:: New UPGro Paper :: Understanding process, power, and meaning in adaptive governance

Two new social science papers from Hidden Crisis

Key Points from :

Understanding process, power, and meaning in adaptive governance: a critical institutional reading.

  • “Adaptive governance” has a number of core principles:
    • The need to live with change and uncertainty
    • To foster adaptive capacity (i.e. being able to anticipate and respond to change and uncertainty)
    • To understand human and natural systems as interconnected
    • To consider resilience as the central desirable attribute, e
  • One of two case studies focuses on a non-UPGro project, called SWAUM (2011-2016), in the Great Ruaha River catchment in Tanzania (which, by coincidence is one of the GroFutures observatories)
    • Concerns about the catchment arose in the 1990s and a number of donor-funded projects tried to improve the natural/water resource management of the catchment.
    • An evaluation of the SWAUM project had strengthened coordination both vertically and horizontally through hierarchies at different political levels.
    • Limited improvements in land management had taken place but despite the greater awareness, debate and agreement, local people continued to cultivate river banks and river beds to the detriment of the river flows – and despite a deliberate attempt to include marginalised people, they did not get significant representation from pastoralists. This may be in part due to a dominant narrative from other, more powerful, stakeholders that they are to blame for resource depletion.
  • Cleaver and Whaley conclude that the following three elements are inextricably bound together:
    • Process: institutions that are designed for adaptive governance (such as knowledge sharing platforms, resource management arrangements) may only work and endure where they serve other socially valued processes and are embedded in accepted forms of behaviour and practices.
    • Power: allocation or resources or dominance of particular narratives about cause-and-effect is driven by visible, hidden and invisible uses of power by individuals, social groups and organisations. This is often why designed interventions for adaptive governance often deliver less than expected.
    • Meaning: There different worldviews on cause and effect in the human and natural worlds and involve multiple processes that will likely affect adaptive governance arrangements.