CAGS-F is a framework, designed to provide guidance, organization, and basic conceptualizations of concepts and terms for diagnostic, descriptive, and prescriptive inquiryFootnote 2 into SEPs for the purpose of improving justiceFootnote 3 and sustainability. The focus on governance in CAGS-F narrows attention to the specific institutions, organizations, and people involved in and affected by SEPs in particular contexts from among the universe of all potential units of analysis. Governance is the formal and informal political administrative, economic, and social institutions and organizations through which power and authority are held and diverse stakeholders and user groups negotiate access, use, and allocation of natural or social resources (May 2015). Hence, governance is the particular institutions, organizations, and people that determine resource access, use, and allocation, and as a consequence authority, equity and justice, and environmental integrity through specific SEPs.
The focus on adaptive governance in CAGS-F derives from widely recognized need for system change to achieve just and sustainable outcomes (Abrams et al. 2020; Brunner 2010; Chaffin et al. 2016; Folke et al. 2005; Karpouzoglou et al. 2016; Walker et al. 2004). Organizations, institutions, and the distribution of resources and opportunities among social groups are the product and structural reflection of past political actions, knowledge systems, and power relations, which result in current procedural, (mis)recognition and representational, and distributional inequities but are amendable to change for improved socio-ecological welfare, equity, and integrity. As Shi (2020) explained, achieving SEPs’ progressive goals of justice and sustainable development requires collaborating with and considering the needs and desires of diverse groups by race, ethnicity, indigeneity, nationality, immigrant status, age, ableness, sexuality and gender identity, as well as diverse disciplines, such as sociology, race and gender studies, agriculture, and public health. Collaborating with and considering the needs of diverse groups requires a coherent framework to guide examination of how institutions, organizations, and people produce unintended or undesirable outcomes, differential barriers and opportunities, and resources and leverage points for achieving progressive goals, including inclusionary practices. CAGS-F is that coherent framework. GAGS-F synthesizes Gunderson and Holling’s (2002) panarchy heuristic with compatible theories of institutions, organizations, and intersectionality and stratification within a critical realist orientation to visualize how dynamic and discontinuous processes, structures, and practices produce pressures and resistance to change across levels and scales of governance systems.
What is the panarchy heuristic?
Figure 1 illustrates Gunderson and Holing’s (2002) adaptive cycle and panarchy heuristic modified to represent the formal institutional, organizational, and informal institutional elements of CAGS-F.Footnote 4 Panarchy refers to hierarchically ordered, connected, and interlocking complexes of adaptive cycles across multiple levels and scales. The panarchy heuristic was developed to explain resilience – the ability of a system to resist, adapt, or transform to a new resilience regime in response to internal (i.e., political turmoil) or external (i.e., natural disasters) shocks and disturbances. Resilience is the outcome of pressures and constraints generated by interdependent, but discontinuous adaptive cycles operating at multiple levels and scales. Adaptive cycles involve four phases, which in Fig. 1 (far left) are labeled with additional terminology for a more natural association with social systems (May 2021a).Footnote 5 Crisis (Ω) refers to a shock or disruption, such as natural disasters, economic crisis, technological innovation, or development projects. Adaptation (α) is the reactionary or anticipatory response to crises, such as disaster preparedness planning, social mobilization, or environmental conflict resolution. Institutionalization (r) is a process where actions and expectations become patterned and recurring with prospects for continued and future resource access, use, or allocation in infrastructural development processes, policies, or final plans. Institutionalized stability (K) exists when understandings, expectations, and actions are routinized over time.
Gunderson and Holling’s (2002) panarchy model (Fig. 1) illustrates three levels of adaptive cycles, which change at varying speeds. Higher levels exhibit slower speeds and exert greater constraint and authority at broader spatial, temporal, jurisdictional, or conceptual/analytical scales. Lower levels change faster and exert less constraint and authority across smaller scales. Top-down constraints and bottom-up pressures for change are depicted in the left-hand panarchical system of Fig. 1 by remember and revolt connections. Larger and slower components of the hierarchy provide memory and resistance to change, which encourages smaller and faster adaptive cycles to return to a stability state after a perturbation. However, adaptive responses at any level or scale have the potential to cause or resist change at any other level or scale (Gunderson and Holling 2002). CAGS-F conceptualizes each component of governance systems as a panarchical system, interdependent and connected to the other components. Socio-ecological disruptions, including SEPs are preceded, concurrent with, and followed by a series of adaptive responses (pressures, constraints, and processes) within and across the hierarchical, multi-level complexes of formal institutions, organizations, and informal institutional domains (shown in Fig. 1) and the practices of people.
What is institutional panarchy?
