Beyond the limits : organisational innovation in collaborative environmental governance - the South African experience

Muller, Kobus (2008-11)

Inaugural lecture delivered on 3 November 2008, Prof JJ Müller, School of Public Management and Planning, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University.


The fragmented, incoherent and complex nature of modern society necessitated governments to find alternative ways and adopt new roles to cope with ‘the limits to governance’ which threaten to overwhelm public action. It is in this context that the trend towards decentralised units that are self-regulated and diverse, which can act locally and freed from much of the standardising constraints characteristic of hierarchical government, must be viewed and where managers act as brokers leveraging resources held by third parties in stead of controlling in-house resources. In the environmental field organisational innovation flourished and collaborative environmental management has become the leading paradigm for addressing complex environmental issues throughout the world. South Africa has followed international trends with new collaboratives emerging at regional or local level over the last decade. Based on differences in process and form, five examples have been selected to illustrate some of the South African experiences in organisational innovation and experimentation with new governance forms. The growing interest in collaboration has led to the development of assessment tools that could be applied to study the evolving models. An overview is given of what has been learned so far as well as the prospects and challenges for the future. These evolving models offer an exciting window of opportunity for social and organisational learning and can make an important contribution to innovation in management in South Africa.

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