Coping with complexity: Adaptive governance in desert Australia

Moran, Mark and Elvin, Ruth (2009) Coping with complexity: Adaptive governance in desert Australia. GeoJournal, 74 5: 415-428. doi:10.1007/s10708-008-9240-y

Author Moran, Mark
Elvin, Ruth
Title Coping with complexity: Adaptive governance in desert Australia
Journal name GeoJournal   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0343-2521
Publication date 2009-10-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1007/s10708-008-9240-y
Volume 74
Issue 5
Start page 415
End page 428
Total pages 14
Editor Jocelyn Davies
Sarah Holcombe
Place of publication Dordrecht, Netherlands
Publisher Springer
Language eng
Abstract Governance in Aboriginal settlements in desert Australia is changing at an unprecedented rate. Aboriginal leaders and community managers describe the change as bewildering, with ever-revolving agents and agencies and increasing quantities of administration. Governments are preoccupied with finding linear ‘solutions’ to new conceptualisations of the ‘problem’ and packaging these for top-down implementation. However, governance in practice involves multi-dimensional interactions of a complex system, which are difficult to predict, let alone to control for outcomes. Through the lens of complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory, this paper argues that there is potential to improve governance as an adaptive system through three principles that enhance local feedback: (1) application of the subsidiarity principle to different levels in the governance system would realise a better match between decentralised functions and local capacity; (2) connectivity would improve information flows and relationships between agents in the system, as a necessary precursor for informed decision-making; and (3) accountability, when taken beyond simplistic notions of financial reporting, would identify power relationships across the system and indicate where agents may exercise greater influence in the system. Consideration of these principles will help promote a shift from the perspective that assumes the system to be linear and manageable from the top-down to a perspective that embraces the notion of adaptive governance as a means of recognising the capacity of agents to influence the system that they inhabit.
Keyword Governance
Complex adaptive systems
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: 2010 Higher Education Research Data Collection
School of Architecture Publications
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Citation counts: Scopus Citation Count Cited 14 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Thu, 22 Apr 2010, 22:05:21 EST by Deirdre Timo on behalf of School of Architecture