Making transformation happen : Institutional entrepreneurship and boundary management in the Coral Triangle

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University

Abstract: This licentiate thesis sets out to investigate the dynamics of transformative change in social-ecological systems. That is, how large-scale sustainability transitions can be initiated and purposefully navigated. It does so by examining the emergence of the Coral Triangle Initiative–a multi-lateral partnership between six countries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific aimed to transform governance and management of costal and marine resources in the region. The first study draws on theories on institutional entrepreneurship, social-ecological systems, and regime formation to analyze what factors and strategies enable transformative change. The study shows how institutional entrepreneurs are leveraging resources and garnering support from the highest political level across the region. It also shows how institutional entrepreneurs navigate the broader opportunity context by preparing the system for change and scaling up new ideas. The second study apply boundary management theory to investigate what challenges are associated with the endeavor to manage a large-scale sustainability initiative in a regionally inter-connected ecosystem like the Coral Triangle–a system where contextual complexity creates constraints on collaboration and policy making. In particular, the study examines how the interplay between different stakeholders affects the legitimacy, salience, and credibility of transformative change. The study shows that resources asymmetries, difficulties at linking scales, and lack of transparency risk to undermine each of the three, especially since the CTI has not adequately allowed for negotiation around trade-offs between social and ecological goals.

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