What is governance of global telecoupling?

By Jens Newig

Telecoupling challenges notions of environmental governance

Recently, a concept has been gaining ground in the academic discourse that is challenging our notions of environmental governance. This concept, which has emerged from global land systems research, is termed ‘telecoupling’ (see Friis et al. 2016). Roughly, telecoupling means that human-induced processes in one part of the globe impact in a certain way on a distant part (or parts) of the world. Another term for this is ‘global inter-regional connectedness’. What makes telecoupling a relevant concept is that it allows for the description of flows between globally distant places in a common language, and to problematise how these flows impact e.g. on the environment or local livelihoods. One example of telecoupling is that of commodity chains such as the soy chain between Brazil and Germany. Brazilian soy is fuelling German meat production, causing surplus nitrate accumulation in Germany, and tropical deforestation in Brazil (Lenschow et al. 2016). Other examples are the shipping of electronic waste from Europe to Africa, which contaminates local environments and jeopardises the health of communities. Or migrants from Nepal, working in the United Arab Emirates, who through remittances induce land-use change in Nepal (cited in Eakin et al. 2014). In principle, such global linkages have been described in the literature for quite a while. However, the new concept of telecoupling allows researchers to view these linkages through a common ‘systemic’ lens.

Why should telecoupling challenge our thinking on environmental governance? Well, currently scholars on environmental governance have been thinking either in terms of:

  • existing governance arrangements, such as global treaties – how they come about, and how they help to solve environmental problems; or
  • governance processes, such as participatory, networked or collaborative governance, and how this may benefit the environment; or
  • governance structures, such as multi-level or polycentric governance – and, again, how these my benefit the environment; or, finally,
  • particular classes of environmental problems, such as transboundary pollution, and how they can be tackled through bilateral or multilateral action.

From a slightly different angle, there is an established literature on global commodity chains. As commodity chains typically comprise private companies, there is also a literature on the private governance of such chains (Bernstein and Cashore 2012), as well as a critical literature on how individual consumers through their choices can help alleviate sustainability issues in distant places, or how generally transnational corporations should be more strongly regulated (Dauvergne and Lister 2010).

But what all these established literatures have seldom done is to address the particular sustainability problems caused by telecoupled linkages from a wider governance perspective. Only recently are we witnessing the emergence of a literature addressing the governance of telecoupling in particular (Challies et al. 2014; Eakin et al. 2017; Lenschow et al. 2016; Oberlack et al. 2018; Liu et al. 2018). Most contributions to this literature are developing from within the global land change research community.

Different understandings of governance

In two funded research projects (GOVERNECT and COUPLED), colleagues and I are working to apply a governance lens to telecoupled phenomena. Through this, we seek to link ‘established’ governance concepts with recent developments from within the land change community. Earlier this year I was at a highly inspiring workshop on “Governance in Telecoupled Land Systems” in Berne, Switzerland (mainly organized by Christoph Oberlack, as well as by Andrea Lenschow, Jonas Nielsen, Cecilie Friis, Julie Zähringer, and myself). Christoph did a brilliant job in bringing together researchers from several countries and research traditions in an effort to come to grips with the issues of governing global telecoupling. As is often the case when different research perspectives meet, understandings of what constitutes ‘governance’ in – or of – telecoupling, varied quite a bit, which is one of the outcomes of the Berne workshop.

Let’s take as an example the study by Hamilton-Hart (2015) on the governance of palm oil production.  Palm oil is a prime example of telecoupling because of the complex and long-distance commodity chain, the patterns of migrant workers involved, and the immense environmental and sustainability issues induced mainly in the producing region. The author observes that “[m]arket demand has driven the expansion of the palm oil industry in South-East Asia, but the industry could not have developed without a complex set of governance institutions and authoritative interventions. These institutions and interventions … involve both public and private actors. Together, they have developed a palm oil industry that is, in significant ways, regionalised. In contrast, regional cooperation to govern the negative externalities associated with palm oil production is at a very low level. The institutions that provide a degree of regulatory governance are largely transnational, often private, and very limited in their ability to constrain negative social, economic and environmental impacts. … [T]he failures of regulatory governance are rooted in the successes of the facilitating governance framework that has supported palm oil development.” (Hamilton-Hart 2015: 179, emphasis added).

