WIT Press

A Relational Approach To Deal With Ambiguity In Multi-actor Governance For Sustainability


Free (open access)





Page Range

233 - 243




281 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


M. Craps, M. F. Brugnach


Multi-actor governance is considered necessary when the complexity of an issue transcends the knowledge base, decisional power and resources of a single actor. The challenges related to the massive degradation of the natural environment stimulate the recent interest in this approach. One main goal of the collective decision processes in multi-actor governance is the development of common aims that are aligned to local conditions, and that integrate scientific facts and expert opinions with local knowledge. Deciding collectively, as proposed by multi-actor governance, has profound implications for how ambiguous issues are handled, because different actors hold different frames of what is at stake. In this paper we argue for accepting and dealing adequately with ambiguity, instead of trying to eliminate it, as it is an expression of complexity itself. When we conceive knowledge as resulting from embodied interaction processes in and between communities, then ambiguity is the result of different ways of being in and dealing with the world. Such a relational view directs the attention to boundary crossing practices between different communities that are able to connect and mutually enrich scientific and other ways of knowing. This results in “generative” propositions that open up new interaction possibilities between scientists and other actors to co-create knowledge for sustainability.


ambiguity, boundary management, embodied knowledge, framing, governance, local knowledge, multi-actor, relational quality, sustainability