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Top and Bottom Down Approaches in Research

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1.1 Introduction: The theoretical challenge of managed environments

General works in the field of development studies or environmental management typically imitate structural, institutional and political economy analyses. This dissertation however focuses on the theoretical and methodological foundations of an actor-oriented, process-based and social constructionist form of analysis. It also aims to show the usefulness of such an approach for providing new insights into critical areas of empirical enquiry.

In the introductory chapter I posed the dilemma confronting change managers and citizens with existing practices of environmental governance reform that are performing inconsistently. My starting point is the premise that experiences of decision-making over environmental management practices have not reflected the intent of smoother transitions and greater legitimacy that a turn to more participative approaches had promised. More democratic methods are not consistently producing more democratic outcomes, at least so are reports from practice warning. Instead, governance reform is experienced as frustrating struggles by actors brought together using ideals of collaborative practice that are frequently proving disappointing in application.

The stories that this report recounts are indicative of the type of struggles and indeterminacies more and more encountered by policy actors in addressing issues of society-nature relations. It will be shown that the day-to-day tensions are not well expressed in the languages of social science or practitioners. Are there better ways to conceptualize these problems? Do we have language for this? To answer this, I will have to look for alternative ways to enter the subject and pose questions in different ways.

A search for models of practice and theoretical foundations that may prove relevant to the rapidly changing contexts of managed environments encounters a rich literature that has engaged with the problems posed by the environmental pressures of population increase and technological development. However, as will be seen, existing conceptualisations encounter limits of abstraction. The implicit recognition of that has seen practitioners develop a wide range of approaches that are nearer to a recognition of actor perspectives in the field of environmental governance reform that more anthropological perspectives will highlight. A closer examination shows that abandoning abstraction in order to acknowledge the natural complexity of modern contexts in a post-modern time does not resolve the problem of constructively navigating changing knowledge systems. I therefore turn to post-structuralist thinking which allows me to give more attention to the social constructivist view and, in particular, to the co-constructed nature of knowledge, framing and subjectivities. The method that proves most promising to demonstrate - and resolve - the ambiguous nature of social knowledge is a dialectical approach to mapping the deliberative spaces of 21st century environmental governance reform.

To do this work, perspectives from different disciplinary areas are brought together, including environmental sociology, environmental policy, anthropology, development studies, conservation management, political ecology and public policy. The discussion will seek to ‘ambiguate' key notions in the society-nature literatures, that is, work with the ambiguity that becomes exposed when different scholarly worldviews are applied to core concepts of environmental governance. Working dialectically with the framings of theorists and practitioners means moving at different levels of extension, probing generalisation and rethinking subjects. This will show how ideas of nature, knowledge, community, and identity are central.

The journey I will pursue in this chapter - and effectively continue in the following - transects key themes in the literature on environmental and development issues that I will not attempt to treat comprehensively - a futile task even with the best of intentions - but instead I want to trace insightful tensions and contours in the landscapes of academic, practitioner's and subjective knowledges that shape the individual and institutional behaviour of social actors. By focussing on boundaries, and the conceptual or physical movement across these, I claim that I can show useful insights into the processes through which actors engage in participative, democratic spaces.

By evoking a journey through the literature, I shadow the journey that I myself followed when I entered into and pursued this research, coming from a career as aid worker and encounter with the Great Barrier Island setting. Entering into academic reflection on social and political situations from that background opened perspectives that are not easily available to a researcher arriving from the outside or evaluating social processes with less reference to practical experience. At the same time, a positioning on the boundaries of the settings studied that my own background with the frequent geographic and career changes allowed, can be said to have greatly elevated my ‘hermeneutical' horizon, opening up better appreciation of multiple, overlapping contexts.

The aim of this chapter is to reveal a range of features and entry points into a number of settings that I gained access to, even if not comprehensively but certainly illustrative. I want to show that abstraction needs to adopt not only an actor-grounded and situated methodology but equally a more subjective theorisation, in order to give new meaning to abstraction. The literature I will bring into the discussion will help me elaborate how simultaneously seeking out top-down, bottom-up and reflective positions can give complementary insights into processes of actor engagement over environmental governance. The reason is that the political, social and cultural complexities that determine human-nature, and particularly society-nature, relations impose a need for multiple perspectives.

In the following sections I will construct several positions located on metaphoric boundaries that offer perspective on subject areas and cultures of practice. To do that, I will open three views, or categories of view: one as a top-down view, which uses analytical thinking looking at overviews, comparisons and indicators to form structural explanations that underlie theory and practice. A second position approaches actors within a situation and is interested in narratives that convey the struggles and explanations present in a given situation, as they are seen from the bottom up. And with a view that is neither top-down, nor bottom-up, I want to emphasize a self-conscious, reflective treatment of knowledge and the co-construction of world views that deliberative practices can entail.

1.1.1 Case study or research intervention? The scholarly practitioner as participant in knowledge production

Before I enter the subject area however, I must first clarify my point of entry into and positionality within the subject. In particular, the performative character of social science research needs to be acknowledged.

Scientific inquiry is recognized as a social practice mediated contextually through symbolic means {Foucault, 2002; Pryke, Rose, & Whatmore, 2003}. Sociological research has documented the extent to which science is as much a socio-cultural activity as a technical enterprise. The post-positivist challenge to the social sciences that was evoked by Fischer and quoted introductory chapter, derives from evidence that the elements of empirical inquiry - from observation and hypothesis formation through data collection and explanation - are grounded in often limited theoretical assumptions of the socio-cultural practices through which they are developed {Root, 1993}.

