This paper presents findings from a transdisciplinary research project on collaborative practices for the sustainable management of the natural resources (SMNR) in Wales. Here, the legislation establishes that the national well-being agenda and the principle of SMNR in environmental governance must be achieved through collaborative and participatory practices, across sectors and organisations, including within the public sector. However, neoliberal and hyper-bureaucratic governance structures, characterised by a risk-adverse nature, do not allow public sector institutional actors to experiment and engage with such practices in their everyday work. This paper discusses a collective experience of reflecting about, and challenging such oppressing neoliberal structures, through experimenting with alternative ways of doing and being together. The emerging community at the heart of this experience is composed of policymakers, practitioners, artists, and academics (including the authors), who together carved out a ‘site of negotiation’ to contest techno-managerialism and mere rational approaches to (natural resources) governance. In the course of this research, these actors began to collectively create and shape new and shared meanings of doing collaborative and cross-boundary work (as required by the Welsh legislation), based on relationships of trust, reflexivity, embodiment, and relationality. Reflecting also on our own experience (and interpretation) of working alongside them, we believe that such emergent processes of collective meaning-making have the potential to transform neoliberal (environmental) governance structures into ‘lived’ and ‘owned’ institutions. Inspired by relational, integrative and caring forms of democratic governance (Stout & Love, 2018; Tronto, 2013), we argue that professionals in public sector organisations can realign governance structures in ways that meet the challenge of enabling the rapid and wide sustainability transformations that are so desperately needed.
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FunderEnergy, Environment and Rural Affairs Department of the Welsh Government/Coventry University (grant 5894)
- Environmental governance
- Collaborative Practice
- Sustainability transformation