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Adapting institutions, governance and complexity Emily Boyd Workshop on Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Change Vienna, 21st – 22nd of February, 2011 the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research

Outline • • • •

Climate change: a „wicked‟ problem Institutions and the challenge of „fit‟ Added value of a resilience lens Resilience in practice – 1. Institutional response to extreme events – 2. Networked development institutions

• Lessons learned and limitations

A wicked problem Climate change is not just part of a suite of global environmental change problems, it also stands to exacerbate existing interlinked problems of ecological degradation, conflict over natural resources and social inequality The challenge of climate change is messy and not easy to solve with conventional methods of scientific inquiry (Funtowicz and Ravetz 1993)

Key features of climate change • Multiple and novel stresses • Rapid rate of change • Feedbacks (positive and negative) Only recently have climate models begun to move beyond depicting simple scenarios to assessing the risks associated with uncertainties and complexities associated with underlying assumptions.

Pushing the boundaries of the planet “Global leaders have to realize that we cannot negotiate with nature. We need to revise our own societal systems” - Johan RockstromÄLL BERGFORUM/TällbergForum2008/Explori ngplanetaryboundaries/tabid/487/Defaul t.aspx

Climate change as a driver for social change “Addressing climate change demands a paradigm shift on a scale akin to that required to end the Cold War. But we need a circuit-breaker to escape from the business-as-usual that currently dominates the political agenda�. -Mikhail Gorbachev, The Times 09.11.09

How do we revise our own societal systems? • How are institutions preparing to adapt or mitigate shocks of climate change? • To what extent are societies prepared to transform vs. merely respond to change? – To what extent can institutions effectively adapt their governance structures? – Are our choices limited by the existing monolithic paradigms? – How are institutions looking at the threat of climate change - as a threat to prosperity and growth or opportunity for growth? – and how is this view linked to our fundamental understanding of how ecological services underpin growth?

Institutional approaches to CC Agents



Climate change

World Bank


Structural Adjustment

Carbon trading, adaptation infrastructure


Human development

Capacity building, Human security

Adaptation and mitigation, technology transfer



Structural Adjustment, capacity building

Carbon trading, adaptation infrastructure


Human/alternativ e Anti development

Poverty eradication democratisation

Building adaptive capacity Access and entitlements

Local actors

Adapting institutions‌ ‌.concern the capacity of people from local groups and private actors, to the state, to international organisations, to deal with complexity, uncertainty and the interplay between gradual and rapid change.

The challenge of “fit”

• Trade off between robustness/efficient approaches to existing problems and the flexibility and redundancy required to meet new challenges

In need of a new lens? RESILIENCE THEORY • Derived from complex adaptive systems. Central concepts include: non-linearity, uncertainty, scale, and self-organization

• Social-ecological resilience extends theory to coupled human ecological systems - Gunderson and Holling 2002

• Changes and shocks in socialecological systems will result in vulnerability to some, who defines what is acceptable? - Nelson et al. 2007

Defining the concept Resilience refers to the ability of a system to absorb shocks, to avoid crossing a threshold into an alternate and possibly irreversible new state, and to regenerate after disturbance. - Resilience Alliance, 2009

Three critical features of resilience: persistence, adaptability and transformability - Walker et al. 2004, Folke, 2006

Focus on systems and actor dynamics • Resilience advocates a systems approach to complex problems (see also Walker et. al. 2006; Olsson et. al., 2006), • Theorists emphasize the complexity of social, ecological and geo-physical systems, and conceptualise them in terms of multiple interacting agents and relationships (Ramos-Martin, 2003). • System dynamics are characterised by interconnections, ecological thresholds, social-ecological relations and feedback loops, i.e. adaptive governance.

Key features of adaptive governance 1. 2. 3. 4.

Flexibility for uncertainty and change Importance of local contexts Multiscalar knowledge and stakeholders Social networks and learning mechanisms

1. Institutional responses to extreme events 1. Mumbai – complexity of institutional transformations in response to flooding (Boyd and Boykoff 2010) 2. Bangladesh – institutional learning key to implementing DRR to cyclones, flooding and drought across multiple timeframes (Sayce et al. 2008) 3. Mozambique – PROAGRI effective cross-scale practice to build adaptive capacity to drought (Osbahr et al. 2008, Geoforum)

Mozambique NGOs

• Community led reorganisation- formalise reciprocity and facilitate innovation • Density of cross-scale interactions • Reinforced choice, security and flexibility • Created risk insurance credit options • Empowered youth/land rights • Knowledge sharing/learning (Osbahr et al.2008; 2010)

Chief of Administrative Post Chalala

District Government Manjacaze

Informs chief Meeting 1 x week

Ministry of Agriculture Manjacaze Extension Technicians

(Traditional Leader)

Traditional Committee

Village reps

Village Presidents

8 community regions Nwadjahane

Village meeting 1 x month New skills and support

Formal agricultural groups INAS



Feedback to field officers /support and skills

2. Networked development institutions ‘Some programmes deal better with uncertainty and plan well for the unexpected. This is the case in those programmes with good leadership, a culture of flexibility and with experience of disaster risk reduction’ (JM, Oxfam, 10.03.09).

Future challenges • Buffering – build adaptive capacity to allow for backup and capacity to translate signals (specified resilience) • Feedbacks –create channels that allow for ideas from international to local and back on the science of ecology or climate change evaluation and re-evaluation between local knowledge and models • Self organisation –enable flexible/transparent networks that can evaluate and absorb new ideas and prepare for unknown unknowns (i.e. generalised resilience)

Thank you!

Adaptive institutions, governance, complexity & resilience  

Adaptive institutions, governance, complexity & resilience

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