This chapter explores the potential of Local Agenda 21 (LA21) to transform the structures of local government decision-making using examples from the Southeast region of England. It utilises the theoretical ideas developed by ‘new institutionalist’ writers to examine the experience of Local Agenda fora at three distinct spatial levels: regional, sub-regional and local. It reports on a varied pattern of participation and influence on decision-making and seeks to understand the differences in relation to a dynamic, structured, fragile and fractured series of discourses. The main conclusions from the case study analysis are that: the integration of LA 21 action programmes into government decision-making is a slow and partial process. Even in the most energetic authorities and agencies, there is evidence of significant organisational and cultural barriers to attempts to restructure decision-making in line with ideals of LA21.there is limited co-ordination of the different spatial levels of LA21 which weakens the principle of ‘Think Global, Act Local’. Communication of ideas and proposals between regional, sub-regional and local LA21 fora is based on a fragile network of individuals who are active in different fora.the LA21 process has made an important contribution to the ‘quality’ of decision-making in government organisations at the different levels. In particular it has sought to establish ‘rational’ criteria and frameworks, based on the principles of sustainable development, with which to test policies and proposals; introduce alternative forms of knowledge and perspective into decision-making dominated by ‘professional/expert’ cultures; and (re)emphasise the concept of equity and the distributional implications of policies and proposals.
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- Changing the World Through Participative Action: The Dynamics and Potential of Local Agenda 21
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