Scientific explanations therefore have to be understood as explanations offered by specific communities of inquirers situated in particular places and times, so Fischer emphasizes (1998). These are discursive communities that are located alongside and intermeshed with other political communities in the social landscape. This draws attention to positioning researcher and science within the political communities that are present. Attention must be paid throughout the approach, engagement and interpretation of social situations to be reflective about the relation of the researcher to the subject.

In my engagement with the actors within the settings I investigated, my approach and interest was shaped by all of my curriculum vitae but especially by my background as former aid worker. At least three specific aspects of this career were particularly significant in forming my approach to this study and, in particular, the lines of questioning that I adopted.

For many years while working on behalf of large non-governmental aid organisations like Oxfam and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), when I was often assigned as project planner in collaboration with medical or logistics experts with the task to research the humanitarian, political and security context in a particular setting to identify priority needs an organisation was able to address and to design the detailed aid interventions. I led needs assessment missions lasting 2 to 4 weeks to Georgia, Tajikistan, Congo, Burundi, Syria, Iraq, and Nepal among others,. The output would consist of reports documenting findings of data collection and interviews, verbal and written interpretation of implications for launching aid operations, and proposals to governmental donor agencies that complied to institutional requirements and priorities in order to maximise chances of gaining funding support. Essentially this was a research role with an action orientation.

My primary role while working for these international aid organisations was project manager and/or country representative, positions that I held in Russia. Chechnya, Congo, Kenya, Lebanon, and Mauritania among others. Aid projects would be managed by a team of expatriates and local staff, often growing into large, well-resourced and formalised organisations with up to 50 staff. This required me to manage teams and situations with a view to producing outcomes, conforming to organisational policies. As head of usually one of the larger NGOs in a sector, I would frequently also act on behalf of a wider community of aid agencies that shared similar values and objectives in collaborating and representing interests to government counterparts. The emphasis on advocating for universal rights and principles on behalf of vulnerable and victims under threat was an important advocacy priority for organisations like Oxfam and MSF, and thus was a critical rationale for situating, maintaining, and promoting many aid activities. At the same time I would be representing associations that had explicitly defined visions and principles in an organisational environment and so I had to be very self-conscious about the philosophical distinctions between advocacy, religious, purely charitable, bilateral or inter-governmental agencies. In other words, through this work I had been sensitized to the subtleties of organisational culture and its relationship to operational policies. In general, as a project manager I shared an outcome orientation that allowed me to identify with the role of other project managers in comparable organisational settings, even outside the domain international aid.

The reason I found myself in a ten-year career as aid worker was in part due to a long-standing interest in foreign settings and the extensive time I had already spent living abroad. The familiarity with different cultures from growing up in the Middle East, emigrating during school years to New Zealand and working in several European countries not only opened my appreciation of how cultures and societies are distinguished but also permitted me to acquire conversational fluency in eight languages. Overhearing the words our interpreter used to translate my speech into Arabic for a group of village elders in a Sahel village, or joking with Russian militia officers to be able to enter an ethnic enclave in the Caucasus, added diverse points of view that only first-hand knowledge can make relevant to other situations. The value of knowing how language and cultural upbringing can shape world views, understanding and humour is invaluable when attempting to reflect on other situations from a position that is neither entirely inside nor outside but on the boundary between cultures and places that are in (dialectical) relation.

1.1.1.1 Adopting an inside-out view: focus on protagonist, on the relationship between identity and subject.

While it is tempting to examine a situation from the point of view of those with the power to affect it - the change makers and potential audience for the research findings - it can be critical to also adopt the point of view of less influential actors. An inside out view seeks to show how outside forces influence the nature of polity, rather than using the people in the area of interest to provide a background against which to set the actions of outsiders {see also Routledge, Pacific History as seen from the Pacific Islands, Pacific Studies Spring 1985}. This study, in other words, seeks to be not merely island-centred but islander-oriented.

The perspective thus adopted is that of a scholarly practitioner. Bentz and Shapiro {, 1998 #1684} use this term to recognise that in the enterprise of knowledge generation and critical reflection, there is a two-way relationship. The role of the scholarly practitioner involves “using professional practice and knowledge as a resource for the formulation and production of scholarly knowledge as well as for evaluating, testing, applying, extending, or modifying existing knowledge” (p. 66). Bentz and Shapiro stress that this requires also an awareness of the limits of knowledge, and, I would add, the contested nature of knowledge. This recognition brings attention to the production of knowledge in environmental politics.

1.1.1.2 Social science must be conscious of its performative character: Reconnecting the researcher with the researched

There are a number of research traditions that address the ontological gap between researcher and the researched. Action research for one, is a participatory methodology that seeks to produce knowledge that emerges from context of action as a collaborative project between researcher and the researched. It typically sees the researcher performing functional roles within groups working together on real world projects and tasks (Wadsworth, 1998). Participatory research finds many other outlets and emphasizes a philosophy of co-production or research, from the formulation of the question, through reflection on outcomes to the communication of findings (Cornwall & Jewkes, 1995).

A methodology that seeks to discard theoretical preconceptions completely is grounded theory. Theories are grounded in the group's observable experiences, but researchers add their own insight into why those experiences exist. It is a method formulated by Strauss and Corbin that categorizes empirically collected data to build a general theory to fit the data (Barney G. Glaser, 2004; B.G. Glaser & Strauss, 1967; A. McCarthy, 1999). The investigator develops conceptual categories from the data and then makes new observations to develop these categories. Hypotheses are derived directly from the data, and may be tested against it. All conclusions must be 'grounded in' and supported by the data. Their seminal work, "The Development of Grounded Theory" (1967), moved researchers past the hypothesis-testing uses of raw data into the hypothesis-generating potential of their observations. The approach has been steadily expanding its reach within academia - through sociology and social anthropology and, more recently into applied disciplines like nursing and educational research.