What we can learn from this example is that two very different kinds of governance regimes are at work: One which has been facilitating the telecoupled system in the first place, and one which the author refers to as ‘regulatory governance’, aiming “to govern the negative externalities associated with palm oil production” (but which in this case is not delivering particularly well). Adding to this, governance which facilitates telecoupling may also be unintentional in this respect. For example, European Union Renewable Energy Directive, demanding a 10% share of biofuel in gasoline, has been driving unsustainable land use change in distant regions (Eakin et al. 2014).

To complicate matters, there is yet another kind of governance often mentioned in the literature describing telecoupled commodity chains or value chains (see, e.g. Gereffi et al. 2005; Challies 2008). This essentially refers to how chain actors (private companies, mostly) co-ordinate in order to maintain an effective functioning of a value chain – for example, whether and how chain relations are producer-driven, or co-ordinated in a network-like manner. In short, this kind of governance refers to how the telecoupled chain is maintained and organised from within.

Towards a typology of governance related to telecoupling

Taken together, we can hence distinguish three different types of governance related to telecoupling. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call these ‘telecoupling governance’ types 1, 2, and 3.

  • In type 1, governance induces telecoupling. State-based or other governance interventions create the regulatory framework that enables a telecoupled phenomenon to develop. In the above-mentioned case, such governance interventions enabled the development of a palm-oil producing industry in SE-Asia, with all its negative externalities. Likewise, regional governance (e.g. EU biofuel policy) may show unsustainable sideffects in distant parts of the world. Type 1 telecoupling governance thus often creates unsustainability.
  • In type 2, governance co-ordinates telecoupled flows. Commodity or value chains are governed by (private) chain actors. Insofar as the telecoupled chain causes sustainability problems, governance of this type serves to maintain these problems. However, such within chain governance is increasingly paying attention to adverse sustainability effects, and how they might be alleviated by these very chain actors (Bush et al. 2015).
  • In type 3, finally, governance directs telecoupling towards sustainability. Or at least, it attempts to do so. Governance here seeks leverage points to ‘solve’ the sustainability problems created by telecoupling in either of the connected regions, or in spillover regions (Liu et al. 2018). This refers to state-based environmental governance, possibly including private and civic actors, as well as to non-state actor and multi-stakeholder initiatives (Lenschow et al. 2016).

These three types are ordered in a logical sequence of creating and facilitating telecoupling (type 1), maintaining and co-ordinating telecoupled chains (type 2), and alleviating the negative consequences of telecoupling (type 3). However, this order does not imply strict temporality. For example, chain governance (type 2) may have already started when state authorities consolidate an enabling regulatory framework (type 1).

From a sustainability governance perspective, type 3 may appear most relevant. Numerous forms of governance arrangements fall under this category. To name just a few, these include state policies such as financial aid, compensation payments, technological co-operation, trade barriers or mandatory product labelling; impact assessments and permitting procedures in producing regions; bi- or multilateral trade agreements, international conventions, as well as multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil. Having said that, governance of type 2 is gaining importance for sustainability as private actors increasingly recognize their responsibility in alleviating adverse effects of their economic activity. Accordingly, recent papers on the topic have addressed the problems and potentials of governing chains towards sustainability, for example regarding coffee (Donovan and Poole 2014) or rubber (Dwyer and Vongvisouk 2017).

Ultimately, type 1 governance may bear the greatest potential for sustainability improvements. Rather than going by a ‘cleaning up’ mechanism (as type 3 governance may suggest), adverse effects of telecoupling should ideally be considered in advance. However, the mere application of a pecautionary principle, as it is well established in many more regionally-based institutions of environmental governance, is certainly easier said than done for complex telecoupled settings. Systematically incoporating considerations on telecoupling effects in major impact assessment procedures could be a start.

