The analysis and reflections presented herein is based on six years of professional experience with designing, managing and implementing development and research projects in South East Asia and Northern Europe. The evidence is presented via five action-research ‘cases’ undertaken together with colleagues and partners.

These cases provide analyses of stakeholder agency and the construction of legitimacy in coastal resource management (Philippines), disaster risk reduction and recovery (Thailand), sustainable agricultural development (Sweden), grassroots democracy in rural development (Vietnam), and agro-environmental governance of nutrient pollution (Denmark).

The thesis is thus an attempt to share a set of concrete stories that may resonate with and inspire people involved in related areas of work.

The underlying motivations for writing this thesis have been

  1. to improve the rigour of my own engagement in current and future projects;
  2. to inspire my colleagues and partners in their efforts to continuously strengthening the rigour and criticalness of our work; and
  3. to raise general awareness of partners and collaborators that most mainstream governance and research efforts are blind to the many ways stakeholders influence policy processes and seek to negotiate their legitimate agency therein.