Notwithstanding the uptake of grounded philosophy by researchers motivated to reconnect with the empirical subject, the lack of theorizing underlying this may be criticized by more ‘sophisticated' theorists like Habermas, who I later want to bring into this discussion. For the German, the lack of critical framing that grounded theory represents is a crucial shortcoming that needs to be addressed methodologically. I will begin this by first discussing methodological treatment of settings and context.

1.1.2 Accounting for context with mental models and ethnographic methods

The cognitive patterns that underlie social behavior are not easily accessible to the researcher. Conceptualizing mental models that can account for communicative behavior in a way that relates to settings and context must represent basic notions of cognition such as ideology, knowledge and values.

Ideologies in the sense used here, are general and abstract, principle based, axiomatic beliefs, while knowledge are the actual facts and beliefs held as true. Attitudes are taken to comprise opinion, beliefs, feelings, and intentions about specific issues, typically socially shared (see also Leiserowitz, Kates, & Parris, 2006). A mental model then, is the categorical understanding constructed from ideologies, knowledge, and attitudes of specific contexts and situations.

An accompanying notion is that of group knowledge as those social beliefs that which a group, or imagined community, holds to be true according to its own evaluation or verification (truth) criteria (eg science) and which can be doubted by outsiders. But such cultural, common ground knowledge is not challenged within groups, and is presupposed in public discourse, even when they are shifting as are the notions of conservation, environment and sustainability did that were discussed.

1.1.2.1 Context models as subjective representation

To study context and its relation to subjective meanings, ethnographic approaches hold most promise as they work with subjective representation and group knowledge processes (e.g. Descola, 1996; Wolfe & Yang, 1996). Such a view is also interested in how context structures social relations (communicative and interactional), social dynamics (group membership and interaction). But it also brings another interest relevant to the study of participation, of how cognition has a role in terms of framing goals, knowledge and other beliefs of participants in deliberation.

The notion of context is used in scholarship as ambiguously as ‘environment' is in wider discourses. To be able to treat it as an analytical object needs a basic model. By defining contexts and contextualization in terms of mental models and their role in discourse production and comprehension, this can account not only for the role of social representations such as attitudes and ideologies in discourse, but also allows a more subjective explanation of discourse and its variation in terms of personal mental models. The empirical studies will demonstrate this.

Van Dijk (2001) sees context as a model of relevance that shapes actors opinions and actions. He recognizes that context is subjective and individual and with that is ideologically based and has coherence within group discourse.

Thus, context models are subjective representations of social situation, including communicative events - they define what is relevant. This makes an account of context critical for understanding participation. And subjective context framing may be ideologically biased.

1.1.2.2 Frames of referenceand the ‘black box' of mental models

The concept of frame of reference is also used commonly used to refer to the cognitive effect of contextual models (Swaffield, 1998). It describes and categorizes the attitudes displayed by individuals when discussing a management issue. The framing concepts in this study were defined as follows: - A frame of reference is an analytical model of attitudes concerning a resource policy or management issue. - A personal frame of reference refers to the attitudes expressed by an individual. - A common frame of reference refers to the distinctive pattern of attitudes that is common to a number of individuals.

However, there is no claim that the frame of reference as defined here represents cognitive processes. Rather, it is a model of the attitudes openly expressed by individuals when discussing an issue.

A basic problem that remains, is that context, subjectivities and cognition remain inaccessible to a researcher. A ‘black box' model of subjective context therefore lacks explanatory relevance. But as the subject of deliberation, context circumscribes the cognitive boundaries of actors ‘mentalities'.

For van Dijk (2001), the advantage of such an approach is that it accounts not only for the role of social representations, such as attitudes and ideologies in discourse, but also allows a more subjective explanation of discourse and its variation in terms of personal mental models. And since contexts are by definition unique and personal, context models of framings precisely allow an individual approach to contextualization to be combined with a more social one, in which shared representations, groups, and other societal aspects play a prominent role.

1.1.3 Boundaries: Locating and moving across - by following, pushing or re-imagining phenomena ##

I will begin with the premise that the totality of relations in a socio-ecological geography are meaningful, that is the relations between people, places and things. And that the inverse of relationships are distinctions that coalesce to form boundaries between categories and instances. This is worth emphasizing since the recognition that boundaries constrain meaning can draw attention to the contrived and therefore limiting nature of abstraction. How this premise will permit established abstraction and meanings to be questioned, fragmented and reassembled is the work that this chapter will begin and will be completed in the methodological chapter that follows.

The first boundary to highlight and that can show what is meant by transgressing distinctions consists of the separation of human from non-human nature. Imagining environmental governance reform as regulating the entry of humans into nature and the export of non-human resources out of nature is counter-intuitive to any gardener. Fence lines, compost bins and patio seating all blur the boundaries. Self-identity for many derives from emotional attachments to home and garden, nurturing roles that a vegetable plot reinforces and status that manicured lawns or urban bio-diversity islands respectively can demonstrate.

Thus the domain of interest should not be a non-human nature as an object of human intervention but instead a nature as a geography of human relations that are linked to an environment through diverse interests. This is a geography that is physically located in both the commons and in private property - another paired abstraction that will prove to be divided by a blurred boundary. But this is also a geography that exists in the social imagination as social, cultural or political objects. The environment so seen can be conceived as the total of society-nature relations which relate to all material, subjective, cognitive, political, and other interests or dimensions. The challenge then becomes not in naming these complex relations but in thinking about them, in framing them.

1.1.4 Environmental governance as an adjustable lens

[## develop] The first conceptual tool to prepare will thus be the notion of environmental governance as an adjustable lens. Rather than using the literature in an inevitably selective manner to stabilize the meaning of this concept at least for the duration of this discussion, I will adopt a counter-strategy of reinforcing the ambiguity of the notion and employing it with shifting meanings to approach the research problem from different scales, extension and perspectives.

