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For boom/bust towns, it could offer the prospect of stabilization, as property owners and legal land users have more incentives to stay and not to run away, and transient newcomers cannot so easily settle and claim. Formal institutions can slow down development, but could weed out unwanted sorts of settlers. Formalization will slow down boom periods, but will also slow bust periods, and there is more reason to explore alternative futures and development paths. Gold rushes, for example, were possible because of loose regulation and largely informal governance. Formal institutions can also guide development. In present day Western Canada, it’s pretty clear, and, in many cases, indisputable, what institutions and rules are formal and informal. Boom towns do not come about by a company simply claiming a site, or by gold diggers simply streaming in and fighting over the best spots. However, this should not stop us from investigating the potential value of formalizing informality, or conversely, dropping formality and giving more space to informality. Citizen’s initiatives can be formalized and organized to be made officially part of local governance, in order to magnify their voice, make them more accountable, and harness their creative and adaptive capacities. This can be a way forward when existing governance structures seem to lack power or flexibility. Formalization of informal initiative can help when there are ideas floating around, but disconnected from governance. It can serve to give initiatives and informal networks which can revitalize local governance more influence. • In the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, mines have been closing slowly and systematically since the 1950s. Two generations of miners grew up with uncertainty, with unpredictable part-time jobs. Informally, many locals with foreign roots started to rely on hunting, mushroom collecting, gardening, barter, and seasonal work in the prairies; they started to formulate hunting rules to distribute the game in ways perceived as fair. While being very proud of their identity as residents in mining towns, they in fact survived because of an informal economy relying on informal institutions. • Informal coordination mechanisms and networks can also be seen as a threat to official power, to democratic power, to innovation and adaptation. Some argue that rendering them visible and luring them into formal governance might transform them, make them more susceptible to the law and more useful for a more tempered development path. Conversely, there are also voices that in hard times, regulation of any sort should be looser, and that informal coordination allows people to survive, in the form of self-help mechanisms, informal land use, hunting, foraging, squatting, repurposing, and looting. 148

Boom and Bust: a guide

Profile for University of Alberta Extension

Boom & Bust: A Guide, Managing Ups and Downs in Communities  

Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

Boom & Bust: A Guide, Managing Ups and Downs in Communities  

Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

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