Professor Andreas Thiel from Kassel University and I published an essay in the “Handbook of Nature” this month. Our essay is titled: “Purposeful Institutional Change for Adaptive Governance of Natural Resources: How to Cater for Context and Agency?” It is about the issue of instituting rules for adaptive governance, and whether such design is possible. Drawing on the example of China and EU we claim that these attempts are necessary, but will not be deterministic in how such designs unfold and influence adaptive governance. Here is an extract from our introduction:
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.