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Drivers of Environmental Institutional Dynamics in Decentralized African Countries

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This paper builds on the assumption that an effective approach to support the sustainability of natural resource management initiatives is institutional “bricolage.” We argue that participatory planning processes can foster institutional bricolage by encouraging stakeholders to make their own arrangements based on the hybridization of old and new institutions. This papers aims at identifying how participatory process facilitators can encourage institutional bricolage. Specifically the paper investigates the specific contextual and procedural drivers of institutional dynamics in two case studies: the Rwenzori region in Uganda and the Fogera woreda in Ethiopia. In both cases, participatory planning processes were implemented. This research has three innovative aspects. First, it establishes a clear distinction between six terms which are useful for identifying, describing, and analyzing institutional dynamics: formal and informal; institutions and organizations; and emergence and change. Secondly, it compares the contrasting institutional dynamics in the two case studies. Thirdly, process-tracing is used to identify contextual and procedural drivers to institutional dynamics. We assume that procedural drivers can be used as “levers” by facilitators to trigger institutional bricolage. We found that facilitators need to pay particular attention to the institutional context in which the participatory planning process takes place, and especially at existing institutional gaps or failures. We identified three clusters of procedural levers: the selection and engagement of participants; the legitimacy, knowledge, and ideas of facilitators; and the design of the process, including the scale at which it is developed, the participatory tools used and the management of the diversity of frames.

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  3. AquaStress Integrated Project (2005–2008): “Mitigation of Water Stress through new approaches to Integrating management, technical, economic and institutional instruments” funded by the 6th Framework Program of the European Union, Priority [Global Change and Ecosystems].


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This work was supported by the AfroMaison European FP7 research project, the UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance and the Fenner School of Environment and Society from the Australian National University (ANU). The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the European Commission, UNESCO or the ANU. The authors thank the Ethiopian and Ugandan teams for their support, as well as all the participants to the participatory planning processes without whom this research could not have unfolded. The authors would also like to thank Rick Zentelis for proof-reading the revised version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Emeline Hassenforder.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the European Commission 7th Framework Program ethical standards (2013): Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Additional informed consent was obtained from all individual participants for whom identifying information is included in this article.

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Hassenforder, E., Barreteau, O., Daniell, K.A. et al. Drivers of Environmental Institutional Dynamics in Decentralized African Countries. Environmental Management 56, 1428–1447 (2015).

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