Governance for Sustainable Systems: The Development of a Participatory Framework
Despite an increasing recognition of the need for an integrative approach to sustainable development, there remains a tendency for this to be anthropocentric. Attempts to govern sustainability are invariably focused on the pre-eminence of the human perspective and social systems in the pursuit of human goals. This often means either excluding or attempting to control the external environment rather than understanding and responding to it. This thesis explores more holistic approaches to governance that are based upon the need for an improved understanding about the interconnections between social, economic and ecological systems. It examines current literature on governance for sustainable development and systems thinking as applied to it, with specific reference to Socio-Technical Systems (STS), social learning about systems’ interrelations and the nature of public goods. On the basis of this analysis, a systemic conception of governance for sustainability is developed and translated into a provisional framework that can aid participatory social learning relating to sustainable development. Three initial Socio-Technical Systems (STS) case studies are drawn upon to populate the empty framework (the European Critical Electricity Infrastructure (ECEI), the Finnish security system and the transition of energy systems towards a post carbon society); these are then analysed thematically to derive common governance for sustainability criteria. The final modified framework is then applied to an in depth, and on-going, case study of food systems’ security and sustainability and a final discussion considers how this governance framework (GAME) might contribute to future holistic decision making for more sustainable Socio-Technical Systems. The multi-method GAME supports the generation of future scenarios and core sustainability criteria by multiple stakeholders; reflecting needs, capabilities and limits that can maintain systems’ equilibrium. It also implies a more normative governance for sustainability and a commitment to improved evidence-based decision-making that reflects systems’ complexity and contributes to bridging the gaps between science, policy and society. The GAME is currently being extended to incorporate the user-friendly geospatial representations of impacts.
- PhD