Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 747–758 | Cite as

Collaborative governance for climate change adaptation in Canada: experimenting with adaptive co-management

Original Article


The search for strategies to address ‘super wicked problems’ such as climate change is gaining urgency, and a collaborative governance approach, and adaptive co-management in particular, is increasingly recognized as one such strategy. However, the conditions for adaptive co-management to emerge and the resulting network structures and relational patterns remain unclear in the literature. To address these identified needs, this study examines social relationships from a network perspective while initiating a collaborative multiactor initiative aimed to develop into adaptive co-management for climate change adaptation, an action research project undertaken in the Niagara region of Canada. The project spanned 1 year, and a longitudinal analysis of participants’ networks and level of participation in the process was performed. Evidence of support for climate change adaptation from the process included the development of deliberative and adaptive responses to opportunities presented to the group and the development of a strong subgroup of participants where decision-making was centered. However, the complexity of the challenge of addressing climate change, funding constraints, competing initiatives, and the lack of common views among participants may have contributed to the group, highlighting the finding that beneficial network structural features and relational patterns are necessary but not sufficient condition for the development of an adaptive co-management process. The context of climate change adaptation may require a different social network structure and processes than other contexts for adaptive co-management to occur, and there may be limitations to adaptive co-management for dealing with super wicked problems.


Collaborative governance Adaptive co-management Social network analysis Climate change adaptation 



The authors thank all the participants in the action research project associated with this paper. We also are grateful for the insights and contributions of Kerrie Pickering, Brad May, Samantha Morris, and Nicole Klenk. Financial support for the research came from Environment Canada through a Grants and Contributions Agreement with Brock University as well as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Support was also provided by Mistra through a core grant to the Stockholm Resilience Centre, a cross-faculty research centre at Stockholm University. The third author received financial support from the Strategic Research Programme EkoKlim at Stockholm University.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Sustainability Research CentreBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada
  2. 2.Stockholm Resilience CentreStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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