Environmental governance is a category of practices and ideas that are of interest to several perspectives. As a domain of practice it is the concern of academic text books (Durant, Fiorino, & O'Leary, 2004; Hempel, 1996; Kettl, 2002; Levy & Newell, 2005) as much as ministerial policy statements {Ministry of the Environment 2000, 2003}, international donor policy, and publications of environmental agencies.

In practice, actually relating good governance to ecological outcomes is near impossible. Choosing one arbitrary example from international experience, an in-depth evaluation of different forest management governance regimes in Madagascar showed how there were enormous difficulties in explaining the dynamics and assessing measures of sustainability and equity (McConnell & Sweeney).

The term of environmental governance can be encountered in a range of contexts. In a recent survey of issues in environmental policy and management Durant et al (ibid.) identify key topics in environmental governance as sustainability, the precautionary principle, common-pool resource theory, deliberative democracy, civic environmentalism, environmental justice, property rights, environmental conflict resolution, devolution, among others. This has introduced a range of perspectives from environmental economics, democratic theory, public policy, law, political science, and public administration. In effect, environmental governance does not so much represent a theoretical field or a professional discipline, but a theme of shared concerns in scholarship and applied practice. This chapter will consider how environmental governance can be re-approached by detaching it from the portfolio of resource managers and relocating it within a wider arena of development and democratic practices.

In the development field the notion that the public, stakeholders or local people have an important role in environmental governance is emphasized. "Environmental governance includes the structures (e.g. management regimes), organizational forms (e.g. farmer research teams, water user associations), processes (e.g. multi-stakeholder dialogue), actors and rules (e.g. negotiated access rights and boundaries) that determine how resources are managed at international, national and local levels." (International Development Research Centre)

Aside from government agencies and development practitioners, scholars will also characterize contemporary environmental governanceas a “collaborative approach to policy formulation and implementation”(Durant et al., 2004, pp. 22-23). Environmental governance therefore is relevant to several different fields of interest to scholars and can be framed in several ways. In the first instance, environmental governance is political and so a subject of political inquiry. This opens up a diverse body of literature to employ in developing an approach to environmental governance. Another dimension that arises out of the political, and that the following discussion shows to be explicitly present, is deliberative democracy. But the most promising approach to begin to problematize environmental governance lies with the notion of development and its contemporary manifestation as sustainable development, particularly its application by foreign agents in local settings. Each of these dimensions embodies unresolved tensions - tensions that can also be encountered in many sites of social theory and practice - which centre on epistemological concerns.

It may also be useful to think in terms of environmental governance as a body of political theory, as Humphrey has done (2007), that has a central focus upon environmental concerns as these relate to democracy, justice, globalization, political economy, freedom, the welfare state, and other aspects of political life. This body of work is no longer as closely related to the environmental ethics and values of nature of a deep ecology, but is more integrated into 'mainstream' political theory.

For the purpose of this discussion, I will develop the notion of environmental governance as a conceptual tool to approach the research problem from different scales, extension and perspectives. The complementary notions of environmental governance offer entry points into related literatures and cultures of practice: Environmental Democracy, Environmental Reform, Environmental Collaboration, and Environmental Sustainability.

Environmental governance can thus best be treated as both as assembly of practice and as a body of theory that is doing political work. To reconnect theory and practice will be the task of this chapter.

1.1.5 We are being ‘participated' again: An incomplete typology of participative approaches

There is an emerging consensus that the public need to be more involved in the processes of environmental decision making. From the international arena - exemplified in documents such as Agenda 21 and the initiatives of the World Bank - to national government policy initiatives, local policy and planning systems such as the New Zealand Resource Management Act, and in the discourses of actors including scientists and business groups, a role for public participation has been instituted (Davies, 2002).

Implicit in the idea of participation is that the initiative lies with the reformers, the change-makers to approach the public with a project to respond to. From the perspective of an un-associated citizen, the prospect of another round of workshops and discussion groups - events that have become familiar to many villagers in target zones of international aid - the process is passive and invites the expression not surprisingly encountered in developing nations of ‘we are being participated again'.

The notion of taking part in environmental decision-making and in contrast to an authority taking top-down action is taken up by a wide range of terms and practices. Participation in the social science is an umbrella term including different means for the public to directly participate in political, economic, management or other social decisions. Participatory decision making then infers a level of proportionate decision making power and can take place along any realm of human social activity, including economic (e.g. participatory economics), political (e.g. participatory democracy), cultural (e.g. communalism) or familial (e.g. Feminism).

In practice, the term participation applies to processes initiated by an agency seeking to initiate a project or introduce reform. It thus becomes critical to ask, who is invited to participate, and by whom. What regulatory requirements may apply, is there precedent, and what resources are available are only some of the parameters that the term participation by itself does not convey.

In the government sector, at least in New Zealand, the word consultation is frequently used to describe a range of processes to engage with the community - i.e. citizens and citizen associations. These range from the prescribed processes in the Local Government Act (2002) such as the special consultative procedure (section 83) to informal processes such as e-mail chat groups or anecdotal local knowledge. In this report, the term consultation will be used in a broad sense to include any form of government agency engagement with local communities, including activities carried out by an authority to inform itself of community views as well as specific consultation exercises.

Collaboration is another category that carries the notion to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavour. The sense that will be used here, emphasises the absence of authority, a consensual decision making process with respect to an established domain.

Dispute resolution is a related practice that seeks to reduce differences or to seek a solution when a conflict situation exists. When the services of a third party are utilized, this is often referred to as mediation.

