Beyond participation! Social innovations facilitating movement from authoritative state to participatory forest governance in Ukraine

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Tuning participatory processes is often insufficient to achieve transition from authoritative state to democratic and participatory forest governance due to institutional inertia and unwillingness to truly decentralise decision-making power. Social innovations as reconfigurations of relationships between state, market actors, civil society and science can help to meet concerns of local people about forest Ecosystem Services (ES).

In Ukraine, the Swiss-Ukrainian Forest Development (FORZA) pilot project initiated a social innovation process complementing regional forest planning with local participatory community development plans in Transcarpathia. The paper examines what kind of changes need to accompany the succession of participatory practices in transition processes from authoritative state to democratic forest governance, and what are the lessons learned for social innovations based on the Ukrainian case study.

The paper synthesises knowledge on the FORZA case analysed by inductive content analysis, and integrates these local level results with a national survey (N = 244) on Ukrainian forest governance. Transition processes need to go “beyond participation” by (i) legal reforms to better acknowledge ES important for local people, (ii) a change from an exclusive focus on timber to acknowledging multiple ES, (iii) changed spatial and temporal rationales of state-based governance, and (iv) recognition of local people as credible experts. Social innovations can detect key barriers to the transition during the policy experiments, and need to pay significant attention on how the novel practices can be sustained after the pilot, replicated elsewhere and up-scaled. Without such considerations, social innovation projects may only remain as a marginal curiosity.

Full reference:

Sarkki, S.; Parpan, T.; Melnykovych, M.; Zahvoyska, L.; Voloshyna, N.; Derbal, J.; Nijnik, M. 2019. Beyond participation! Social-ecological innovations facilitating movement from technocratic state to collaborative landscape governance in Ukraine. Landscape Ecology.