Social Capital in Environmental Governance: Lessons from South Africa
23 July 2012 | News story
Kobus Muller, CEC member and Speciality Group leader for the WCLN in Southern Africa explores the role of social capital in collaborative environmental management in biodiversity conservation in the Western Cape, South Africa.
Kobus Muller will deliver a paper titled Social Capital and Collaborative Environmental Governance: Lessons from Western Cape, South Africa at the 30th International Congress of Administrative Sciences in Bangkok, Thailand, 16-20 July.
To cope with the increasing complexities of environmental challenges, new innovative models of governance that are capable of greater flexibility, speed and adaptability have emerged. These innovations are necessitated by the need for governments to find alternative ways to add to public value and adopt new roles to cope with ‘the limits to governance’ which threaten to overwhelm public action in the environmental arena. It is in this context that the trend towards decentralised and localised collaboratives that are self-regulated and diverse, which can act locally and freed from much of the standardising constraints characteristic of hierarchical bureaucratic government, must be viewed.
South Africa has followed international trends with new collaborative partnerships varying greatly in form and purpose emerging over the last 15 years. The generally facilitating context which coincided with the transformation of the post-apartheid South African state after 1994 characterised by an openness to consider and experiment with organisational learning and institutional innovation flourished in the environmental sector with a diversity of new forms evolving in less than a decade. The Western Cape Province in South Africa, world renowned for the Cape Floristic Region and one of the world’s 25 most threatened biodiversity hotspots has also experienced a proliferation of collaboratives. To explore the potential of the notions of social learning and social capital to provide some pointers to explain to the question why a particular collaborative seems to be more successful in achieving desirable outcomes than another one in a comparable context, the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve (CWCBR) – as an example of a apparently successful collaborative - was chosen.
As South Africa is still at a relatively early phase in the evolution of collaboratives for environmental governance, it presents us with a window of opportunity for studying and learning from both our successes and failures. Initial research focussed on developing an analytical tool for identifying, describing and documenting the evolving characteristics of collaboratives (Muller, 2007a), organisational innovation and new governance models (Muller, 2007b), application and refinement of the tool using case studies in the Western Cape (Muller, 2008), the role of multi stakeholder processes in collaborative environmental governance (Muller, 2009) and the challenges of public leadership in involving new actors and the question if collaboratives improve the public value outcomes (Muller, 2010).
It is concluded that although social learning is a necessary but not necessary sufficient for collaborative management and other requisites for co-management including capacity, appropriate processes, appropriate structures and supportive policies are necessary to sustain joint action, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that social capital could have an enormous effect on natural resource management and even the effectiveness and functioning of governments. In the paper enough pointers were found to warrant further research as to the role of social learning and social capital as a possible explanation to the question why particular collaboratives like the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve case study as an example of a successful collaborative which has added to the creation of public value, seems to be more successful in achieving desirable outcomes than others in a comparable context.
For more information, contact Kobus Muller Kobus.Muller@spl.sun.ac.za