Interactive Governance - Stock-Taking & Block-Building

Writing workshop

20-24 May 2024 Memorial University, St. John’s, NL

The whole of public as well as private interaction taken to solve societal problems and create societal opportunities. It includes the formulation and application of principles guiding those interactions and care for institutions that enable them.

The concept of interactive governance (IG) theory is likely familiar to those who have been following the work of TBTI for a while. Originally developed by Professor Jan Kooiman of Erasmus University in The Netherlands, the first application of the theory on fisheries appeared in the 2005 book ‘Fish for Life’ (Kooiman et al., eds.).

A synthetized scheme of governance. Source: Kooiman et al. (2005)

Since then, numerous efforts have been made to advance the IG theory and its applications. Some of these efforts have culminated into the 2013 book (Bavinck et al., eds.), focusing on governability, and the 2015 book (Jentoft & Chuenpagdee, eds.), centering on the application of IG theory on small-scale fisheries. The literature on IG shows that the theory has been applied globally and widely, beyond fisheries and oceans.

We continue to develop and apply interactive governance theory, now with TBTI, more specifically on small-scale fisheries where we are trying to put more flesh on the conceptual bones. We think more needs to be done in exploring its analytical potentials on substantive issues, one of them the role of power as a restricting force and an enabling governance asset… Our work before and within TBTI has since concentrated on unwrapping the boxes and how they link, and how they can explain what the governance of small-scale fisheries is about, including the challenges of implementing the SSF Guidelines.

To help celebrate the 20 years since the publication of the Fish for Life book, and in recognition of the great work by IG scholars around the world, we are putting together the 4th volume. The book aims to reflect on the contributions of IG theory in advancing the discourse about small-scale fisheries governance, and fisheries and ocean governance broadly speaking. By drawing lessons from the application of the framework in various case studies, and identifying theoretical and methodological gaps, the book will also project areas where IG theory can have the most policy and societal impacts.


The book will be edited by Ratana Chuenpagdee and Svein Jentoft and be released around June 2025, in time for the celebration at the MARE Conference in Amsterdam. In preparation for this, TBTI Global in collaboration with OFI Module I organized a five day workshop this past May to facilitate discussion and exchange among contributors of the upcoming book. Out of 16 scholars who expressed interest to contribute to the book, 11 were able to join in person in St. John’s, while the rest joined remotely.

Workshop participants (from left to right): Yinji Li, Ruyel Miah, Evan Andrews, Suvaluck Satumanatpan, Katia Frangoudes, Mbachi Ruth Msomphora, Eva Coronado, Jaime Ramón Bruquetas, Ratana Chuenpagdee, Anas Shoebullah Khan, José J. Pascual-Fernández, Vesna Kerezi, Svein Jentoft, and Jewel Das

Joining online were Milena Arias Schreiber, Mario Cudiamat, Alice Ferrer, and Patrick McConney

The first day of the workshop included a broad overview of the theory, providing insights about the IG history and contributions, and deepening participants knowledge about IG theoretical background and its key elements. This was also an opportunity for the participants, some of whom only recently started applying the IG theory in their work, to share personal, occasionally funny stories about their own journeys of getting introduced to the IG theory.

The next day was for chapter presentations, during which authors shared the outline of their chapters, followed by discussions about how and where each chapter fits in the IG framework. The third day concluded with the roundtable discussion about strengths, gaps and areas needing further attention in IG.

The fourth day of the workshop included a half-day meeting during which the proposed outline of the book was discussed, developed based on everyone’s contributions. Following several days of long immersion in the world of IG, the second part of the day offered a welcome break that included a visit to the picturesque villages of Quidi Vidi and Petty Harbour as well as a visit to Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America. The trip to Petty Harbour was extra special, as we got to say hello to our good friends Kimberly Orren, Leo Hearn and Kelly Jane Bruton from Fishing For Success, a non-profit social enterprise that is creating a new pathway for the youth of Newfoundland and Labrador to connect with their fishing heritage.

