Network governance from the top: The case of ecosystem-based coastal and marine management


Contemporary environmental policy incorporates a collaborative approach, and conservation management commonly denotes the formation of governance networks on the sub-national level. This trend toward networks implies a shift in the mode of public governance since state-centered top-down control is replaced by a primary focus on governing networks from the top.

Previous research has studied the performance of collaborative networks while the role of the state in these settings has been acknowledged to a lesser extent. Thus, prevailing knowledge concerning how public agencies can govern networks towards the fulfillment of environmental objectives is restricted. This issue is addressed in this paper through an empirical case study of a state-initiated process aimed at implementing the ideas of ecosystem-based management, by means of collaboration networks, in five coastal regions in Sweden.

What governance strategies were adopted by the environmental protection agency, and how can the governance outcome be described in terms of ecosystem-based management and stakeholder support? Based on the empirical findings, the influence of the chosen governance approach on the outcomes is discussed. The results clearly illustrate the particular tradeoffs that occur as various governance strategies interact and how these influence both social and ecological aspects.

The application of extensive and rigorous governance strategies enhance the fulfillment of ecosystembased management while vagueness and flexibility enable local adaptation and enhance stakeholder support. Governing networks from the top involve a balancing act, and the idea of fulfilling environmental objectives through the dynamic of network is appealing albeit challenging in practice.


Link to centre authors: Bodin, Örjan, Crona, Beatrice
Publication info: Sandström, A., Ö. Bodin, B. Crona. 2015. Network governance from the top: The case of ecosystem-based coastal and marine management. Marine Policy 55: 57–63.


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