I thank my colleagues in the GOVERNECT project – Andrea Lenschow, Ed Challies, Benedetta Cotta and Almut Schilling-Vacaflor – for valuable comments.

 

Cited literature

Bernstein, S. and B. Cashore (2012) ‘Complex global governance and domestic policies: Four pathways of influence.’ International Affairs 88 (3): 585-604.

Bush, S.R., P. Oosterveer, M. Bailey and A.P.J. Mol (2015) ‘Sustainability governance of chains and networks: a review and future outlook.’ Journal of Cleaner Production 107: 8-19.

Challies, E., J. Newig and A. Lenschow (2014) ‘What role for social–ecological systems research in governing global teleconnections?’ Global Environmental Change 27: 32-40.

Dauvergne, P. and J. Lister (2010) ‘The Power of Big Box Retail in Global Environmental Governance: Bringing Commodity Chains Back into IR.’ Millennium: Journal of International Studies 39 (1): 145-60.

Donovan, J., and N. Poole (2014). Changing asset endowments and smallholder participation in higher value markets: evidence from certified coffee producers in Nicaragua. Food Policy, 44, 1-13.

Dwyer, M., and T. Vongvisouk (2017). The long land grab: market-assisted enclosure on the China-Lao rubber frontier. Territory, Politics, Governance, 1-19.

Eakin, H., R. DeFries, S. Kerr, E.F. Lambin, J. Liu, P.J. Marcotullio, P. Messerli, A. Reenberg, X. Rueda, S.R. Swaffield, B. Wicke and K. Zimmerer (2014) Significance of Telecoupling for Exploration of Land-Use Change, in Rethinking Global Land Use in an Urban Era, eds. K.C. Seto and A. Reenberg. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press: 141-61.

Eakin, H., X. Rueda and A. Mahanti (2017) ‘Transforming governance in telecoupled food systems.’ Ecology and Society 22 (4): 32.

Friis, C., J.Ø. Nielsen, I. Otero, H. Haberl, J. Niewöhner and P. Hostert (2016) ‘From teleconnection to telecoupling: taking stock of an emerging framework in land system science.’ Journal of Land Use Science 11 (2): 131-53.

Gereffi, G., J. Humphrey and T. Sturgeon (2005). The governance of global value chains. Review of International Political Economy, 12(1), 78-104.

Hamilton-Hart, N. (2015) ‘Multilevel (mis)governance of palm oil production.’ Australian Journal of International Affairs 69: 164-84.

Lenschow, A., J. Newig and E. Challies (2016) ‘Globalization’s limits to the environmental state? Integrating telecoupling into global environmental governance.’ Environmental Politics 25 (1): 136-59.

Liu, J., Y. Dou, M. Batistella, E. Challies, T. Connor, C. Friis, J.D.A. Millington, E. Parish, C.L. Romulo, R.F.B. Silva, H. Triezenberg, H. Yang, Z. Zhao, K.S. Zimmerer, F. Huettmann, M.L. Treglia, Z. Basher, M.G. Chung, A. Herzberger, A. Lenschow, A. Mechiche-Alami, J. Newig, J. Roche and J. Sun (2018) ‘Spillover systems in a telecoupled Anthropocene: typology, methods, and governance for global sustainability.’ Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 33: 58-69.

Oberlack, C., S. Boillat, S. Brönnimann, J.-D. Gerber, A. Heinimann, C. Ifejika Speranza, P. Messerli, S. Rist and U. Wiesmann (2018) ‘Polycentric governance in telecoupled resource systems.’ Ecology and Society 23 (1): 16.

Job opening: Post-doc on public policy and institutions / environmental and sustainability governance

Our research group at Leuphana University Lüneburg is looking to employ a post-doc to support existing activities and to explore new research directions.

