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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

How can we ever create participation when we are the ones who decide? On natural resource management practice and its readiness for change

Westberg, Lotten; Waldenstrom, Cecilia


This article addresses the gap between demands for participatory approaches in natural resource management (NRM) policies and lack of such approaches in the work of environmental authorities. The analysis draws on practice theory, using the case of NRM practice created by Swedish County Administrative Board (CAB) officials. The data originate from officials' reflections during courses designed to strengthen their participatory and collaborative competences. Based on practice theory, officials are seen as participants of a routinised practice in which their interpretations of their work and roles are socially constructed. The analysis shows that the objective of this practice is to protect nature and mitigate resistance from stakeholders through information. These interpretations have acquired a reified nature, making them taken for granted. This stabilises the practice, maintaining the gap between demands in national policies and their implementation. To enable change in the CAB practice, the objective constructed by officials needs to be reinterpreted to produce a rule of law that can be justified and which concurrently permits stakeholder participation. To achieve changes in NRM officials' practice, these need to be seen in their institutional context and comprise the whole system, from international/EU auditing levels to Swedish CABs and the officials' everyday activities.


Practice theory; policy practice; stability-change; routine; reification

Published in

Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning
2017, volume: 19, number: 6, pages: 654-667

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG10 Reduce inequality within and among countries

UKÄ Subject classification

Sociology (excluding Social work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Environmental Sciences

Publication Identifiers


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