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Implementing strategies to overcome social-ecological traps: the role of community brokers and institutional bricolage in a locally managed marine area

Dirk J. Steenbergen, University of Wollongong
Carol Warren, Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University


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We examine collaborative arrangements for resource management between communities and external agencies, with a particular interest in how community-based interventions are integrated into local contexts. This timely inquiry comes in a period when participatory resource management approaches are increasingly being applied to overcome the perpetual cycles of poverty in which poor resource-dependent people find themselves, i.e., social-ecological traps. Much of the literature on social-ecological traps has focused on identifying conditions, factors, and responses that are important in, for example, alleviating systemic poverty or developing sustainable resource management systems. However, insufficient focus has been placed on understanding the practical processes by which strategies are implemented, and how these can reflexively affect the system itself. Drawing from a case study of a locally managed marine area in Indonesia, we examine the interactions between a nongovernment organization and a target community during the implementation of a fisheries management plan. Applying insights from rural development studies, we show how external interventions, designed to pull people out of social-ecological traps, are operationalized into forms that make them locally familiar and appropriate through actions of community brokers and processes of “institutional bricolage.” We argue that as a consequence of implementing processes, such interventions should be expected to diverge from their initial science-based justification.

Key words

brokers; Indonesia; institutional bricolage; locally managed marine area; mediation; social-ecological traps

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087