The first component of CAGS-F is formal institutions, represented by the Institutional Panarchy Framework (IPF) (May 2021a) in Fig. 1. Institutions are formal or informal rules or norms that proscribe, prescribe, or require certain actions and associated consequences for noncompliance (Crawford and Ostrom 1995; Schlager and Ostrom 1992).Footnote 6 Formal institutions are codified, documented, explicit rules generally enforced through bureaucratic and hierarchical authority structures, such as laws, legislation, and treaties (North 1991). The IPF conceptualizes the three levels of formal institutions identified by Ostrom and colleagues as hierarchically related to the next, with decreasing scope in scale and influence, but increasing rates of change. Constitutional rules designate authority relations at the highest level, with influence across the broadest scale, and set the parameters for lower level institutions (McGinnis and Ostrom 2014; McGinnis 2011; Ostrom 2011). Policy/collective choice level rules at the meso-level delimit processes and procedures for decision-making and the roles of actors involved (McGinnis and Ostrom 2014; McGinnis 2011; Ostrom 2011). Operational rules at the lowest level guide every day, practical activities, decision-making, and problem-solving processes for individuals or small collectivities (Crawford and Ostrom 1995; Schlager and Ostrom 1992). According to Kiser and Ostrom (1982) design, implementation, and enforcement of rules at constitutional and collective choice levels control the operational world of action (Kiser and Ostrom 1982). In contrast to Ostrom and colleagues, IPF conceptualizes the institutional levels as complex, interdependent, and dynamic, characterized by multi-directional causality; adaptive responses at any level or scale have the potential to cause or resist change at any other level or scale. For example, May (2021a) showed how operational level innovations in public access and use of nonmeandered waters (NMWs) overlying private agricultural lands in South Dakota resulted in collective level adaptations in court decisions and House bills,Footnote 7 followed by constitutional level changes in statutory laws.
What is organizational panarchy?
The second component of CAGS-F is organizations. Institutions provide rules for actions, but are not actors nor the arenas where actions occur. In contrast, organizations are actors, as well as arenas for action.Footnote 8 Perrow (1986) contended that organizations change in response to social and institutional environments and as a result of differential rates of change among three levels of goals internal to organizations and the discretion of people filling roles. In Fig. 1 (center), official goals are at the highest scale, with greatest scope of authority, but most abstraction and slowest rate of change. Perrow (1961) defined official goals as the general purposes of the organization as stated in charters, mission statements, annual reports, and public statements by key executives and other authoritative pronouncements. Operative goals define the actual operating policies of the organization in delineating means and resources and prioritizing objectives in achieving official goals. Unofficial goals evolve at the fastest rate of change with the preferences, interpretations, capabilities, and power struggles of personnel in everyday problem solving and role fulfillment. Perrow’s (1986) concepts of goal displacement and drift capture discontinuity across official goals, which change slowly and operative and unofficial goals which change faster. For example, May (2021a) showed how adaptations in the unofficial goals of the SD Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP) agency to facilitate public access and use of NMWs resulted in changes in agency operative goals, followed by changes in official goals for managing public use and access to NMWs.
What are informal institutions and multiple stratified panarchical realities?
Informal institutions are a third component of CAGS-F. In contrast to formal institutions, which are manifest, easily observable in documented legislation, law, policy, organizational mission statements, workload documents, and contracts, informal institutions are latent, undocumented, implicit, often tacit norms, understandings, and expectations enforced through social relationships (North 1991). Bhaskar’s (2008) critical realist approach provides a way to understand informal institutions that is highly compatible with Gunderson and Holling’s (2002) panarchy heuristic. The premise of Bhaskar’s (2008) critical realism is the a priori existence of an independent material or non-material reality, which is necessary for acting in and producing knowledge of the world. However, as Carolan (2005) explained, what we know and think is not assumed to be the same as what is, the deep, enduring, yet mutable, biophysical and social tendencies that give events weight and meaningful structure. Building on Bhaskar’s (2008) critical realism, informal institutions have essential properties that operate continuously, regardless of immediate effect and irrespective of any one person’s acknowledgement. We know the underlying causal mechanisms of informal institutions are real from the effects on human behaviors, circumstances, and life chances.Footnote 9
Based on the logic of latent casual social conditions, Bhaskar (2008) concluded that the social world is stratified into at least three levels, which are labeled on the right-hand panarchical system in Fig. 1. The levels are: the empirical at the lowest level, where events are easily observed and measured; the actual, where events require a more concerted effort to discern and explain; and the real or the deep at the highest level, where nearly unobservable tendencies provide weight and meaningful structure to the social world.Footnote 10 The panarchy heuristic adds a way to understand different rates of change across each level of reality and a way to examine variable effects across scales. Change is fastest at the empirical level, where effects have a narrower scope, while change is slower at the real level, where effects are broader in scale. For example, while constitutional institutions and formal organizational goals bar race as a basis for discrimination in present day USA, the persistence of racism is real across different levels of institutions, organizations, and relationships, manifesting through actual disparities in public health, income, occupational, and opportunities to be heard, seen, and considered in decision-making processes, and empirical everyday interactions, relationships, challenges and successes, and collective mobilization for change toward racial equity. The difficulty in this analysis is that realities are not just stratified, but multiple.
