies. Instead: Trade-off
analysis and Multicriteria analysis focusing more on power as
obstacles to change (e.g. Kate Brown 2001 Ecol. Econ.
“Can you address power issues
using systems ecology?”
• No! Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) and other systems
approaches enable analysis of anticipated vulnerability
related to thresholds, tipping points, and regime shifts.
Purpose = understand ecological feedbacks.
• However, adaptations are crafted by people with intentions
who organise and exert their power in conflict with other
interests. Understanding actual adaptations and adaptive
capacity means acknowledging that power issues are part of
the dynamics in a SES. (Nykvist & Hahn forthcoming)
Stakeholders have intentions
• In the resilience theory literature, 30% of the
papers on ”adaptability” see people as agents with
intentions, strategies, and hence allow for power
analysis. 50% see people as part of ”social
systems” interacting with ecosystems, focus on
understanding ecological + system feedbacks.
• The “problem” with systems ecology is not the use
of self-organization in relation to scales or levels,
e.g. that responses can emerge through leadership
and stakeholder interaction at a local level without
being forced by external factors. The problem is
when such interaction is regarded as autonomous.
Resilience and political ecology
• Some of the research on resilience of SES is
compatible to Political ecology in the sense that
power issues are (or can be) addressed.
• The use of political ecology in resilience research is
increasing as the number of social scientists in this
field is growing.
• However, the starting point in resilience research is
understanding how to govern and manage
ecosystem services sustainably. Then power issues
are only instrumental, not the analytical focus.
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