Institutional Fit as an Emergent Outcome of Participatory Processes: a Multilevel Network and Cultural Approach

Authors: Christina Prell*, , Paolisso Michael, University of Maryland Anthropology, Elizabeth van Dolah, University of Maryland Anthropology
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Resources, Rural Geography
Keywords: coupled systems, social-ecological systems, social networks, institutional fit
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Estherwood, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


We define institutional fit as the extent to which institutions’ management strategies align with the social and ecological needs of a given geographical location. In this paper, we demonstrate how such ‘fit’ can arise through participatory dialogue among a heterogeneous group of stakeholders. We present findings from a two-year project involving stakeholders located on the Deal Island Peninsula (DIP), in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. Our study has involved a number of workshop meetings designed to encourage in-depth dialogue pertaining to the sustainability of the DIP community’s heritage, livelihood and ecology. Regular attendees at these meetings have included residents, researchers, county and local NGO representatives. These meetings have given stakeholders ample opportunities to brainstorm management options that take into consideration scientific data on future environmental changes impacting the DIP, as well as the DIP’s unique heritage, culture and traditional livelihoods. Throughout the project, we have gathered rounds of survey data on the network ties emerging among these stakeholders, their cultural understandings pertaining to DIP as a coupled system, and more recently, the formal collaborative ties between organizations emerging from these participatory workshops. In this paper, we show results from analyzing these longitudinal data as a co-evolutionary, multilevel network. We pay special attention to the insights these results provide to the processes of how institutional fit might arise, and offer a brief discussion of future research efforts pertaining to understanding the DIP as a dynamic, coupled system.

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