Emergent local organising : navigating complex sustainability issues

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- Examining contemporary issues within the broad problem area of sustainability, this thesis explores how locally situated organising emerges and operates. Specifically, this thesis questions how organising occurs in practice within locally situated collective groups. Many sustainability issues have no spatial boundaries; they seek to address future environmental uncertainty within development that enables social and intergenerational equity and challenge accepted norms of 'business as usual'. They are 'messy' and contested issues, where the role of civil society and collective action clearly hold a legitimate stake. How does locally situated organising spontaneously emerge in relation to the complexity of sustainability issues? How do diverse individuals negotiate and attain collective representation and action? An exploratory approach is facilitated through grounded case studies within the state of New South Wales in Australia. Three cases are explored as examples of locally based organising around broad sustainability aims seeking to encompass social justice within ecological constraints. These cases are the Sydney Social Forum (SSF), the Green Corridor Coalition (GCC) and Climate Action Groups (CAG). Analysis of participant observations, interviews with key participants, online correspondence and other secondary source information are used within a conceptual framework to uncover the processes used for organising within each case. Several overarching aims guided the data analysis: exploring the emergent organising processes, questioning cohesion within networks, representing the outlying information, unpacking the collective notion of 'movement identity' and identifying critical turning points. These framed representation of the cases. Cross-disciplinary approaches are essential for making sense of complex sustainability issues. Rather than assuming local groups as constituting broader social movements or to presume they are 'organised' entities, this thesis considers how emergent (dis)organising occurs within the various local cases. Specifically, the theoretical framework adopts a critical interpretation of dominant schools within social movements and organisation studies and investigates the use of complexity thinking as a means of understanding the (dis)organisation of local organising. Complexity thinking situates the local in dynamic interaction within national and global movements, seeking solutions for sustainability. The overarching analysis demonstrates the significance of connectivity, both as a metaphor for negotiating diversity, as well as in terms of network-building to enable collective organising. Furthermore, the organising processes within the cases viewed through this complexity thinking lens uncovers paradox in relation to consensus decision-making, collective identity, structuring, leadership and knowledge and communication. These findings will contribute to the field of new social movements and also provide empirical accounts of organising in complexity.
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