Tasks and responsibilities: Research in environmental and sustainability governance, contributing to the international visibility of the research group. Innovative topics and approaches are particularly welcome. Potential research themes and methods include:

  • Institutional change towards sustainability, potentially linking sustainability transitions research with institutionalist approaches
  • Elite networks for the production of public goods
  • Participatory and collaborative governance, from the local to global commons, with a potential focus on the global South
  • Knowledge, (adaptive) learning and experimentation in policy-formation and governance
  • Systems perspectives on governance and institutional design, e.g. leverage points for sustainability
  • Innovative methods for the cumulation of evidence: meta-analytical methods and the potential role of “big data” in governance research
  • Field experimentation on governance interventions.

Further tasks include:

  • Developing and collaborating in writing articles for international journals;
  • Supporting teaching activities on governance-related topics in environmental, sustainability and/or political science study programmes, with a teaching duty of four teaching hours per week during the semester;
  • Assisting with day-to-day aspects of facilitating smooth collaboration within the research group;
  • Preparation of a cumulative ‘habilitation thesis’ (or equivalent qualification) on a topic agreed with Prof. Dr. Newig.

Selection criteria:

  • Completed university degree (Masters or equivalent) with above-average grades in the social sciences, e.g. political science, public administration, law, planning, human geography, environmental or sustainability science, as well as a completed PhD in one of these areas;
  • Very good English language communication skills (written and oral);
  • Academic publication experience;
  • Experience in empirical research, and training in statistics, QCA or other formal comparative methods would be an additional asset;
  • Ability and willingness to teach relevant classes; some teaching experience would be an asset.

For questions, please contact Prof. Dr. Jens Newig (newig@uni.leuphana.de).

Deadline for applications is August 15, 2018.

To apply, please visit the university’s website here.

Job opening: Fully-funded PhD position on governance and policy analysis in globally telecoupled systems

We are now seeking to fill a fully-funded PhD position on “Governance institutions for sustainability in globally telecoupled systems” within the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie ETN Graduate School ‘COUPLED’, starting 1 July 2018 for a duration of 36 months.

Topic: Globally telecoupled systems such as commodity chains, long-range pollution or distant policy-driven effects present complex new challenges for sustainability governance. These are often beyond the capabilities of individual states and even multilateral institutions to regulate. At the same time, the policy and governance interventions of governments and other actors themselves often have a range of unforeseen consequences and knock-on effects. Taking European Union (EU) environmental policy as its primary vantage point, this research will: (1) identify key institutions, networks of actors and instruments deployed to govern for sustainability in specific case studies of telecoupled systems (e.g. global trade and supply chains and networks), and (2) assess their impacts with particular attention to so-called ‘policy-driven displacement’ effects, policy spillovers and feed-backs (e.g. increased deforestation resulting from EU biofuels policy). On the basis of this analysis, the research will (3) identify governance levers for effective intervention at multiple levels (from multilateral to local) and among different actors (e.g. governmental, private sector, civil society) to address policy-driven displacement effects.

In carrying out this work, the ESR will: (1) Conduct interviews and documentary research to chart networks and key actors and structures associated with EU efforts to govern for sustainability in telecoupled systems (focusing on certain specific cases such as agricultural commodity chains or raw resource flows); (2) analyse and assess the effectiveness (success factors and barriers, social and environmental impacts) of different governance arrangements and their unintended policy-driven displacement effects; and (3) propose potential policy and governance interventions for increased sustainability in telecoupled systems. The ESR will be jointly supervised by Prof. Jens Newig, Dr. Edward Challies and Prof. Patrick Meyfroidt (Earth and Life Institute, Catholic University of Leuven). Potential secondment placements include the German Federal Environmental Ministry in Berlin (Germany) and the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium).

Location: Leuphana University Lüneburg, just outside of Hamburg, is a young university, focusing on sustainability, cultural and political science, education, and management and entrepreneurship, and has repeatedly been awarded for innovation. The Research Group on Governance, Participation and Sustainability, led by Prof. Newig, is affiliated both with Leuphana’s Faculty of Sustainability and with its Centre for the Study of Democracy. A multidisciplinary group of senior and early-career social scientists, it focuses on addressing the big challenges of governance in the context of environmental and sustainability politics.

