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An Integrated Approach to Analyzing (Adaptive) Comanagement Using the “Politicized” IAD Framework

Luke Whaley, Water Science Institute, Cranfield University
Edward K. Weatherhead, Water Science Institute, Cranfield University


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Scholars of comanagement are faced with a difficult methodological challenge. As comanagement has evolved and diversified it has increasingly merged with the field of adaptive management and related concepts that derive from resilience thinking and complex adaptive systems theory. In addition to earlier considerations of power sharing, institution building, and trust, the adaptive turn in comanagement has brought attention to the process of social learning and a focus on concepts such as scale, self-organization, and system trajectory. At the same time, a number of scholars are calling for a more integrated approach to studying (adaptive) comanagement that is able to situate these normative concepts within a critical understanding of how context and power fundamentally influences the behavior of a system. We propose that the “politicized” version of the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) Framework, originally developed by Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues, is well suited to addressing this challenge. The framework provides breadth, clarity, and structure by drawing the analyst’s attention to the range of variables and questions to be considered when attempting a study of comanagement, the various components of the situation, and the ways in which they interact, and the criteria the analyst may wish to adopt in evaluating the outcomes of the process. Alongside its ability to address contextual factors and power dynamics, the socioeconomic and institutional dimension of the politicized IAD Framework means that it can be used to conduct analyses that result in sound policy recommendations.

Key words

comanagement; adaptive comanagement; IAD Framework; politicized IAD Framework; methodology; institutions; power; discourse; resilience

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work 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