Above: Quidi Vidi village

Above: Cape Spear

Above: Petty Harbour

The workshop wrapped up on Friday, with participants revisiting their chapters, bearing in mind the key topics and thematic area that the chapters are contributing to. The last portion of the day included a thoughtful and personal insights by Svein Jentoft about the joys, struggles, and rewards of scientific writing.


The workshop achieved the goals of facilitating in-depth discussions about IG theory and allowing those who are just embarking on the IG journey to get more familiar with the theory. In addition, participants received immediate feedback on their chapters, helping them better situate their potential contributions to the IG framework. Lastly, the interactive engagement resulted in fruitful insights about strengths, gaps, and areas which will benefit from further attention of IG scholars.


The authors are now busy with the writing of their chapters. In the meantime, we asked some of the new IG scholars to reflect on the workshop, especially what they liked best about it. This is what they say…

Reflections from the workshop

The scholars reflected on the following questions:

(1) Why are you interested in IG? How has it helped your own research/work, or the way you think about it?

(2) In your opinion, how can IG help support small-scale fisheries sustainability, and promote the implementation of the SSF Guidelines?

(3) What were some of the highlights from the workshop? Was there any pivotal moment for you?

(4) What did you enjoy most about being in St. John’s this time?

Anas Shoebullah Khan

The University of Winnipeg, Dried Fish Matters project, Canada

  1. I am interested in IG because of the comprehensiveness and the flexibility it provides as a framework to think about governance. As an analytical tool, IG has something to offer for everyone involved in some or the other kind of governance problems within small-scale fisheries and beyond. In fact, it’s application to the highly wicked problems facing small-scale fisheries is an example how IG framework can be utilized to understand other similar realms beyond small-scale fisheries.

    I find IG to be a great framework because it gives me a comprehensive analytical lens to assess human rights from an actor-oriented perspective. IG’s focus on governance beyond the State, and to include how civil society and markets also govern, and to understand the interaction between these ground norms of governance, have implications for how human rights are understood, defined, and fulfilled.


2. In the context of SSF Guidelines which are explicitly rooted in the realization of human rights of marginalized actors in small-scale fisheries value chains, one important way in which IG provides a tool to assess the implementation of SSF Guidelines is the image, instrument, and action elements. I feel the ‘image’ or the ‘vision’ of governance is a crucial indicator of thinking about the SSF Guidelines, helping us in thinking about the questions like, “What is the image in the minds of State and non-state parties when they think about small-scale fisheries governance?” “Is this image compatible with sustainability and human rights-based approaches?” There are myriad ways the question of small-scale fisheries implementation can be framed using other aspects of IG, and I feel a lot more needs to be done on this front.

3. I feel the workshop helped me refine some of my ideas for the book chapter, and Ratana’s as well Svein’s sessions helped a lot to structure and organize my thoughts on the chapter. The workshop was also a great space for co-learning and thinking better together. As a graduate student, I found the general vibe of the workshop as quite supportive and encouraging. Plus, I also found a fellow lawyer working on small-scale fisheries! Thank you for the opportunity.

4. It has to be salt cod, hands down! After all, dried fish matters!

Jaime Ramón Bruquetas

University of La Laguna, Spain

    1. The capacity of IG as a holistic analytical tool is crucial. It invites reflection that widens the spectrum, allowing us to approach governance with the adequate comprehensive framework through which to look and analyze the reality and gather information. The fact that IG does not exclude other theories and tries to search for synergies is a plus. For my own research, where legal pluralism is a key factor, IG facilitated the analysis of the dichotomy formal-informal governing systems and the consequent impacts on the day-to-day interactions. The convenience to embed the Human Rights perspective in the equation was another important outcome.

    2.  The question “Governability for whom?” is posed at every stage of the IG analysis process. Blue justice and the Human Rights approach are crucial elements in the development of the interactive governance theory, which are guiding principles of the SSF Guidelines as well.