We seek: a candidate with an above-average MSc (or equivalent degree) in Political Science, Human Geography, Sustainability Science or cognate discipline. We expect a strong interest in environmental policy and governance. Excellent written and spoken English is essential. Experience with both qualitative and quantitative methods (e.g. Social Network Analysis) would be advantageous.

Mobility Rule: Please note that at the time of recruitment, candidates must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Germany for more than 12 months in the last 3 years (in accordance to the funding programme of the ETN). Leuphana University Lüneburg is an equal opportunity employer committed to fostering heterogeneity among its staff. Applications by qualified individuals are strongly encouraged. Disabled applicants with equal qualifications will be given priority consideration.

Contact: Prof. Dr Jens Newig; e-mail: newig@uni.leuphana.de.

Applications including a letter of motivation, full CV, a draft proposal, relevant certificates/transcripts, and contact details for two references shall be submitted via the project website http://coupled-itn.eu/recruitment/.

Application deadline: 15 May 2018.

Call for papers: Leverage points for sustainability transformation – Re-structuring institutions

Leuphana University will host the Leverage Points 2019 international conference on sustainability research and transformation, 6-8 February 2019.

One conference theme will be on Re-structuring institutions for sustainability transformation.

Institutional arrangements are deeply rooted structures that shape the rules of a system and, thus, have the power to advance systems change. Social structures, embedded in formal institutions (rules, regulations, and policies) enable, constrain, and guide human action, and thus shape sustainability transformations.

In this theme, we will explore the potentials of systemic, institutional change as a leverage point for sustainability transformation. Existing research often lacks a systems-oriented view, and pays only scare attention to processes of institutional failure and decline, and even less to potentially productive functions of such phenomena.

In particular, we invite contributions that address this gap and that (1) employ a perspective that goes beyond single institutions but take a complex-systems oriented lens; and (2) that pay close attention to phenomena of failure and decline of institutions and the extent to which these can serve as leverage points for sustainability.

This includes, but may not be limited to, issues and topics, such as

  • The role of institutions for sustainability transformations from various theoretical perspectives;
  • Crises as triggers for adaptation towards sustainability;
  • Deliberate dismantling of unsustainable institutions;
  • The active management of declining institutions;
  • The identification and unlocking of path-dependency and system traps;
  • Analysis of institutional coherence, redundancies, and lacunae;
  • Perspectives on the interplay and integration between different institutions;
  • Democratic implications of transformation processes;
  • Methodological challenges in analyzing and understanding institutional change.

Abstracts with a maximum of 300 words should be submitted by 30 June 2018 via the conference website: http://leveragepoints2019.leuphana.de/call-for-abstracts/.

 

New book: Evidence for causal mechanisms linking participation with environmental governance outcomes

By Jens Newig

In the EDGE project, we have been researching intensively the link between participation in decision-making and environmental governance outcomes. Our new book, lead-edited by Elisa Kochskämper, examines these links through eight qualitative case studies. We employ a causal-mechanism approach, which helps us identify the precise mechanisms through which participatory governance forms lead (or don’t lead) to improved environmental governance outcomes. So although our approach is highly qualitative in nature, we use it to rigorously trace causal hypotheses.

Our empirical field of study is participatory processes that were set up to implement the European Water Framework Directive in Germany, Spain, and the UK. The Directive mandates participatory river basin management planning across the European Union, with the expectation (among European policymakers and the European Commission) that participation will deliver better policy outputs and implementation.

Here are two examples of how our approach works.

The first shows how broad participation in Cantabria (Spain) does generate social learning, empowerment and acceptance by participants – even though the results of the participatory process were ultimately ignored by the authorities and not taken up in further planning (see figure below). However, the fact that the collected measures were not actually incorporated into the river basin management plan, and had not been implemented, did not diminish participants’ satisfaction with the process. The environmental NGO representative put it as follows (page 77 in the book):

Although I don’t know whether they recognised our proposals for the final measures, I think the participatory process was very good per se. […] I think this was an activity that left everyone very satisfied for the mere fact of participating […]. That we were sitting face-to-face with different officials and that we could give our opinion in public, and being taken seriously from the beginning (MC:ENGO).

