Doctoral dissertation

Mia Pihlajamäki: Fishing for Fit: Exploring the effectiveness of Baltic Sea environmental and resource governance

The overall aim of the thesis of Master of Administrative Sciences Mia Pihlajamäki was to explore the effectiveness of Baltic Sea environmental and resource governance. She aspired to contribute to the ongoing environmental social science research on Baltic Sea environmental and resource governance by focusing on two specific social–ecological challenges, namely Baltic Sea eutrophication and Baltic herring catch use, in their multilevel governance contexts. The empirical, policy-relevant aim of the thesis was to provide illustrations of case-specific governance challenges and recommendations for how to meet them. The theoretical aim of the work was to increase understanding of the roles that participation could play in improving the fit between governance systems and governed social–ecological systems.

The Baltic Sea countries have collaborated for over 40 years to jointly govern social–ecological challenges related to environmental problems and the sustainable use of resources. Still, many of the challenges persist, which implies that Baltic Sea environmental and resource governance has failed to address them effectively.

Environmental governance literature suggests that the effectiveness of a governance system, that is, its capacity to solve the issues it was set out to govern, depends largely on its characteristics and how well those characteristics match the attributes of the social–ecological system it aims to govern. The underlying assumption is that the better the fit, the greater the effectiveness of governance. The literature has also identified participation as a key principle of effective governance. However, less attention has been paid on the role of participation in the fit between the two systems.

Pihlajamäki used governance fit as a theoretical framework to 1) identify misfits between the governance and governed systems and, based on these findings, 2) establish criteria for more effective Baltic Sea environmental and resource governance, and 3) examine roles that participation could play in improving the fit. She explored the role of participation by focusing on its three dimensions: 1) the extent of involvement, 2) the form(s) of interaction, and 3) power relations.

To meet the objectives, she applied an exploratory sequential mixed-method multiple-case study design. Pihlajamäki used both interpretative and normative research approaches to explore governance challenges and requirements, and multiple methods, namely semi-structured in-depth interviews, participatory backcasting, and surveys.

The five criteria established for effective Baltic Sea environmental governance are as follows: 1) governance actions are sufficiently coordinated based on identified needs; 2) policies are sufficiently specified to solve the governed social–ecological challenge; 3) governance and policy take regional socioeconomic and cultural diversity into account; 4) relevant policy sectors are adequately integrated; and 5) policymaking is based on multiple and diverse sources of knowledge.

The results demonstrate that, on the one hand, the exclusion of certain actors from knowledge production and policymaking processes has contributed to the failure to meet the criteria and has thereby compromised the fit. On the other hand, in some cases, improving the fit called for more targeted and limited participation. A number of suggestions on how participation could improve the fit and thereby meet the criteria were drawn based on the identified deficits and lessons learnt from experimentation.

Pihlajamäki concludes that participation can help improve the fit between the governance and governed systems in many ways, but this necessitates careful consideration of who should participate, how, and for what purpose in a given governance context.

The doctoral dissertation of M. Sc. (Admin) Mia Pihlajamäki in the field of environmental policy titled Fishing for fit: exploring the effectiveness of Baltic Sea environmental and resource governance will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Management and Business of Tampere University at 12 o'clock on Friday 24 September, 2021. The venue is Pinni A building Paavo Koli Auditorium, address: Kanslerinrinne 1. Professor Marko Joas from Åbo Akademi University will be the opponent while Professor Pekka Jokinen will act as the custos.

The event can be followed via remote connection.

The dissertation is available online at


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