Adaptive governance as a reform strategy

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Marijn Meijering

Authors: R. D. Brunner

Publication Year: 2010


Journal: Policy Sciences

Volume: 43

Issue: 4

Categories: Adaptive Organization, Adaptation


This article expands research on adaptive governance in natural resource and climate change policy into other policy areas and the larger context of reform. The purpose is to clarify adaptive governance as a reform strategy, one that builds on experience in a variety of emergent responses to the growing failures of scientific management, the established pattern of governance. Emergent responses in information technology, national security, development aid, and health care policy are reviewed here. In these cases, factoring a large national or international problem into many smaller problems, each more tractable scientifically and politically, opened additional opportunities for advancing common interests on the ground. The opportunities include simplification of research through intensive inquiry, participation in policy decisions by otherwise neglected groups, and selecting what works on the basis of practical experience rather than theory. What works can be improved incrementally in the context at hand, diffused through networks for voluntary adaptation elsewhere, and used to inform higher-level decisions from the bottom up. Adaptive governance is a promising strategy of reform. The open question is whether it will be used well enough to sustain a once-progressive evolution toward fuller realization of human dignity for all.


Marijn Meijering