Implications of pursuing long-term sustainability through short-term policy instruments
CALS Impact Statement
We hosted academics from Europe and North America October 21-24, 2007, on the Cornell campus to lay the foundation for collaborative and comparative analysis of ways social and ecological sustainability is increasingly being pursued by short-term projects. We outlined a research agenda for developing understanding of the relative roles and performance of short-term administrative solutions (e.g., committees, round tables, task forces, public-private partnerships) as they are applied to environmental management and rural development.
Principal themes in the workshop arise from consideration of the intersection of governance logic and the dual critical lenses of accountability and learning dynamics. If governance (i.e., mobilization of civil society, participatory forms, public-private partnerships, nested administrative structures) entails a shift away from state bureaucracies and formal institutions as the locus of coordination and decision-making, important questions are raised regarding the relative performance of alternative organizational configurations. In pursuing a critical analysis of governance, we are specifically interested in the seeming proliferation of organizational and administrative structures that ostensibly contribute to sustainable development through short-term projects or what has been described as projectification or governance through "ad-hocracy."
In our assessment, analysis of temporal dimensions of governance (i.e., relational configurations of public and private sector actors mediating information flow and power in social systems) has not received adequate attention by researchers or policy makers. Defining projects as knowledge organizations, and at a more general level conceptualizing governance arrangements as social technologies for knowledge management, seems to open up many interesting possibilities.
We have created a research network and begun the process of writing funding applications to support cross-national comparative analysis. We have created a website to facilitate professional networking, and a number of the researchers in attendance at the workshop have gone on to pursue joint work. We will continue the process of networking, information exchange, and pursuit of strategies to sharpen our analytic perspective and obtain research support to move the analysis to the next phase.
The workshop initiated the process of bringing this newly recognized tendency to the attention of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers. We succeeded in identifying a set of concepts and questions that have the potential to support an empirical research program on strategies and solutions to identify institutional and organizational responses to problems of social and ecological sustainability.
funding source description
Cornell University Einaudi Center for International Studies, Cornell Social Sciences Institute, Polson Institute for Global Development, Academy of Finland and University of Helsinki