Cantabria
Participatory planning process in the Miera and Campiazo basins. Dashed lines indicate no clear connection. Crossed out lines indicate a disconnect

The second example is a local participatory forum in Schleswig-Holstein (Germany). This case is revealing regarding the hypothesized mechanism that increased representation of environmental concerns in a decision-making process either: (a) fosters environmental advocacy, impacting positively on the environmental quality of the output; or – quite the contrary – (b) weakens the position of environmental groups vis-à-vis other actors, impacting negatively on the environmental quality of the output. The case shows how both sub-mechanisms can be found within one single case: On the one hand, environmental NGOs were particularly active in addressing river connectivity, and this was clearly reflected in the agreed list of actions, thus supporting (a). On the other hand, the pressing issue of nutrient pollution from agriculture was left out of discussions and therefore not addressed in the output. A likely explanation lies in the trustful setting that developed over several years of on-going interaction in the working group. In this setting, environmental interests, too, went along in the general spirit of proposing feasible and readily implementable measures, leaving aside the more conflictive – but nonetheless highly pressing – issue of agricultural nutrient pollution. We conclude, therefore, that ENGOs have been co-opted to a certain degree, which supports (b).

The comprehensive structured comparative approach has produced new insights into the link between participation and environmental outputs and impacts. The overall picture is telling: we observed increasing quality of policy outputs with increasing ‘intensity’ of participation. However, the details are more nuanced, as the two above examples may suggest. Ultimately, we observed a trade-off between ambitious environmental planning and actual implementability of measures. Our analysis revealed that processes either produced measures of a high environmental standard, addressing the main water problems, but that were overly ambitious and not implementable, or they produced feasible measures that were subsequently implemented, but were generally of a lower environmental standard. This hints to important questions of environmental policy implementation that go beyond claims of participation.

Reference

Kochskämper, Elisa; Challies, Edward; Jager, Nicolas W.; Newig, Jens (eds.) (2018): Participation for Effective Environmental Governance: Evidence from European Water Framework Directive Implementation. Earthscan Studies in Water Resource Management series. London: Earthscan / Routledge.

 

New PhD position on governance and policy analysis in globally telecoupled systems

We are now seeking to fill a 100% PhD position on “Governance institutions for sustainability in globally telecoupled systems” within the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie ETN Graduate School ‘COUPLED’, starting 1 July 2018 for a duration of 36 months.

Topic: Globally telecoupled systems such as commodity chains, long-range pollution or distant policy-driven effects present complex new challenges for sustainability governance. These are often beyond the capabilities of individual states and even multilateral institutions to regulate. At the same time, the policy and governance interventions of governments and other actors themselves often have a range of unforeseen consequences and knock-on effects. Taking European Union (EU) environmental policy as its primary vantage point, this research will: (1) identify key institutions, networks of actors and instruments deployed to govern for sustainability in specific case studies of telecoupled systems (e.g. global trade and supply chains and networks), and (2) assess their impacts with particular attention to so-called ‘policy-driven displacement’ effects, policy spillovers and feed-backs (e.g. increased deforestation resulting from EU biofuels policy). On the basis of this analysis, the research will (3) identify governance levers for effective intervention at multiple levels (from multilateral to local) and among different actors (e.g. governmental, private sector, civil society) to address policy-driven displacement effects.

