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Sustainability 2017, 9(6), 938; doi:10.3390/su9060938

Beyond Regulation: Innovative Strategies for Governing Large Complex Systems

Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5131, USA
Academic Editor: Vincenzo Torretta
Received: 19 April 2017 / Revised: 19 April 2017 / Accepted: 25 May 2017 / Published: 2 June 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [214 KB, uploaded 20 June 2017]


We have entered an era characterized by levels of complexity that are unprecedented in human experience. The hallmarks of complex systems are the growth of connectivity, the prominence of nonlinear patterns of change, the occurrence of bifurcations in contrast to oscillations, and frequent surprises associated with emergent properties. There are good reasons to question the adequacy of the standard repertory of practices associated with regulatory strategies in efforts to fulfill needs for governance in complex systems. Whereas regulatory strategies feature the articulation of rules expected to remain in place indefinitely and emphasize efforts to maximize compliance with the rules, governing complex systems calls for a willingness to experiment with innovative practices in the face of uncertainty and a capacity to adapt existing practices easily to new circumstances. It is helpful in this connection to distinguish between Type I governance, which is a matter of devising supplementary practices to augment rather than to replace regulatory measures in managing volatile oscillations, and Type II governance, which is a matter of devising new governance strategies to address needs for governance arising during periods of transformation and in the settings that become the new normal following major state changes. There is no need to discard familiar regulatory strategies. Rather, the challenge is to devise innovative steering mechanisms to augment the existing toolkit to meet needs for governance in the 21st century. View Full-Text
Keywords: complex systems; connectivity; directional change; emergent properties; nonlinearity; Type I governance; Type II governance complex systems; connectivity; directional change; emergent properties; nonlinearity; Type I governance; Type II governance
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Young, O.R. Beyond Regulation: Innovative Strategies for Governing Large Complex Systems. Sustainability 2017, 9, 938.

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