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The Governance Gap: New Report on Adapting to Sea-Level Rise in SF Bay

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 27 June 2017

As part of our NSF project on sea-level rise adaptation, I am very happy to officially release the final version of our report on governance challenges in the SF Bay Area.  This report summarizes the results of an extensive study of governance for climate adaptation and sea-level rise in the SF Bay Area, where the concept of sea-level rise adaptation also includes coastal flooding from high tides and extreme storm events. We focus on the “governance gap” that exists between the problem of sea-level rise and the implementation of adaptation solutions that increase resilience. The governance analysis was conducted in Fall 2016-Winter 2017, and is based on a qualitative case study that combines in-person interviews, focus groups, document analysis, and content analysis of interview responses. The draft report was made available to study participants in Spring 2017, along with two webinars for receiving feedback.

Polycentric Governance: A Concept Searching for a Theory

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 13 April 2017

I have just returned from the 2017 meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, where David Konisky kindly provided comments on our paper led by Jack Mewhirter (you can find the paper on the MPSA paper repository, which sadly is gated….), which demonstrated the existence of “negative institutional externalities” in the context of polycentric governance institutions. Negative institutional externalities occur when decisions made in one policy venue negatively affect outcomes in other policy venues. David commented that the existence of negative institutional externalities is a challenge to the normative assumption that polycentric governance is a superior governance arrangement to other types of “monocentric” or centralized approaches—how could this normative assumption be correct if introducing new venues has negative effects on the system?

An Ode to the Benefits of Messy Environmental Policy

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 08 September 2016

Ramiro Berardo and I recently published a new article on the structure of polycentric and complex governance systems for water management (sorry for the gated links…but see key figure inserted in this blog, where policy actors are circles, venues squares, and links represent participation).  We have been working on this project for a number of years, driven by the reality that most environmental governance arrangements involve many different actors participating in multiple policy venues, and working on interrelated problems.  Fortunately, veteran California environmental policy-maker Phil Isenberg was kind enough to provide a commentary on the article.  Among Phil’s comments are, “For those of us with some responsibility for making decisions on water and the environment and hoping to 'do good'

The Ecology of Games Framework: Some Responses to Critics

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 05 February 2015

A major branch of my research is devoted to studying complex institutional systems, which I argue are the defining feature of real-world environmental governance and public policy more generally.    Along with my colleagues (especially John Scholz and Ramiro Berardo) and students, we have updated the “ecology of games” idea originally developed by sociologist Norton Long in 1958 to describe the many different types of political actors and institutions operating in local political contexts.  Our ecology of games framework (EGF) synthesizes a number of existing theoretical concepts, with a strong basis in the work of Elinor Ostrom and new institutional economics, network analysis, and complex adaptive systems.

What is Network Governance?

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 14 January 2015

Blogs are sometimes good for making arguments that might not be published. Of course a good blog doesn’t just invent nonsense.  Rather, it focuses on expert-based opinions.  In the next couple of months, I’m going to write some expert-based opinions about theories of environmental governance that I use in my research.  I begin with a long-standing criticism I have of the term “network governance”, in particular when it is used to describe a form of governance that is different from markets and hierarchies. 

Should California have a Water Czar?

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 20 May 2011

Should California have a Water Czar? Everybody would agree that California water management is complex and chaotic with many different actors making decisions in many different policy venues, often ignoring how their welfare is interdependent, and therefore missing out on opportunities for mutual gains and avoiding mutual costs. For the last two decades in California, along with many other places in the US and internationally, the solution to this chaos was the implementation of collaborative watershed management, or integrated regional water management, or whatever synonym you prefer. The theory is that by getting all the stakeholders together to jointly make water management decisions, they are able to recognize interdependence and make mutually benficial decisions. "Getting better together", "the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the longest time", "co-equal goals", and all that.

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