Transforming Governance for a Sustainable Ocean Future
: Defining and Exploring the Concept of Transformative Change in Ocean Governance

  • Tegan Rhiannon Evans

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Demand for transformation is ever increasing given the interlinked and complex problems facing ocean systems. Despite growing popularity and power in global governance, transformation’s definition and how it is conceived as a process remains contested and poorly understood. This research has adopted a multi-phase grounded theory approach to understand what transformation means and how it can be achieved through the experiences of practitioners and experts. Semi-structured interviews with a breadth of experts and practitioners were conducted, followed by case study research of Seychelles and Bangladesh to understand the process of transformation towards the blue economy.
Through this research, transformation has emerged as a concept of conceptual elasticity; to be simultaneously celebrated as a new opportunity, feared as a herald of the unknown, or incite exasperation through its buzzword status. Ideas regarding how to create change range from fast, fundamental, and disruptive change to stepwise, incremental, and linear change. Characteristics of transformation are dependent on the systemic perspective of the individual and the realistic constraints faced in creating change. In practice, change is incremental in scope, with rare examples of radical change that are often galvanised by dynamic leaders and international agencies.
Despite this, the need for both radical and incremental interventions was identified throughout the research. Experiences by Seychelles and Bangladesh reaffirm the long-term perspective needed for transformative change and emphasised the importance of a coalition of actors and an evolving leadership style to achieve change.
In summary, the definition of transformation generated through this research is change that fundamentally alters the system to an unrecognisable state through radical, incremental, and multi-level processes. Transformative change efforts must be designed to explicitly address the roots of persistent problems of governance through both radical and incremental interventions, across multiple sectors and scales.
Date of Award24 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorSteve Fletcher (Supervisor), Pierre Failler (Supervisor) & Jonathan Potts (Supervisor)

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