Dr. Örjan Bodin at Stockholm Resilience Centre employs a network perspective in studying stakeholder interactions and/or ecosystems in natural resource governance settings. Bodin explores the structural characteristics of the social and/or ecological networks and their implications on societies’ and ecosystems’ ability to e.g. adapt and respond to change (i.e. adaptive capacity), and to cope with disturbances and surprises while still maintaining essential functions and structures (i.e. resilience). Bodin has published extensively in both natural and social science journals, and has been engaged (in addition to several theoretically oriented studies) in cases studies of small-scale fisheries in east Africa, landscape connectivity in southern Madagascar, and urban ecology in Stockholm, Sweden.
Recent research has identified the existence of social networks as a common and important denominator in cases where different stakeholders have come together to effectively deal with natural resource problems and dilemmas. It has even been shown that social networks can be more important than the existence of formal institutions for effective enforcement and compliance with environmental regulations. However, all social networks are not created equal. On the contrary, the structural pattern of relations (i.e. the topology) of a social network can have significant impact on how actors actually behave. This clearly has implications for actors’ abilities to manage environmental challenges. Similarly, the network approach, which has recently gained considerable interest among ecologists, can help to reveal how structural characteristics of ecological systems/networks effects ecological functions.
In this talk I will present and discuss some initial insights and pending hypotheses about the positive impacts of social networks on governance processes and outcomes. I will shown that significant differences in governance processes and outcomes can be expected among networks experiencing structural differences in terms of density of relations, degree of cohesiveness, subgroup interconnectivity, and degree of network centralization. However, none of these structural characteristics present a monotonically increasing positive effect on processes of importance for resource governance, and that favoring one characteristic likely occurs at the expense of another. Thus, assessing the most favorable level and mix of different network characteristics, where most of the positive governance effects are obtained while undesired effects are minimized, presents a key research and governance challenge.
I will also briefly describe how a network approach can be used to study landscape (and seascape) connectivity. In particular I will show how network analysis can be used to identify habitat patches, in a fragmented landscape/seascape, that seems to be more important than others in terms of their contribution to connectivity.