How do we recognize multiple stratified realities?
The stratified panarchical realities perspective has utility for examining the structures and mechanisms of informal institutions, and their influence on how formal institutions, organizations, and people produce differential experiences and inequitable life chances. However, the visibility of how latent power and privilege operate through institutions and organizations and how realities are stratified and multiple requires recognition, respect, and representation of the perspectives, experiences, and knowledge of people from diverse backgrounds. Intersectional scholarship in climate, development, water, and other justice research (Djoudi et al. 2016; Gonda 2017; Kaijser and Kronsell 2014; Nightingale 2017; Schlamovitz and Becker) employs a relational, multiple realities approach. Relational approaches focus on how latent, structural, and institutionalized power is discontinuously and unevenly experienced and reproduced across space and time (Sultana 2020). Multiple realities approaches emphasize differential power to interpret, implement, monitor, and enforce institutions through the machinery of organizations and everyday social relations that produce differential barriers, opportunities, resources, and leverage points for change in SESs.
Critical realist, intersectional scholarship (Flatschart 2017; Martinez et al. 2014; Walby 2007; Walby et al. 2012) provides a way to conceptualize and operationalize multiple stratified realities. According to Martinez et al. (2014: 14), abstract categories, such as racism, sexism, and classism, as well as intersectional mechanisms (such as the notion of misogynoir, the misogyny directed specifically at black women and girls) are real, emergent structures. These real structures position individuals and groups within social hierarchies with actual consequences for enabling or constraining life chances which manifest as empirical tendencies in everyday interactions, conflicts, challenges, and successes. Critical realist, intersectional approaches reveal how much of the social world is latent, embedded in and enacted out of tacit knowledge, habituated actions, and power relations, and differently experienced across groups involved in and affected by SEPs.
The focus on institutional and organizational panarchy from the perspective of critical intersectionality reveals how legislation, policies, and bureaucratic imperatives and processes produce unanticipated and/or undesirable differential outcomes. As Ray (2019) explained, real relations of power, privilege, and domination are produced and reproduced through organizations and institutions, inclusive of but irreducible to individual actions. For example, part of the perpetuation of environmental racism is a lack of diversity in people fulfilling positions of authority in environmental nongovernmental organizations and foundations (Taylor 2015). People in positions of authority matter. Organizational goals created in the past, such as those that supported discriminatory housing practices based on redlining are responsible for persistent inequities in life chances related to residential segregation (Rothstein 2017), and are reproduced or challenged by people carrying out unofficial organizational goals. People, intentionally or unintentionally, carry preferences, knowledge, and experiences into roles, which shape organizational performance and broader responses to pressures and resistance to change. Nevertheless, structures of power and privilege are embodied by but exist separate from people as latent institutional features representative of diverse, multiple realities. Additional tools are needed to observe and measure how people with differential capacities produce, reproduce, or challenge system characteristics across manifest, easily observable social domains, as well as those that are latent, disregarded, and ignored.
How do human practices contribute to system dynamics?
People are the final component of CAGS-F. People occupy diverse standpoints informed by diverse experiences of reality, have different and differently valued skills and experiences, and, as a result, unequal power and opportunities to benefit from, be involved in, or effect governance processes. Bourdieu’s (1990) practice theory offers an approach that recognizes the embeddedness of humans in socio-natural environments, as well as how stratification and intersectionality shape capabilities, capacities, and life chances differently across space. A summary of Bourdieu’s (1984: 101) theory is provided by the equation, [(habitus) capital)] + field = practice. According to Bourdieu (1990), the practices of individuals or social classesFootnote 11 are both structured and enabled by their habitus and the capital resources they have control and/or access to across fields. Capital resources include equipment, property, credit, or money (economic capital), skills, knowledge, ways of seeing, understanding, and doing (cultural capital), and means of accessing additional resources through social networks (social capital). People use and deploy capital assets according to dispositions, perceptions, and appreciations (habitus) in competitive contexts (field) defined by stratified positions of prestige and explicit and implicit rules, boundaries, and objectives for the use and valuation of capitals. For example, small-scale fisherpeople’s habitus and capital resources emerge from and are highly useful for tracking elusive fish through vast, opaque habitats and designing and enforcing informal institutional understandings for use, allocation, and access to fishery resources for maintenance of fisher livelihoods, but are often undervalued and less effective in formal fishery policy processes relative to competing user groups (May 2015, 2021b).
