In recent decades, adaptive governance has been advocated for meeting the challenges of unpredictable and uncertain dynamics of Social-ecological Systems (SES) (Folke, 2006; Huitema et al., 2009). Scholars ascribe a multitude of virtues to adaptive governance, such as, for example, the preparedness of populations for disturbances associated with climate change (Pahl-Wostl, 2006).
Adaptive governance stands for a set of meta-principles of governance which contribute to making societies less vulnerable to various shocks. What adaptive governance should look like has been discussed at length in the literature on SES (e.g. Huitema et al., 2009; Ostrom, 2010; Pahl-Wostl, 2008). However, little is known about how such adaptive governance emerges and how we need to think about purposeful institutional change in its regard. In this chapter, we want to specifically address these two issues. Hereby we argue that work on adaptive governance should to a greater extent focus on the role of agency in the emergence of adaptive governance in order to derive appropriate ways to bring the institutional dimensions of adaptive governance about. We develop this argument about deeper understanding of agency by discussing the emergence and functioning of polycentric governance, which is commonly seen as an essential part of adaptive governance. To read the chapter — you can download it here.