Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment / CBIE Working Papers / Robustness of Social-Ecological Systems: Implications for Public Policy

Robustness of Social-Ecological Systems: Implications for Public Policy



Public policy processes are complex, dynamic phenomena. Understanding such dynamic phenomenon requires some sort of strategy for simplification - some way to isolate key system components and relationships among them that can be generalized to understand how the system structure defined by these components and relationships relates to policy outcomes across various contexts. There has been steady development of improved policy theory (Sabatier et al., 1999, 2007) focusing on better understanding how actors, problems, solutions, and decision opportunities interact to generate policy change. Such theories often focus on explaining policy change within a given organizational context that defines decision venues, restricts how agents interact, determines costs and benefits of interactions and particular outcomes. Given the notion of a policy cycle, or some period for a policy change of interest to play out, it is often reasonable to assume that key elements of the policy context remain stable. The Advocacy Coalition Framework (Sabatier, 1988) makes this explicit by defining “relatively stable parameters” that frame the policy process: (1) basic attributes of the problem area, (2) basic distribution of natural resources, (3) fundamental socio-cultural values and social structure, and (4) basic constitutional structure (Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1993) that are assumed to remain stable for approximately 100 years or more. It is on these relatively stable parameters that we focus our attention here.

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Published January 7, 2013

John M. Anderies, Arizona State University, School of Sustainability/School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Marco A. Janssen, Arizona State University, School of Sustainability