An important consideration for the applicability of Bourdieu’s theory to understanding adaptations in SESs concerns the capacity for habitus to change. Habitus is a determining factor in how people deploy resources, identify truth, and set goals.Footnote 12 Bourdieu’s theory has been described as overly structural and deterministic; habitus was understood, as Sewell (1992: 15) noted, to be “agent-proof.” However, while habitus is durable, it is not immutable (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992). Reflexivity has potential for altering objective structures (Archer 2003), such as habitus. Figure 2 was designed to illustrate an adaptive cycle for habitus, where an event, shock, or disruption spurs reflexivity, routinization of an adaptive response, and a potential consequent change in habit or routine. Reflexivity instigated by new, challenging, or altered experiences creates opportunities for change in habitus in the same way crises spur adaptive cycles in panarchical systems (Gunderson and Holling 2002) or threatened ontological security decreases trust, and as a result decreases continuity of self-identity and routine in social and material environments (Giddens 1990). Bourdieu’s (1990) theory emphasizes the relationality of practice and reflexivity in how changes in consciousness, relations, and resource access and use can reinforce, challenge, or transform resilient manifest rules and goals and latent assumptions, preferences, and understandings embedded in institutional and organizational logics.
How is human practice panarchical?
Practice and reflexivity operate across panarchical systems. The tacit assumptions, preferences, and understandings that partially constitute habitus (peoples’ dispositions, perceptions, and appreciations) signify the existence and workings of informal institutions. These structures exist a priori to contemporary contexts and are reflected to varying degrees in formal institutional and organizational logics, but can evolve through practice and reflexivity among individuals and social groups. A panarchical practice model for habitus with implications for broader scale change across institutions and organizations positions tacit knowledge at the highest level. Saint-Onge (1996) defined tacit knowledge as unarticulated knowledge, constituted by the intuition, perspectives, beliefs, and values that people form as a result of experiences and socialization. Tacit knowledge is the filter for interpretations, understandings, and behavior and goals, as such, it is the basis for most individual decisions and practical activity. Giddens (1984) positioned everyday, practical consciousness as the middle ground between tacit (unarticulated) and explicit (articulated) knowledge. Whereas tacit knowledge is unconscious and inarticulable, practical consciousness is semi-articulable. Discursive consciousness operates at the lowest level with narrowest scope, reflecting what people can fully articulate regarding the world and their actions and circumstances (Giddens 1984). Everyday practical and collaborative problem solving, disruptions from broad-scale economic, natural, technological, or social shocks, or new experiences spur reflexivity and the possibilities for learning and change as the invisible, tacit aspects of norms, preferences, and expectations become visible and discursive.Footnote 13
For example, Bourdieu’s (1990) theory adds to collaborative learning, or co-productive governance processes (for example, Abidi-Habib and Lawrence 2007; de Kraker 2017; Fernández-Giménez et al. 2019; Kondo et al. 2021; Tschakert et al. 2014; Turnhout et al. 2020; Wyborn 2015). The habitus and capital assets of individuals shape and are affected by the iterative processes of experimentation and learning in defining problems, identifying solutions, implementing strategies, and assessing outcomes in group settings. Theoretically, change and transference of material/economic capital (money, credit, tools, and technology), social capital (resources accessible through social relations), and cultural capital (skills, knowledge, and ways of knowing) occur as relationships develop and grow or splinter and disintegrate. The degree of trust, reciprocity, and mutual understanding and respect involved in relationship building causes either an increase, decrease, or qualitative change in asset access, investment, or development. For example, in a comparative study of coastal community resilience in the USA, recognition and respect proved to be the difference between diverse, stratified groups cooperatively pooling differential capital assets to respond and recover from socio-ecological hazards in Louisiana, while conflict, distrust, and exclusion diminished adaptive capacity in North Carolina (May 2021b). However, individual and group practices alone were not sufficient to explain community resilience in North Carolina or Louisiana. Recognition and respect, or the lack thereof, embedded in institutional, formal and informal, and organizational systems enabled outcomes for both cases (May 2021b). CAGS-F emphasizes the relational processes of panarchical practice (resources and the stratified positioning of actors based on power and privilege) in and across fields (governed by formal and informal rules and consisting of organizations and other individuals) as central for how reflexivity reinforces, challenges, or transforms tacit and explicit assumptions, preferences, and understandings as discursive consciousness expands, thereby creating opportunities and revealing needs for institutional and organizational change.