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Uncovering the political dimension of social-ecological systems: Contributions from policy process frameworks
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6255-2335
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7780-1039
Number of Authors: 22016 (English)In: Global Environmental Change, ISSN 0959-3780, E-ISSN 1872-9495, Vol. 40, p. 13-25Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Research on the governance of social-ecological systems often emphasizes the need for self-organized, flexible and adaptive arrangements to deal with uncertainty, abrupt change and surprises that are characteristic of social-ecological systems. However, adaptive governance as well as transitions toward alternative forms of governance are embedded in politics and it is often the political processes that determine change and stability in governance systems and policy. This paper analyses five established theoretical frameworks of the policy process originating in political science and public policy research with respect to their potential to enhance understanding of governance and complex policy dynamics in social-ecological systems. The frameworks are found to be divergent in their conceptualization of policy change (focusing on incremental or large-scale, major changes), highlighting different aspects of bounded rationality in their model of individual behavior and focusing their attention on different aspects of the policy process (role of information, attention, beliefs, institutional structure, particular actors, etc.). We discuss the application of these frameworks and their potential contribution, to unravelling the political dimension in adaptive governance and transformations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 40, p. 13-25
Keywords [en]
Policy process, Framework, Policy change, Social-ecological system, Governance
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-135040DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.06.002ISI: 000383297200002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-135040DiVA, id: diva2:1044303
Available from: 2016-11-02 Created: 2016-10-31 Last updated: 2018-04-11Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Understanding interest politics in social-ecological systems: Mechanisms behind emergent policy responses to environmental change
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Understanding interest politics in social-ecological systems: Mechanisms behind emergent policy responses to environmental change
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Environmental policymaking is embedded in social-ecological systems (SES) that continuously evolve and change, often in unexpected and non-linear ways. Such challenges call for responsive policymaking that adjusts policy when new information and knowledge about social-ecological change is available. However, policy adaptation can be difficult as policies often emerge as an outcome of multiple interactions between state and non-state actors that pursue their different interests, aim to achieve their individual and shared goals and make sense of information and knowledge. Complexities inherent in SES can be better captured through diverse types of information and knowledge, while adaptation to social-ecological change can occur through innovation and learning. Research has emphasized the contribution of non-state actors or interest groups in realizing such processes in policymaking. However, interest group participation can also be a source of conflict or result in dominance of powerful interests and resistance to learning and policy change. This thesis aims to shed light on the dynamics of the policy process in social-ecological systems to better understand some of the mechanisms that drive its responsiveness to social-ecological change. It focuses on interest groups and their properties as well as the social and ecological conditions of their participation in the policy process to investigate how responsive and sustainable policies can emerge out of the “messy” political struggle. The thesis first explores the case of 2013 EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform to trace the mechanism of interest group influence and identify their contribution to the flow of information from SES. Further it applies the empirical mechanism in an agent-based model to: 1) test the scope conditions of the mechanism; 2) extend it to include interest group responses to change in the managed SES. Paper I of the thesis analyses theoretical frameworks of the policy process originating in public policy research to assess their suitability for capturing political complexity in SES governance research. Paper II looks at the CFP reform case, using process tracing to understand how interest groups have been able to achieve influence on the reform.  Paper III further investigates the case to find the role of interest groups in shaping information flows within the policy process. Paper IV uses empirical findings in Papers II and III, along with frameworks analyzed in Paper I to develop an agent-based model that explores how individual characteristics of political actors in interaction with political conditions and issue characteristics influence the responsiveness of the policy process and result in sustainable outcomes. I find that through interest group participation policies can better respond to change in the managed SES; however structural factors (such as presence of institutional ‘window of opportunity’, issue salience and beliefs of policymakers) can make the response adverse or weaken it. Interest groups also engage in transmitting and interpreting diverse information about policy impacts, social and ecological context of the issue and use framing to convey information that better supports their proposals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 2018
Keywords
Social-ecological system, policy process, interest group, agent-based modelling, process tracing, adaptive governance
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-155110 (URN)978-91-7797-270-9 (ISBN)978-91-7797-271-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-05-29, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 09:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2018-05-04 Created: 2018-04-11 Last updated: 2018-04-27Bibliographically approved

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