    3. A deeper understanding of IG linked to its possible applications was an important starting point. During the workshop, the central idea of my research was fine-tuned: there are mismatches between the legal instruments developed by public institutions of the second order with the interactions going on in the first order among the different actors to assure their livelihoods and their rights. These interactions are aligned with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the other international instruments for human rights protection (e.g., American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, The European Convention on Human Rights, The American Convention on Human Rights, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights) which are hampered by inadequate legal instruments. Realizing that this scheme was replicated in various case-studies presented was a pivotal moment.

    4. It was amazing to spend time with such cutting-edge researchers and to be able to learn from diverse experiences and viewpoints. Despite being such a diverse group, the concerns and interests were very similar, and human emotion and passion were our common tools of work.

Evan Andrews

Memorial University, Canada

    1. I am interested in IG because it can help unpack the problems on which I work, and help me organize my thinking. It is a powerful lens for me to learn where to look, how to look, and what to look for. It keeps me growing and learning as a governance scholar, while helping me situate my observations and reflections, as well as build new questions. In this way, it gives me the freedom to continue to explore, without becoming overwhelmed by complexity and uncertainty in the problems on which I work.

    2. IG is an opportunity to bring to governance to forefront of research and dialogue about small-scale fisheries and the progress to implement the SSF Guidelines. Particularly, IG can help us understand the many interactions taken place informing small-scale fisheries sustainability and SSF Guidelines implementation progress. The understanding of these interactions can really open up the challenges for small-scale fisheries and the prospects for implementing the SSF Guidelines in a way that is uniquely focused on high quality interactions and capacity building in small-scale fisheries governance.

    3. It was just so much fun to ‘lean in’ and have good discussion about IG and its application in small-scale fisheries. It was just a pleasure to be in a room with such thoughtful folks, and to learn from their perspectives: a real treat and privilege. I really liked being able to ask any questions (without fear of judgement). I had several ‘ah ha’ moments in my own understanding, especially workshopping ideas and proposing new ones. Group brainstorming and discussion are some of my favourite activities in this job. Thus, the IG workshop helped bring forth a lot of joy and happiness!

    4. It is wonderful to have visitors (including repeat visitors) to St. John’s. As a resident, I take for granted the city and the experience of being here. Hanging out with IG visitors encouraged an appreciation of life here. I can see the place from different eyes.

Mbachi Ruth Msomphora

UiT, the Arctic University of Norway

    1. My interest in Interactive Governance (IG) stems from its potential to address complex governance issues in a holistic and inclusive manner. IG theory, with its emphasis on the interactions between system-to-be-governed, governing system, and governing interactions, offers a comprehensive framework that can adapt to the dynamic nature of societal and environmental challenges. This approach resonates with my belief in the need for adaptive and participatory governance frameworks that can effectively respond to the multifaceted issues we face today.

      IG has profoundly influenced my research approach by providing a structured framework to analyse and understand the complexities of governance systems. It has encouraged me to think beyond traditional governance models and consider the interdependencies and interactions that influence outcomes. This perspective has been invaluable in my work on environmental policy and decision-making, including participation and ‘Co-management/governance’ issues where understanding these interactions can lead to more effective and sustainable solutions.

    2. IG can play a crucial role in supporting the sustainability of small-scale fisheries by fostering a more inclusive and adaptive governance environment. The IG framework encourages the integration of diverse stakeholder perspectives, which is essential for addressing the unique challenges faced by small-scale fisheries. By promoting participatory governance, IG can help ensure that the implementation of the SSF Guidelines is tailored to the specific needs and conditions of different communities, thereby enhancing their effectiveness and sustainability.

    3. The workshop was filled with enlightening discussions and interactive sessions, but a pivotal moment for me was the activity on mapping governance interactions in small-scale fisheries, especially when we were discussing the fisheries in India and also in Spain (Informal and Formal governance systems and the interactions). This exercise not only deepened my understanding of the practical applications of IG theory but also highlighted the power of collaborative problem-solving in uncovering innovative governance solutions. It was a vivid demonstration of how theoretical frameworks could be effectively translated into practical strategies.

