Reinventing North: Strategies in Governance

About this Project

This project brings together Canadian experts from different regions and across disciplines to discuss the theme of ‘governance and reinvention paths and obstacles for Northern communities’ based on their research and experience. The aim is to compare different communities that face – or have faced – tough enough challenges to draw the conclusion that community reinvention is needed, and to compare experiences and overall understanding of the issue of community reinvention and related governnce strategies. The overall goal is to exchange insights and research on this topic and then develop a new and shared perspective that can structure and guide future research and policy articulation. Researchers plan to map out both enabling factors and obstacles for community reinvention, in a northern context, including the Provincial North, and to identify existing and potential learning mechanisms useful in creating strategies for reinvention. The intention is to intensively discuss key concepts in community reinvention, bring together existing work on the topic, make new connections and sketch new collaborative research proposals.

Researchers realize reinvention is not always possible, nor desirable; it’s never a simple situation; will not be the result of blueprint solutions and is always political; since it is necessary entangled with local beliefs, local core values, identities and common goods. This means that in the end communities have to decide whether to reinvent or not and on the path to reinvention. Learning is a key concept and is understood as multi-dimensional: learning from the communities’ past, other places, theory and internal discussion- all necessary forms of learning to discern future development paths and associated risks and opportunities. The idea that existing configurations of formal institutions in northern contexts are generally inadequate and insufficient is embraced in this study. Northern communities rely partly on informal arrangements inspired by their environments [natural and social].

The project proposes publications and a workshop in Newfoundland (Corner Brook and Gros Morne) in 2021 to focus on the following themes:

  1. Northern informalities (the idea that each northern community has to invent its own governance forms)
  2. Stretching of autonomy (to increase agency in reinvention),
  3. Northern scarcities and opportunities (lacking resources, expertise, densities)
  4. Northern governance mosaics (including indigenous, non-indigenous and privatized forms of governance).
  5. Key issues on governance and strategy for reinvention and concluding remarks

Research Team

  • Kristof Van Assche, University of Alberta
  • Bojan Furst, Memorial University
  • Kelly Vodden, Memorial University
  • Monica Gruezmacher, University of Alberta
  • Leith Deacon, University of Guelph
  • Ryan Gibson, Memorial University
  • Kenneth Coates, University of Saskatchewan