Booher D.E, Innes. J.E. 2010. Governance for resilience: CALFED as a complex adaptive network for resource management.. Ecology and Society..

Governance for resilience: CALFED as a complex adaptive network for resource management.

TitleGovernance for resilience: CALFED as a complex adaptive network for resource management.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsBooher D.E, Innes. J.E
JournalEcology and Society.
Start Page15(3): 35.
Keywordsadaptive management, collaborative governance, complex adaptive systems, consensus building, policy networks, resilience, resource management, water policy
Full Text


To highlight the contribution of adaptive, self-organising governance processes in supporting resilient environmental resource management, comparing and contrasting with traditional governance systems.

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Key Findings: 

The authors demonstrate an innovative governance model that challenges more traditional governance approaches within complex and contested environmental resource management environments. These innovative approaches are shown to challenge centralised, litigative, reactive decision-making processes with little accountability. Instead a creative, collaborative and participatory environment is demonstrated, which has linked frameworks for planning, information sharing and decision-making applicable at local and regional levels. Dynamically linked frameworks for decision-making were shown to eliminate the susceptibility for case by case decision-making often found in traditional governance. The approach models a self-organising, adaptive network underpinned by an informal, heuristic policy making environment.


Fundamental to creating spaces for adaptive learning in systems that are complex and uncertain is the need for flexibility. The informal, heuristic approaches to policy making described in this article clearly demonstrate this flexibility. A common theme in resilience-based learning is the critical need for support and strengthening between higher and lower level system components. Informal, heuristic policy making environments provide a mechanism to operationalise this concept. In adaptive learning organisations, policies are speculative and act as experimental guides for ongoing investigation and problem –solving. This does not occur in isolation however, requiring collaborative processes and networks, shared goals and mandates among agents (although with varied interests and resources), continuous feedback from all parts of the managed system (human and non-human), and above all trust. This process provides an ability to reorganise internal structures and practices according to the specific needs defined along the way, while at the same time being directed by a consensually agreed overarching purpose or set of purposes. A distributed decision-making environment also allows multiple issues to be viewed and managed as part of a greater whole, rather than reacting to individual issues from a centralised position.