Emerging Theories and Methods in Sustainability Research

Emerging Theories and Methods in Sustainability Research

The summer school entitled “Institutional Analysis of Sustainability Problems” took place in the High Tatras, the largest National Park in the Slovak Republic, in June 2007. The main aim of the school was to discuss the role of institutions in governing human use of natural resources, particularly under the increasing pressures of global environmental change. Specific objectives included developing a deeper insight into the general theory of institutions with specific applications to resource regimes (local and global), methods for the analysis of institutions, and facilitating dialogue and knowledge exchange amongst countries in transition from various geographical regions. The summer school consisted of five sessions, including two seminars, two workshops and practical exercises.

Seminars on ‘Understanding Institutions’ I and II concentrated on an introduction into the basic concepts and perspectives in institutional theory, why institutions matter, how they are formed and change. The role of institutions in securing sustainable/enduring use of natural resources was emphasised. The seminars formed the key theoretical part of the summer school with contributions by Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University, USA; Dan Bromley of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA; Arild Vatn of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences; and Felix Rauschmayer of the UFZ – Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany. A round table entitled A Conversation About the Meaning and Role of Institutions in Economics and Politics with a joint discussion by E. Ostrom, D. W. Bromley, and A. Vatn was part of the session as well as an experiment in common-pool resources organised by E. Ostrom as part of a comparison across 42 countries.

A workshop on Institutional dimensions of global environmental change: Institutional dynamics across scales presented the work of the long-term international research project on the Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (IDGEC). Launched formally in 1998 as a core project of International Human Dimension Programme for Global Environmental Change (IHDP) http://www.ihdp.org, it examines the roles that institutions play both in causing and in addressing environmental problems. The work of the project centres on three research foci (the Questions of Causality, Performance, and Design) and three analytic themes (the Problems of Fit, Interplay, and Scale) was presented with the participation of Oran Young (IHDP-SC chair), Elinor Ostrom, Sebastian Oberthür, and Bernd Siebenhüner.

Workshop 2: Institutions, environment and policy linked theoretical knowledge from the first week of the summer school with specific policy implications. Questions addressed included: What are the options for integrated institutions for sustainable development? What are the capacities of different policy instruments (regulatory, voluntary) to solve environmental problems in multi-level governance? How can institutions and various actors that perform them stimulate sustainable development at the corporate level? Thematic presentations and several case studies were presented by keynote speakers Jiřina Jílkova of Economic University Prague; Mária Kozová of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Comenius University Bratislava; Peter Söderbaum of Mälardalen University Sweden; Veronika Chobotová and Tatiana Kluvánková-Oravská of IF Slovak Academy of Sciences; Andrej Udovč of the University of Ljubljana; Nicolas Kosoy of ICTA Autonomous University of Barcelona; Ilona Banaszak of Humboldt University Berlin and Slovak Academy of Sciences; and Petr Šauer of Economic University Prague.
In order to link theoretical knowledge to real policy issues and enhance learning processes, several practical exercises were part of the programme, to improve understanding of the topic of the summer school and to stimulate the learning process.