The Treasury

Global Navigation

Personal tools

7  Glossary

Term Description Alternative terms
adaptive governance and management
  • Evolution of institutions able to: (Scholz 2005) generate sustainable solutions to ‘wicked problems’ involving co-ordinating multiple social-ecological systems of users, knowledge, authorities and interests under uncertainty across government, spatial and temporal levels (Walker 2004) (Hughes 2005) ; through multiple means, policies and general principles and diffusion and adaptation of successful approaches (Brunner 2005) (Folke 2002b) (Olsson 2004) (Folke 2005)
  • Also described as a “consensus-seeking, pro-active, adaptive, participatory approach to make … decisions that stand the test of time” (Painter 2006) to:
    • deal with perceptions of being solely reactive,
    • treat consensus as an aim rather than a necessary goal, and
    • avoid unrealistic expectations that can be created by using terms such as co-management rather than participatory decision-making. [59]
Community co-management
complex open systems A complex open system is a system of many parts, at different scales, coupled in a nonlinear fashion which draws on inputs from outside and has outputs with external effects. [60] Ecosystems can be seen as complex adaptive systems with higher level patterns and processes resulting from localised interactions and feedback (Olsson 2004) .
Ecosystem services Processes by which natural assets are transformed by their ecosystems into services and commodities valued by society, such as air and water purification; erosion control and flood protection; and detoxification and decomposition of wastes.
evolutionary governance Designing policies and institutions to allow for variation, and relying on selection among variations to incorporate different perspectives and adapt to change. (Kemp 2003)
Incremental/ experimental Approaches involving the validation of multiple approaches to resolving a problem, sequentially or consecutively, preferably within a single vision or set of goals. Can be described as “analysis of future potential scenarios” rather than “management experiments” to address sensitivities (Painter 2006) . Disadvantage of this is that it downplays the role of practical trials involving real situations in trialling alternative techniques. scenarios
institutions The term institutions has two meanings, both of which are referred to in this paper:
nested institutions Where policies or organizations operate at multiple levels, with the lower levels operate within constraints set above. An example could be the Resource Management Act where the legislation authorises national policy statements and environmental standards, which must be reflected in regional policy statements and plans, which then shape district plans.
precautionary principle 1992 Rio Declaration (Principle 15): “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific evidence shall not be used as reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” Variations of the principle exist with key differences including whether action is required, who bears the burden of proof, and whether liability is assigned and to whom.
resilience The “capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks” . [61] Or in simpler terms: the ability of a system to recover from a shock. Can be measured by (Walker 2004) latitude –extent of change from which recovery possible, resistance – difficulty of making change; precariousness – how close to a limit or threshold; and panarchy –extent of influences from states and dynamics at other scales (higher or lower, temporal or spatial). Future proofing
scientific management An approach to managing systems that assumes stable relationships, targets single goals, uses centralised control and emphasises role of science and experts (Brunner 2005) .
social-ecological system (SES) Interconnected societies and ecosystems, with changes in each affecting the other and creating feedback. [62] “Surprises in ecosystem management can come from unexpected flips that affect fish, forests, crops and people. That is, ecological and social-ecological systems (SESs) behave as complex adaptive systems in which multi-stable (distinctly different) states are the norm, not the exception.” economic-ecological systems
Sustainable development Sustainable development has many definitions but the New Zealand Government’s Sustainable Development Programme of Action defines it as “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
‘wicked problems’ Four defining characteristics are: the problem is not understood until after formulation of a solution, stakeholders have different world views and frames for understanding the problem, constraints and resources to solve the problem change over time, and the problem is never solved. [63]


  • [59]In the Australian context, adaptive management has been described in a narrow technical context as the ability to adjust water allocations on renewal (for environmental reasons) without compensation, as opposed to increasing environmental flows through market mechanisms. This concept is akin to a planning vs market distinction, which carries some implications for relative certainty of rights under each approach (Bruns 2005).
  • [60],
  • [61](Folke 2005, p443).
  • [62]“people in communities interact with each other and with the natural systems surrounding and supporting them in ‘social-ecological systems’” (Straton 2005) Four key attributes of successful SES management (Hughes 2005): embracing uncertainty and change; building knowledge and understanding of resource and ecosystem dynamics; management practices that measure, interpret and respond to ecological feedback; and supporting flexible institutions and social networks in multi-level governance systems.
  • [63] {Conklin Ph.D., Jeff; ‘Dialog Mapping: An Approach for Wicked Problems,’ CogNexus Institute, 2003] The following characteristics further describe wicked problems:
Page top