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  • 1

    Adaptive Cities

    The capacity for policy innovation in

    response to global change

    Claire Mortimer

    A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements

    for the degree of Master of Arts in Public Policy,

    The University of Auckland, 2011

  • 2

  • I

    Abstract

    Urban settlements globally will experience significant and often unpredictable change over the next

    decades due to the combined forces of climate change and the peaking of global oil production.

    Responding to these forces will require sustainability transitions in urban transport and energy

    systems and urban social practices. Urban policy agencies cannot rely on market forces to drive

    these transitions in a timely equitable fashion, but will need to facilitate them actively in order to

    minimise the social, environmental, and economic impacts of global change.

    This presents considerable challenges to urban agencies, particularly when transitions must be

    initiated before the impacts of global change are directly felt by urban residents. The thesis explores

    factors that build the capacity of urban policy agencies in facilitating urban transitions and factors that

    might constrain them. A multi-level framework of critical factors is developed drawing on theories that

    examine how change occurs within social, technological and policy domains. The framework is tested

    on a case study of a New Zealand urban council that facilitated a sustainability transition in their city

    over an 18-year period.

    The research identifies that an agencys ability to facilitate transitions is constrained by the stability of

    the built environment, societal institutions, and values specific to their organisational field. However,

    opportunities for change arise when disruptive factors to those stabilising forces combine often across

    societal, city, and organisational levels. Entrepreneurial individuals within urban agencies can

    leverage these opportunities in order to initiate urban transitions. To ensure implementation, however,

    transition policies facilitating an urban transition must become embedded within the agencys vision,

    culture and decision-making processes and the agency must build strategic coalitions with other

    decision-makers and actively engage with their urban community.

    The case study identifies that change does not need to wait for the most powerful or obvious

    contenders, but rather even small urban agencies can set micro-processes of change into play that

    initiate sustainability transitions. However, the transition needs to start from within the agency itself,

    and the thesis concludes with recommendations for how urban agencies might intentionally build their

    capacity to facilitate change.

  • II

    The work contained within this thesis is my own and has not been used for any other qualifications.

    Dedication

    This thesis is dedicated those persistent, passionate and inspirational change agents whom Ive had

    the great pleasure of working with over the years, and without whom I would have much less hope for

    the future. In addition I would like to thank Landcare Research for supporting me in undertaking this

    research.

    Acknowledgements

    This thesis has been edited by a professional editor within the specifications outlined in the Policy on

    Third Party Editing & Proof-Reading of Theses & Dissertations, Auckland University.

  • III

    Contents 1 Introduction .................................................................................................................................... 1

    2 Research design .............................................................................................................................. 3

    3 Challenges facing urban policy in the 21st Century ........................................................................ 6

    3.1 Peak oil and climate change ...................................................................................................... 6

    3.1.1 Global oil supply ............................................................................................................... 6

    3.1.2 Impacts of peak oil ............................................................................................................ 7

    3.1.3 The degree markets can address peak oil ........................................................................ 8

    3.1.4 The belief in a technological fix to peak oil .................................................................... 10

    3.1.5 Climate change and its interactions with peak oil .......................................................... 11

    3.1.6 Urban transitions required ............................................................................................. 12

    3.1.7 Problem characteristics of peak oil and climate change ................................................ 13

    4 Adaptive public policy organizations ............................................................................................ 15

    4.1 The social and physical landscape ........................................................................................... 17

    4.2 Social-technological regimes ................................................................................................... 19

    4.3 The organisational field ........................................................................................................... 24

    4.3.1 Nature of public policy institutions ................................................................................ 24

    4.3.2 Nature of the issue ......................................................................................................... 25

    4.3.3 Field disrupters & opportunities for change .................................................................. 26

    4.3.4 Nature of the community ............................................................................................... 27

    4.4 The organisation ...................................................................................................................... 31

    4.5 Individuals ............................................................................................................................... 35

    4.5.1 Leading adaptive policy agencies ................................................................................... 35

    4.5.2 Leading policy innovation ............................................................................................... 37

    4.6 The Adaptive Urban Policy Framework ................................................................................... 41

    5 Case study: The Waitakere City Council Eco City ....................................................................... 45

    5.1 Enablers experienced .............................................................................................................. 45

    5.1.1 Initial disrupters at the landscape & organisational field levels ..................................... 45

    5.1.2 Disrupters to the established organisational culture ..................................................... 47

    5.1.3 Nature of the Waitakere community ............................................................................. 47

    5.1.4 A tangible vision with strategic capability to implement it ............................................ 48

    5.1.5 A collective belief that change was possible .................................................................. 50

  • IV

    5.1.6 Situational awareness, international networks & seizing opportunities ....................... 51

    5.1.7 Creativity & willingness to challenge the status quo ..................................................... 51

    5.1.8 An intentional organisational change programme ........................................................ 52

    5.1.9 Working with others to achieve goals ............................................................................ 53

    5.1.10 Facilitating environmental improvements within a technological regime ................ 54

    5.1.11 Adopting new technological niche for urban sustainability ...................................... 55

    5.1.12 Working with the community as a core strategic approach ...................................... 56

    5.1.13 Working with iwi ........................................................................................................ 57

    5.1.14 Demonstrating early success through tangible catalyst projects .............................. 58

    5.1.15 Leadership & innovation ............................................................................................ 58

    5.2 Barriers .................................................................................................................................... 60

    5.2.1 Internal resistance .......................................................................................................... 60

    5.2.2 Constraints imposed by some traditional policy mindsets and tools ............................ 60

    5.2.3 Loss of key change agents .............................................................................................. 61

    5.2.4 The nature of Waitakeres built environment ............................................................... 61

    5.2.5 Shifting social practices ..................................................................................................

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