These categories denote some of the dimensions that structure relationships in public involvement: consultation as an exercise in information exchange, participation implying a direct input into deliberation over decisions - linked to predefined or agreed rights, and mediation which involves an impasse of some sort. The ambiguities that these terms fail to dispel in practice, lie at the centre of this study.

1.1.6 A trans-disciplinary project: Chapter aims

Reform processes of environmental institutions are in general experience invariable complex and populated with diverse actors. To enter these settings constructively to reveal new insights requires novel approaches. I will show here that alternate conceptions can be built from an empirically grounded approach to show how citizens on the margins of participatory processes are actively resisting and construing their lifeworlds.

This chapter must establish that environmental governance as deliberative practices has responded to many issues, but it still is aimed at reforming the project of the state, while it remains based on top-down, universalising frames of reference. In doing so, the struggles of individuals with the colonising force of administrative systems will become more visible. I will show that the literature treating society-nature topics, sees an important role for public participation but undervalues the actual processes of deliberation - that is dialogue and debate in reflection on process and framings, by treating it as an abstract information exchange exercise. The reforms of the 1st generation of environmental governance that responded to the failures of imposed nature enclosures have only in part responded to problematic issues. According to its critics, new conservation policy, practice, and institutions remain expert-driven, undemocratic and autocratic.

Because reform practices poorly address situational contexts and knowledge framing of participant actors, multiple perspectives are relevant to appreciating factors that influence the outcome of deliberative practices, I will show here. My professional background and social circumstances offer a unique opportunity that contributes to structuring the theoretical and empirical work of this and the next chapter. Drawing on my own background I can select entry points into the relevant literatures with which I can construct multiple positions to respond to the research questions.

1.2 Views from the top: Analysing political interests and institutional structures

The first view I want to construct stands alongside analysis and policy makers that assess structural factors, determine important indicators and are involved in developing policy that drives change and reform. This perspective will cast a critical eye on the ambiguities carried by notions that have driven environmental management, including sustainable development, civil society and deliberative democracy.

Human-nature relations are and have been the interest of thinkers from a wide range of disciplines, historically treated by thinkers as diverse as ancient religious philosophers and modern conservation managers. A distinction or boundary that is immediately visible in the treatment of contemporary environmental issues is the academic work of authors linking theories of state and social organisation with the environment on the one side and the practitioners involved in formulating or challenging policy formulation on the other.

The literature concerned with reflecting and theorising about human-nature relations is extensive. An initial survey of theoretical literature in the domains concerned with environmental governance reveals the essentially contested nature of this key concept. Incommensurable definitions of environmental governance, as well as collective action, civil society, development, and a range of other key terms of reference discussed further on, reflect the irreducibly ideological nature of much contemporary environmental governance research.

Scholarly interest is divided between attention to institutional and theoretical issues in political sciences and relatively more practice oriented or ethnographic interest in the applied development literature. In the policy sciences the insistence to separate facts and values has facilitated a technocratic form of policy analysis that emphasizes the efficiency and effectiveness of means to achieve politically established goals. Reflecting a subtle antipathy towards democratic processes, economic and social problems are interpreted as issues in need of improved management and project design {Gormley, 2007}.

To examine the social and political elements of governance reform situations, some basic questions can be asked with the help of political science tools. Questions like How does the environment become politicized? How and why do citizens and social groups organize and mobilize over environmental issues? .. correspond to interest by political scientists in assessing values and interest that motivate political action.

More structural interests asks … How does the environment become a domain for political-economic patterns and processes of large-scale change associated with social development? How is this reflected in policy analysis and policy making? Such questions are founded on relative stable categories and abstraction that often become the focus of diversionary academic debates. [## example?]

Perhaps the most interesting questions go deeper still and consider … How and why does the environment come to be regarded as something in need of management and governance? And thus … Why are democratic principles seen as fundamental to this? These are questions that classic political economy and the scholarship that is associated with reducing social action to material interests is poorly equipped to answer.

Leaving the latter questions aside for the moment, it is worthwhile to see what structural features appear relevant to this subject area. This will provide a foundation to adapt a top-down analytical perspective for environmental reform situations. In order to ensure that such an approach will be well-grounded, I want to anchor my argument in findings from the exploratory phase of this project. The first part of the research journey echoed the initial review of the literature related to civil society and sustainable development that is briefly entered into in the subsequent section.

1.2.1 An exploratory study: Grounding abstraction in actor perspectives

It is important to begin here already with details of the methodology adopted for the initial part of the study because it proved critical to developing the theoretical orientation that was adopted.

At the outset of this research project, before the research problem was much developed and so before the study focus was fixed, a series of interviews, a review of media and of institutional documents served to scope the key issues and concepts related to the study interest of deliberative spaces in environmental governance. The purpose of this exploratory part of the study was to orientate and empirically frame this study:

  • To orientate within and gain familiarity of policy processes and practices of public involvement.
  • To identify categories of interest (issues, actors, discourses, processes ...)
  • To identify key actors.
  • To situate discourses around problems.
  • To locate entry points into actor networks.
  • To frame the approach to the literature.

The findings from this first part of the study served to develop the methodology but also served as entry into the literature. This meant linking issues present in the practice of environmental governance to bodies of literature that could serve to theorize this study. Rather than setting out to apply abstract concepts used by scholars, such an approach seeks to situate conceptualisation used by actors in the interface of society and nature, which promises to open new ways to work with this subject. Working in this way helped reveal and attend to the limits of analytical abstraction of practitioners and literatures that made up my initial frame of reference.

A full treatment of the methodological approach in this study follows in a later chapter. Some key points need to be highlighted here that framed the development of this work.

