Collaboration, adaptation, and scaling: Perspectives on environmental governance for sustainability

Michael Schoon, Michael E. Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

33 Scopus citations


In preview of the special issue on "Environmental Governance for Sustainability", this manuscript examines three key themes on governance and sustainability. Governance for sustainability, by its nature, requires long-enduring institutional arrangements. Given the complex adaptive systems in which governance decision-making takes place, we explore three key characteristics of successful, long-term governance. The first of these is working across scale. This includes nested institutions as well as communication and coordination both horizontally and vertically between diverse governance groups. Second, we highlight the importance of collaboration. Building on the previous point, we draw on literature from collaborative governance and co-management to emphasize how collaboration can help to build more enduring governance structures. Third, we examine the importance of adaptation and evolution in the resolution of collective action dilemmas in complex systems filled with nonlinearities, unclear causal chains, and environments in which we have less than a full understanding of the ramifications of governance actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number679
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2 2018


  • Adaptation
  • Collaboration
  • Evolution
  • Governance
  • Scaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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