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From coastal timber supply area to Great Bear Rainforest: exploring power in a social–ecological governance innovation.

Michele-Lee Moore, University of Victoria
Ola Tjornbo, SiG@Waterloo, University of Waterloo


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As the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment revealed, many social–ecological systems around the world are currently being governed unsustainably. Consequently, social innovation is needed to transform current governance regimes and introduce new more resilient arrangements. Although dominant institutions and social groups may resist such innovations which threaten the status quo and their interests, groups on the margins of the established social order can often trigger governance transformations, despite a lack of conventional financial and institutional resources. In particular, there are numerous cases of marginalized groups initiating processes of radical change to establish sustainable governance practices for threatened social–ecological systems. We investigate one such case, and introduce a typology of power developed by Barnett and Duvall (2005) to illuminate the role that nongovernmental organizations and indigenous nations played in the transformation of a social–ecological governance regime for an area known as the Great Bear Rainforest, located in British Columbia, Canada. The analysis shows the interplay of compulsory, structural, institutional, and productive forms of power as the four key interest groups in this case enacted the governance transformation. The conclusions draw lessons about how the use and distribution of certain types of power can shape the course and outcomes of social–ecological governance transformations.

Key words

governance transformation; Great Bear Rainforest; power; social innovation

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087