The initial research interest was stimulated by local controversies provoked by the marine reserve proposal for Great Barrier Island. Documentary analysis suggested an initial list of issues around, but not constrained to, marine environmental management issues (biodiversity conservation and resource management). Informants were identified by approaching relevant organizations and by following up key themes through recommended contacts. Participant observation at several public meetings, including a Auckland City Council consultation meeting, a meeting of activist recreational fishers and a hearing on the controversial proposed seabed and foreshore legislation, also proved informative. Central was a series of semi-structured interviews - following a format later adapted for the entire study - that was carried out at the time. On Great Barrier Island I sought out a number of informants as well as organising focus group discussions with residents active in the community to explore related themes and issues. All these activities served the stated objectives and in particular to focus research questions, thematic issues and identify relevant literatures.

Overlapping with the initial exploratory phase, and extending into the period of focused data collection, was my participation in a diploma course entitled ‘Iwi Management Planning'. For the duration of an academic year, 18 residents of Great Barrier Island met at a local marae one weekend every month to hold a workshop led by a visiting tutor and with occasional guests from the mainland. The course was free to participants and was organised by Te WĬĀnanga o Aotearoawith government funding, The ‘University of New Zealand' is an accredited tertiary instruction that is aligned with Maori perspectives, who make up the majority of students and staff. Participating as a student not only provided me with access to rich material about Maori perspectives on environmental issues but also engagement with the views of a diverse range of islanders from an island-based point of view. Nearly half of the student group were pakeha, with the remainder locally resident tangata whenua. Ages ranged from 18 to over 60, a good gender balance, and included several people working professionally or voluntarily with environmental management issues on the island.

During a trip to Wellington, I carried out interviews with a number of informants representing government agencies and organisations active in resource issues and governance New Zealand wide. At the Department of Conservation I met with a policy manager with responsibilities in marine conservation policy. An informant at Local Government New Zealand spoke for the interests of territorial authorities. A senior staff member answered questions at the Sea Food Industry Council which works on behalf of the commercial fishing industry, where Ialso met with a policy researcher at an associated organisation - the New Zealand Rock Lobster Industry Council. Meetings took place with directors of two private consulting companies, Conflict Management NZ and The Centre for Research Evaluation and Social Assessment (CRESA) who had carried out research on Great Barrier Island. Lastly, a programme officer at the World Wide Fund for Nature discussed issues in the Pacific and specifically drew attention to the Locally Managed Marine Areas initiative in Fiji that also received funding from New Zealand. That was later developed into a separate research intervention. Parallel to this I also attended an international conference held at Victoria University in Wellington, “Indigenous Knowledges”.

A journey through Northland at that time, sought out interviews with informants within organisations that have local perspectives on environmental governance and natural resource management. These included interviews with co-workers from, Te Puni Kokeri and the Far North District Council, the He Iwi Kotahi Tatou Trust which is a community development trust in the town of Moerewa, and private meetings with two Maori activists - both former iwi chairmen and respected advisers in Maori communities.

Subjects and issues were followed up with library, media and internet research as well as through inquiries and information requests to the relevant organisations. The exploratory phase also saw the beginning of systematic media monitoring that continued throughout the study. The central themes refined then formed the basis for periodic media reviews as well as a keyword-based Google news alert.

##Add more detail here / focus above ..

The general themes and issues that thus emerged during the exploratory phase oriented the approach to the literatures about environmental politics:

  • Complex demands and interests for managing, reforming and developing society-nature relations are in tension.
  • Government policies, and particularly policy reforms, for conservation and resource management are widely being contested.
  • Participative governance is not fulfilling democratic expectations of participants.

To what extent did the literature and practice networks respond to these issues? What answers were available? It turned out that much of the literature was addressing unrepresentative situations in which failed or aborted participative processes did not feature. It was much harder to find authors that engaged with experiences that failed expectations, which became so intermeshed with other processes to defy analysis or turned into the protracted stalemates lacking easy explanation as did nearly all the processes accompanied in this study.

To understand why analytical abstraction proves so difficult particularly in the fields of interest, it is useful to examine the origins and application of some key concepts. This will permit top down interpretations to be ambiguated sufficiently to position observations relative to the situations in which they are made. Sustainable development is one such notion that is a practice approach and which has become central to economic development and conservation planning. Considering its trajectory is insightful.

1.2.2 The global institutionalization of sustainable development

Sustainable development was brought into international language through Agenda 21 and the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit), which focused on the pressures that would need to be resolved if the environment, the economy and communities should ‘flourish' in the 21st century. Ten years on, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 made this an explicit goal that also the New Zealand government committed to, releasing The Government's Approach to Sustainable Development in August of that year (MfE 2002). In February of the same year, the government's Growth and Innovation Framework. presented by then Prime Minister Helen Clark said that New Zealand's development path needs to achieve a higher level of economic growth. This tension persisted also in the Sustainable Development Programme of Action issued by then Minister of Economic Development, Marian Hobbs in January 2003 following the Johannesburg conference.

The term as used by the Brundtland Commission in 1992 has become the often-quoted definition: “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Conceptually this is a field that can be broken into three constituent parts: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and socio-political sustainability. Agenda 21 identified the key concepts of information, integration, and participation as key building blocks to help countries achieve development that recognises these interdependent pillars. These are the themes that have framed a doctrine of sustainable development adopted by development agencies and that were also encountered in this study.

At virtually every level of environmental governance, then, the goal of substantive social movement participation in sustainable development has been formally recognized and incorporated into bureaucratic structures. Whether that positive commitment to the principle of participation has yielded measurable improvements against the environmental, democratic and administrative criteria discussed earlier remains an open question subject to much debate. Sustainable development has, for instance, been described as ecological modernization (Buttel, 2003) and by others as a form of ‘managerialism' (Sunderlin, 2003).

