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The institutionalisation of multi-level changes: sustainable development, values and territory

Abstract : This article addresses the institutional changes that local communities face when implementing sustainable development policies. It considers how the various sustainable political agendas and projects introduced affect the institutional complexities framing the production of the public service both at the territorial level and within local governments. As far as sustainable development agendas are considered, we emphasize the need to tackle the institutional changes required both at the administrative and territorial levels. Considering the multilevel dimension of the problem of diffusion of sustainable strategies, we discuss the ways in which institutions – and especially values, frame complexity in providing a basis for collective decisions. Territories and values imply to adopt a situated and discursive approach of rationality. We then address the question of the institutional changes occurring when local governments adopt sustainable development agendas in a case study. To this end, we have studied the case of the Nord Pas de Calais local communities (North France), from interviews of public servants and elected representatives. The interviews were processed using the Alceste method of textual data treatment. The method enables highlighting the salient aspect of discourses. It provides a powerful tool to analyse interviews and provides scientific basis for qualitative evidences. The results show that four semantic aspects are at stake here: a common sense vocabulary aiming at rhetorical purposes; a class of vocabulary referring to political orientations; a lexical field concerning the territorial governance; and finally a set of words regarding the administrative difficulties. We then conducted a factor analysis on the various sets of vocabularies and related it to key variables: the period of adoption of sustainable agendas. In line with the usual way in which public service is provided in France, we find that given the date of adoption, local communities are not concerned with the same dimensions of territorial institutions: leaders are struggling with micro-political dimensions while the two others are focusing on solving technical problems (first at the administrative level, then at the territorial level). Finally, we discuss the results by suggesting that given the strength of the territorial institutions, most institutionalisation and innovation are incremental and create marginal organisational changes, in particular, within local governments. In particular the values promoted by sustainable development confront to the ones that support the production of the public service in France. Unfortunately, the formers are not strong enough to deeply challenge the latters. However, some institutions are designed to improve the territorial consistency of public sustainability decisions.
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Contributor : Migration Prodinra <>
Submitted on : Thursday, May 28, 2020 - 7:57:56 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, May 4, 2021 - 3:27:27 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-02643351, version 1
  • PRODINRA : 253379



Gaël Plumecocq. The institutionalisation of multi-level changes: sustainable development, values and territory. Mechanism of Economic Regulation, 2013, pp.27-46. ⟨hal-02643351⟩



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