Adaptive and Turbulent Governance. Ways of Governing that Foster Resilience. The Case of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tudor Țiclău, Cristina Hințea, Bianca Andrianu


The current COVID-19 pandemic highlighted something that was already known for decades: modern governments need to master the art of equilibristics – they need to offer public value in all governance arenas while battling increasing levels of uncertainty and change. Looking back at the last decade, unpredictable change has been the norm rather than the exception (whether it is at political level – Arab Spring (2011), 2016 US elections, Brexit (2016) – social – Occupy Wall Street movement (2011), EU migrant-refugee crisis (2016), Black Lives Matter, #Metoo movement – or economic – the economic crisis of 2008, which prompted the sovereign debt crisis in multiple EU countries, China replacing the US as the largest economy) the environment in which governments operate in has never seen such a particular type of dynamic. The COVID-19 pandemic can be seen almost as an organic culmination of this dynamic, a perfect storm, highlighting the essence of the new environment in which governments operate: highly complex, unpredictable, and interdependent – in one word turbulent.

The point is not to discuss the nature of these changes or whether they match perfectly the definition of a black swan event, but rather to raise an important question: how should governments (and society as a whole) react and adapt to such challenges? Are the current institutional structures and patterns of governing able to deal with this turbulence? From a governance perspective, two major concepts stand out as a potential framework of dealing with such situations: adaptive governance (Hatfield-Dodds, 2007) and turbulent governance (Ansell, Trondal and Øgård, 2017).


COVID-19; pandemic; adaptive governance; resilience; turbulent governance; disruptive change.

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