In recent years, the focus of biodiversity protection thus has shifted from relatively abstract discussions of how to introduce and enforce environmental standards and conservation measures, to the integration of social aspects. There has been much discussion about the question why and how people should participate in environmental decision making (see e.g. Bulkeley & Mol, 2003; Leeuwis, 2000; McKinney & Harmon, 2002). While there is only limited coherence in this literature, a number of models have been implemented that are built on theoretical principles from these discussions. I will contend that whilst these accounts of participative approaches point to important areas of analysis, key aspects of participation have been largely overlooked. In particular, I find that the empirical evidence raises a number of unanswered questions about the ways in which people experience the process of taking part in redefining their relationship with their environment. This I will pursue further on in the discussion.

Beginning with the official decade of sustainable development, the 1990s produced vast quantities of popular, official, and social scientific literature on the relationship between economic development and the environment. This international effort was followed over the years with many national and international projects that raised expectations that development could continue without the risk of environmental exhaustion. Numerous statements of intent were released, most advocating some combination of government decentralization, devolution of responsibility for natural resource management, and community participation in environmental governance as solutions to overcome the manifest inability of states and markets to balance the objectives of generalized economic development and environmental protection (see e.g.Bonfiglioli, 2004; White, 1994).

1 Much of the environmental movement was co-opted into this process and remained profoundly influenced by its continued involvement, marked by the wide dissemination of the sustainability discourse familiar from environmental advocacy (resource management, future generations, our common future ..). Agenda 21 sold a vision of global ecology which defined the major problems of the Earth in Northern elite and scientific terms (global warming, population growth, species extinction) while largely ignoring the key environmental issues as defined by the majority of the people (e.g. livelihoods, water availability, urban services), both in the North and the South. It continued to promote the Enlightenment goals of progress through economic growth and industrialization at all costs. It also advanced the globalization of radical libertarian market systems, along with US style `apolitical' pluralist systems of democracy. This criticism has been well developed (e.g. Doyle 1998) and is a critique that does not need to be repeated here. A key point to take forward, however, is that many green arguments were reframed, largely by business, within a discourse which revolved around the key concept of sustainable development. Thus, the continued currency of sustainable development largely derived from the way it was able to incorporate material interests.

1.2.2.1 Sustainable development blames poverty for environmental degradation

This sustainable development view of the more affluent nations of the globe contends that poverty has caused and continues to create environmental degradation. In 2005 the United Nations Human Development Report (Annan & Secretary-General, 2005) argued that poverty is one of the greatest threats to the environment and the 2000 World Bank Environment Strategy used the rationale that “poor people are often impoverished by a declining resource base and in turn often forced by their circumstances to degrade the environment further” (Bucknall, Kraus, & Pillai, 2001). But poverty is not an environmental problem, even if they can occur together. Isolating poverty and environment produces the risk of misplaced priorities. While that need not necessarily follow, the concern here will be to examine how practices are re-framed by this analysis.

The policies of government and non-governmental international aid agencies in New Zealand illustrates the turn to a poverty analysis. During recent decades, development thinking has shifted from modernization and structural adjustment programs to poverty reduction. Under the former system, poor countries were encouraged to undergo social and economical structural transformations as part of their development, creating industrialization and intentional industrial policy. Poverty reduction rejects this notion, consisting instead of direct support for social welfare programs that intends to create macroeconomic stability leading to an increase in economic growth. Thus New Zealand's International Aid & Development Agency (NZAID) declares that Since NZAID's formation in 2002, poverty elimination has been central to the agency's mission.This is echoed by the organisation that represents New Zealand's major Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in aid and development which states on the front page of its website that The Council for International Development (CID) works to achieve effective high quality international development programmes which focus on the alleviation and eradication of poverty.

With a focus on poverty elimination, development practice has moved beyond modernisation principles to principles of sustainability with NGOs explicitly stating that development should be sustainable and encompass the social, spiritual, cultural and economic well-being of people; that the poor should make decisions about their own development; that the ultimate test of development policies is their long-term effect on the lives of the poorest sectors of society, especially women and children and that sustainable development involves the use of all resources for the benefit of future as well as present generations; (CID Member's Code of Ethics, ibid.).

But progress has been disappointing, as NZAID reports (ibid.): “While much global progress has been made towards eliminating poverty and hunger, there are still about one billion people living in extreme poverty and 800 million undernourished people.”

1.2.2.2 Decolonisation and the return of the development fetish

From an African perspective, there is a certain irony attached to the revival of a notion that failed Africa so bitterly, now prefixed with the modifier ‘sustainable'. Decolonisation was accompanied by a promise of modernism that would arrive with the magic wand of development. For the Senegalese scholar Mamadou Diouf, the ‘fetish concept of the 1960s' (Cooper 1997: 292) lost any resonance other than ideological by the time it was revived with the addition of qualifiers of ‘sustainable' or ‘indigenous'.

A sense of disappointment with the unfulfilled promise of the “Development Project” (Esteva 1992:; McMichael 2000; Sachs 2000) has not only accompanied the continued efforts to reform aid strategies, adapt approaches and improve effectiveness, but also contributed to a growing criticism of the underlying approach adapted since development was put on the international agenda following the Second World War. However, this criticism not only stems from an evaluation of failed achievements, but also of a ‘suspicion of the economic mindset that steers a Western-led caravan on the path to modernity' (Pieterse 2000).

Until the mid-1980s post-World War II development thinking shared three basic paradigms, i.e. essentialising the Third World and its inhabitants as homogeneous entities, an unconditional belief in progress and in the makeability of society, and the importance of the (nation) state in realising that progress (Schuurmann 2000). Development theories (from modernisation to dependencia) as well as the international development aid industry all shared these paradigms. From the mid-1980s onwards these three paradigms increasingly lost their hegemonic status and are currently, on the threshold of the twenty-first century, being replaced by a loose set of partly descriptive, partly heuristic notions like civil society, social capital, diversity and risk. These are notions that reappear in an examination of environmental governance discourses, but they do not suffice to describe the modern experience of ‘developing nations'.

