Resilience has become a key concept in the sciences and practices of environmental governance. Yet governing for resilience is a major challenge because it requires governance systems to be both stable and flexible at the same time. Achieving a productive balance between stability and flexibility is a key challenge. The concept of “institutional work” is a promising lens for analysing the dynamic tension between stability and flexibility in governance systems. It refers to actions through which actors create, maintain, or disrupt institutional structures. The paper explains the concept of institutional work and shows how it usefully integrates several emerging lines of study regarding agency in governance, which have so far remained separate. Overall, the concept of institutional work opens up novel opportunities for analysing the interactions between actors and institutional structures that produce stability and flexibility in governance systems.
Beunen, R., Patterson, J.J., & Van Assche, K. (2017) Governing for resilience: the role of institutional work. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 28: 10-16.