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Cross-interdisciplinary insights into adaptive governance and resilience

Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold, Brandeis School of Law, Department of Urban and Public Affairs. Center for Land Use and Environmental Responsibility, University of Louisville, Louisville
Hannah Gosnell, College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis
Melinda H. Benson, Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming, Laramie
Robin K. Craig, S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah, Salt Lake City


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The Adaptive Water Governance project is an interdisciplinary collaborative synthesis project aimed at identifying the features of adaptive governance in complex social-ecological institutional systems to manage for water-basin resilience. We conducted a systematic qualitative meta-analysis of the project’s first set of published interdisciplinary studies, six North American basin resilience assessments. We sought to develop new knowledge that transcends each study, concerning two categories of variables: (1) the drivers of change in complex water-basin systems that affect systemic resilience; and (2) the features of adaptive governance. We have identified the pervasive themes, concepts, and variables of the systemic-change drivers and adaptive-governance features from these six interdisciplinary texts using qualitative methods of inductive textual analysis and synthesis. We produced synthesis frameworks for understanding the patterns that emerged from the basin assessment texts, as well as comprehensive lists of the variables that these studies uniformly or nearly uniformly addressed. These study results are cross-interdisciplinary in the sense that they identify patterns and knowledge that transcend several diverse interdisciplinary studies. These relevant and potentially generalizable insights form a foundation for future research on the dynamics of complex social-ecological institutional systems and how they could be governed adaptively.

Key words

adaptive governance; interdisciplinary; qualitative textual analysis; resilience; systemic-change drivers

Copyright © 2017 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