The Changing Role of ENGOs in Water Governance: Institutional Entrepreneurs?

The changing role of the state in the last quarter century has been an important contemporary concern for policy makers, scholars, and the public. Equally, there is increasing recognition among governance scholars that nongovernment actors are exerting new kinds of influence over governance systems and contributing in novel ways to governance processes. The role of environmental nongovernmental organizations (ENGOs) is particularly pertinent given the continued involvement of ENGOs within collaborative, adaptive, and co-management governance, across several contexts and regions. This paper uses an analytical framework derived from recent studies on institutional entrepreneurs, to examine the skills ENGOs are applying in order to orchestrate change. An empirical case of governance for water in Canada’s Lake Simcoe region provides the foundation for the research. Drawing on a mixed methods approach, the research finds that ENGOs in Lake Simcoe have taken on a role as an institutional entrepreneur, and thereby have altered the relationship between governance actors in this setting. A key outcome of their actions is a more dominant, engaged, and influential role for ENGOs in a critical, regional governance system.

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