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Institutional Change for Sustainable Development

Robin Connor and Stephen Dovers

Institutional Change for Sustainable Development presents a flexible, accessible, yet robust conceptual framework for comprehending institutional dimensions of sustainability, emphasising the complexity of institutional systems, and highlighting the interdependence between policy learning and institutional change. This framework is applied and developed through the analysis of five significant arenas of institutional and policy change: environmental policy in the EU; New Zealand’s landmark Resource Management Act; strategic environmental assessment; emerging National Councils for Sustainable Development; and transformative property rights instruments. From these explorations, key principles for institutional change are identified, including the institutional accommodation of a sustainability discourse, the interdependence of normative and institutional change; reiteration and learning; integration in policy and practice; subsidiarity; and legal change.
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Chapter 2: Operationalizing Learning

Robin Connor and Stephen Dovers


INTRODUCTION The discussion in Chapter 1 provides a workable definition of institutions and an approach to policy and institutional learning. This chapter proposes avenues for applying this understanding in a more sharply focused way, in terms of what we might wish to learn about and from where the lessons might come. The objective is to trace the rationale for the selection of case studies and examples of institutional change explored in Part II, and, in so doing, further develop the substantive themes of the study. In particular, the following section asks what it is we want to learn about and from whom. It explores the meaning of ‘sustainable development’ and how policy and institutional systems might, and do, respond to its imperatives, using Australian institutional responses as examples. The chapter then puts forward a set of criteria for the selection of a handful of case studies from the myriad possibilities and, arguably more importantly for the study, develops a matrix of analytical targets for the study. In working over this methodology we hope to offer not merely a justification for our choices, but also an aid both to understanding the nature of the questions being asked, and therefore the answers produced later, and to the development of further studies of institutional change in this area. Finally the chapter briefly discusses the case study topics chosen, along with some that might have been but were not, explaining how the criteria were applied in the choices made. LEARN ABOUT WHAT? There are...

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