    4. Being in St. John’s for the workshop was a delightful experience, enhanced by the warm hospitality and the vibrant academic community. What I enjoyed most was the opportunity to engage with fellow researchers and colleagues from diverse backgrounds, all committed to advancing governance research. The scenic beauty of St. John’s, combined with the field trips, its rich cultural heritage, provided a perfect backdrop for reflective and stimulating discussions.

Md Ruyel Miah

Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo, Canada

Integrative Governance (IG) theory fascinated me the most ever since I started learning about it. It helped me realize how complex and wicked the governance of the societal system is! Societal issues are multi-dimensional, and there is no single fix to all. In dealing with such multi-dimensional and wicked issues, I found that IG is the only theory that can help assess the diversity, complexity, dynamics and scale issues of societal systems and suggest opportunities to address them.

My area of interest is the governance of social and natural systems of small-scale fisheries. The IG theory has helped me shape my past and ongoing research. The theory has been extremely helpful in guiding my research theoretically and analytically. My current research is on the transboundary governance of small-scale fisheries. The theory not only helped me to identify my research problem but also the strategies to assess it. My research is particularly about the vulnerability to the viability transition of small-scale fisheries in a transboundary mangrove forest. I am using this theory to explore the vulnerabilities of small-scale fisheries and to what extent governance is responsible/capable of transitioning toward the viability of small-scale fisheries. Drawing from IG, I plan to identify the governing capacity and quality of the respective governing system to make the transition happen and contribute to the sustainability of the fishing communities. However, there are areas/elements of IG that I need clarification on, and I struggled to apply them properly to my research.

The IG workshop was tremendously helpful for me to get clarification on some of the concepts and gain the confidence to articulate them properly in my research. For example, the rich discussion and presentation by different participants and the people who developed the IG were helpful in better understanding the ‘scale’ attribute of the social, natural and governing systems. Since I am looking at ‘scale’ in terms of the ‘transboundary’ nature of the Sundarbans forest between Bangladesh and India, the workshop helped link scales to other elements of the IG, such as orders of governance and governability.

I am thankful to TBTI and Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee for the opportunity to participate and learn more about IG. I have gained more confidence in better articulating IG in my research. I hope to make significant contributions to small-scale fisheries sustainability and viability using IG through my current and future research.

Eva Coronado

ENES, Unidad Merida, UNAM, Mexico

    1. I am interested in IG because it is a way to understand the complexity of social systems and governance problems. In my research, I follow the framework as a methodological tool to characterize and understand coastal systems, identify social and natural issues and propose solutions and actions towards sustainability.

    2. IG can help us understand the social and natural system and their interactions, where there are strengths and issues and highlight where SSF Guidelines implementation is required.

    3. The IG workshop in St. John’s was an amazing opportunity to learn and clarify concepts and ideas about IG and have an appropriate base to write our coming papers. Interacting with researchers from several countries and learning about their work was especially important to me.

    4. Being in St. John’s was a wonderful experience. I met new friends and reconnected with others. The field trip was also very nice.


Chuenpagdee, R. (2011). Interactive governance for marine conservation: an illustration. Bulletin of Marine Science 87(2): 197-211.

Jentoft, S., & Chuenpagdee, R. (2015). Interactive governance for small-scale fisheries. Global Reflections. Dordrecht, MA: Springer.

Jentoft, S. (2023). The Gift of Community: More Essays on Human Experiences of Small-Scale Fisheries. TBTI Global.

Kooiman, J., Bavinck, M., Jentoft, S., & Pullin, R. (2005) Fish for Life: Interactive Governance for Fisheries, MARE Publication Series, Amsterdam University Press.

Kooiman, J., Bavinck, M. (2013). Theorizing Governability – The Interactive Governance Perspective. In: Bavinck, M., Chuenpagdee, R., Jentoft, S., Kooiman, J. (eds) Governability of Fisheries and Aquaculture. MARE Publication Series, vol 7. Springer, Dordrecht.