In carrying out this work, the ESR will: (1) Conduct interviews and documentary research to chart networks and key actors and structures associated with EU efforts to govern for sustainability in telecoupled systems (focusing on certain specific cases such as agricultural commodity chains or raw resource flows); (2) analyse and assess the effectiveness (success factors and barriers, social and environmental impacts) of different governance arrangements and their unintended policy-driven displacement effects; and (3) propose potential policy and governance interventions for increased sustainability in telecoupled systems. The ESR will be jointly supervised by Prof. Jens Newig, Dr. Edward Challies and Prof. Patrick Meyfroidt (Earth and Life Institute, Catholic University of Leuven). Potential secondment placements include the German Federal Environmental Ministry in Berlin (Germany) and the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium).

Location: Leuphana University Lüneburg is a young university, focusing on sustainability, cultural and political science, education, and management and entrepreneurship, and has repeatedly been awarded for innovation. The Research Group on Governance, Participation and Sustainability, led by Prof. Newig, is affiliated both with Leuphana’s Faculty of Sustainability and with its Centre for the Study of Democracy. A multidisciplinary group of senior and early-career social scientists, it focuses on addressing the big challenges of governance in the context of environmental and sustainability politics.

We seek: a candidate with an above-average MSc (or equivalent degree) in Political Science, Human Geography, Sustainability Science or cognate discipline. We expect a strong interest in environmental policy and governance. Excellent written and spoken English is essential, and experience with both qualitative and quantitative methods (e.g. Social Network Analysis) would be advantageous.

Mobility Rule: Please note that at the time of recruitment, candidates must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Germany for more than 12 months in the last 3 years (in accordance to the funding programme of the ETN). Leuphana University Lüneburg is an equal opportunity employer committed to fostering heterogeneity among its staff. Applications by qualified individuals are strongly encouraged. Disabled applicants with equal qualifications will be given priority consideration.

Contact: Prof. Dr Jens Newig; e-mail: newig@uni.leuphana.de.

Applications including a letter of motivation, full CV, a draft proposal, relevant certificates/transcripts, and contact details for two references shall be submitted via the project website http://coupled-itn.eu/.

Application deadline: 24 November 2017.

Now published: Disentangling the causal mechanisms that link participation and collaboration to environmental outcomes

By Jens Newig

Many agree that participation and collaboration is relevant, if not indispensable, for environmentally sustainable governance outcomes. Others maintain that public government is best equipped to effectively address environmental problems. In our new paper from the ‘EDGE’ project we try to move the debate forward by looking precisely at the causal mechanisms through which participatory and collaborative forms of governance may improve (or deteriorate) environmental outcomes of public decision-making processes.

The paper is rather analytical in that we disentangle:

  1. different dimensions of participation: Who participates? What decision-making power is delegated to participants? How do participants communicate and interact?
  2. different dimensions of outcomes: Outputs on paper (plans, agreements, policies, etc.) versus the support of outputs and their actual implementation
  3. the different mechanisms through which participation and collaboration likely work towards (or against) environmental outcomes,
  4. different contextual factors such as the capacity of stakeholders, problem complexity or the degree of conflict (we call these ‘conditioning variables’).

This analytical ‘disentangling’, we believe, helps us to identify trade-offs: For example, a collaborative process involving local resource users may lead to a conservation plan with less environmental aspiration as envisaged by a nature-protection agency (because local users do not strictly favour conservation). But at the same time, this plan may be more accepted by local communities and better implementable.

Mechanisms

This figure shows an overview of the causal mechanisms we identified, organised in five thematic clusters. Plus signs (+) denote reinforcing relationships, minus signs (–) denote weakening relationships. For example, the top left arrow combines mechanisms M I.1a (positive influence of “opening up” on representation of environmental concerns) and M I.1b (negative influence).

We hope that this framework of causal mechanisms will futher stimulate debate on the functions of participation, and ultimately be useful for guiding empirical research. To this end, we will draw on this framework to organise our empirical findings from the EDGE case survey meta analysis.

You can find the paper, which is published Open Access in the Policy Studies Journal (early view), here:

Newig, J. / Challies, E. / Jager, N.W. / Kochskaemper, E. / Adzersen, A. (2017). The Environmental Performance of Participatory and Collaborative Governance: A Framework of Causal Mechanisms. Policy Studies Journal (early view).