Lights in hand
Lights in hand. Photo credit: Unsplash.

SEI has been one of the pioneers of nexus thinking: recognizing that what happens to one resource (for example water) inevitably affects what happens – or can be done sustainably – with several others (for example land, energy, food and environment); and that consequently, you need to seek an optimal balance of resource use to get the best outcome for sustained human well-being. But by now “nexus” is well on its way to becoming a buzzword.

This makes it particularly timely that the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Nexus Network has commissioned a series of 12 “think pieces” that aim to bring clarity and definition to nexus approaches, while at the same time “stimulating debate across the linked domains of food, energy, water and the environment”.

One of these 12 pieces, written by an SEI-led team and published in November, is “Governance of the nexus: from buzz words to a strategic action perspective” (download PDF  [External Link]). The paper first sets out to develop the foundations for strategic action on governing the nexus, and proposes that nexus challenges cannot be separated from the perceptions, interests, and practices of stakeholders. It builds on an understanding of nexus governance as arising from relationships between actors (actor networks) and ideas and interests (issue networks) across multiple domains, and emphasizes that nexus challenges should be addressed by working with and through existing governance arrangements, not creating new ones.

The second part of the paper illustrates the potential of this approach by presenting the results of an empirical study of the food-energy-environment nexus in Ethiopia. It concludes with some suggestions for future research.

The paper was presented at the first Nexus Network conferenceWhat Works at the Nexus? New Connections in Food, Energy, Water and Environment , which took place in London on 27 November in London). This event brought together a wide range of people interested in nexus issues to share, learn and discuss possibilities for collaboration. Among the speakers were Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Chief Scientist at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), along with Nexus Network members including the STEPS Centre , the University of Cambridge, University of Sussex, and University of East Anglia.

The Nexus Network recently announced a new two-phase research partnership programme . The first offers grants to support networking – both for research collaboration and to establish contacts outside academia to design research proposals. In the second phase, (launching in November 2015), the Nexus Network will offer two grants for inter- and transdisciplinary research projects on nexus themes.

SEI will continue to explore how empirical and theoretical science-based approaches can contribute to practical solutions in the governance of the nexus.


Paper  PDF (external link)

Poster (PDF)