For Diouf the key to understanding the failure of development strategies lies in a careful study of knowledges and discourses. While he does not offer a categorical explanation, Diouf does position the discourses of the World bank and IMF experts in the neo-liberal context that these stem from. “The neoliberal discourse subordinates social existence to the logic of the market. It affirms, in an imperious manner, the dichotomy economic sphere/non-economic sphere, thus reorganizing social space, economic policies, and political functions” (ibid.: 309). By deconstructing the logic at the heart of the nationalist vision of development, with this discourse of growth masquerading as development, Diouf argues, power was transferred to an administrative elite made up of African technocrats and foreign experts that presided over the effective dissolution of the political and the ascendance of a power without common measure of the elected assemblies.

This retreat by visionary leaders and the surreptitious undermining of critical attributes of political sovereignty was provoked by the claim for an autonomous economic sphere. The intended consequences were increasingly favourable conditions for foreign investment and the unintended result was a dramatically increased dependency on foreign finance that was cemented by stifling the expansion of local finance.

African experience demonstrates how economic factors remain inseparably bound up with political and social aspirations. The weakening of previous doctrines has in fact opened up spaces for the re-emergence of globalised forms of competing ideologies. This ideological struggle has been mediated by what elsewhere is described as the argumentative turn and the growth of the public sphere, a context in which contested ideas drive socio-economic changes. As will be seen, spaces for environmental projects and policy development thus remain contested.

1.2.3 Sustainable development as a practice that reorganizes communities, marshals civil society as its agent, but remains contested

1.2.3.1 Civil society as agents of sustainable development

Donor agencies acknowledge one constraint to achieving better impacts is the top-down approach of government agencies and that it must be complemented by non-governmental agencies who can substitute for the perspectives of those targeted by the poverty programmes. “NZAID recognises that its development strategies and programmes must be relevant to the local context and incorporate the perceptions of the poor themselves. We therefore engage actively with New Zealand's NGO development community and provide funding to support a wide range of NGO programmes with partners on the ground overseas”. While this confirms the non-governmental distinction, it also implicitly assumes that organisations - be they on the ground partners or foreign development agencies - can achieve that relevancy and contribute perceptions ‘of the poor themselves'. Another problem is that it invites the unqualified use of ‘the poor' as a general category.

1.2.3.2 Development contested: practice-based vs theoretical lit

There is a division in scholarly interest apparent that, where participation is concerned, much of the same topics will be treated by development studies. With that comes reduced attention to institutional and theoretical issues and relatively more practice oriented or ethnographic interest. This was already noted earlier.

In the field of international Development [bibliography], it appears that much of the 'participatory' literature tends to be sector specific, and frequently describes efforts used to solve an immediate community problem (see e.g. Alix-Garcia, Janvry, & Sadoulet, 2005; Brian Craig, Graham Whitelaw, Robinson, & Jongerden, 2003; Karen Brown, 2003; Eder, 2005; Hunt & Smith, 2005; Veitayaki, Aalbersberg, & Tawake, 2003; White, 1994). Participatory projects may involve a number of different stakeholders coming together to work on an immediate and visible community problem, such as improving a water supply. The initiation for such a collaborative action may be reported as emerging from within the community, or be initiated as part of a development programmes by an outside agency, national or international. In terms of science, we most commonly see descriptions of participatory approaches involving researchers and one particular interest group, say farmers, a relationship typically limited to the term of one project. After completion of the planned work, the aid workers and researchers move on to find another group in need of their expertise. Within these situations, community-based process skills in areas such as facilitation and rapid rural appraisal techniques are commonly used.

As participatory rural appraisal (PRA) has passed into the canons of good development practice, among aid agencies awareness of a gap between PRA rhetoric and reality has followed. For example, a paper from the UK Institute of Development Studies (part of the Pathways to Participation initiative) reports on a reflective actor-oriented process undertaken by the British NGO ActionAid in order to improve its use of PRA in Gambia (Holmes & Scoones, 2000). As elsewhere in development settings, PRA (a term coined in 1988) came to Gambia in the early 1990s and has, with the backing of local enthusiasts, donors and international agencies gradually become institutionalised into activities at all tiers of government. The primary function of ActionAid's 45 fieldworkers (known as Community Development Workers - CDWs) is to facilitate a Community Based Management (CBM) approach to build local capacity to identify, implement and manage development initiatives under the rubric of community action plans (CAPs). The report highlights gaps between ActionAid's policy and practice at the time of the research in 1999, noting field workers not following critical guidelines, staff gender imbalances, poor interagency cooperation, minimal transfer of PRA skills to local communities, obstacles of illiteracy, artificial budget-linked programme cycles, inflexible package approach to PRA, and little input from communities into process.

However, as this study describes, when the focus changes towards the more complex issues surrounding environmental governance, a wider range of skills are required to be used and linked. The range of 3-letter acronyms - PRA, CBM, CDW, CAP - proves limited. Questions about inclusiveness, the role of facilitators, and the personal behaviour of elites remain. Such situations frequently not only involve multiple stakeholder perspectives, but also lack emphasis on information, local politics and its subsequent development (Kapoor, 2002).

The inadequacies of the documented thinking on reform practices reveals the need to adopt other perspectives. To what extent can the methodologies developed by practitioners match the complex contexts, subjective experiences and strategic interests of participating actors? In particular, how do theorists and practitioners imagine deliberation and democr


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