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Marine Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Marine Policy
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Social networks, collective action and the evolution of governance for
sustainable tourism on the Gili Islands, Indonesia
Stefan Partelowa,b, , Katherine Nelsona,b
Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), Bremen, Germany
Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany
This article examines how social networks among actors in the tourism sector have facilitated the evolution of self-organized institutions for governance on the island
of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. Increasing tourism for SCUBA diving and nightlife is driving rapid social-ecological change and challenges for sustainability in relation
to waste management, social-political cohesion and conservation. While strong social networks were a sufficient means to initiate governance among the island's few
early businesses in the 1990's and early 2000's, an increasing number of actors (i.e., new SCUBA businesses and hotels) and more tourists are challenging the ability of
social networks to be the foundation of effective governance, where there is now an evident need for the evolution of governance to more effectively address
sustainability challenges. This article combines quantitative social network analysis with the qualitative analysis of interview data, participant observations and an
ethnographic examination of the island's changing social-political sphere of cooperation to examine the evolution of governance. Our results can be separated into
two parts. (1) From past to present, examining how governance institutions and collective action have emerged from strong social networks. (2) From present to
future, how these social networks are being undermined as the foundation for the island's governance institutions that they created, due to growth and changing
social-ecological conditions. This article draws on Evolutionary Governance Theory (EGT) as an overarching frame to examine the linkages between social networks
and collective action, looking specifically at the role of multi-level governance, institutional change, path dependencies and discourse analysis.
1. Introduction
Structuring how and why people cooperate to use shared resources
is the central task of environmental governance, to guide cooperation
towards common goals [1,2]. Some communities are more successful at
cooperating than others, and understanding the processes that lead to
different cooperation outcomes is a central question to governance. This
is a challenging task, because governance is not a simple and generic
process; it is social, political and often contentious as multiple actors
may have conflicting interests and preferences [3,4]. Diverse groups of
people, often of different sizes, locations and organizational levels of a
social system need to work together [2,5,6]. Quite often there are divergent goals for governance, and disagreement over what social and
political processes should be enacted to achieve them, both within and
between groups.
Small groups with similar interests may find the process of developing environmental governance (i.e., institutions for cooperation towards group goals) relatively easy. Homogenous interests within a
small group, low transaction costs, local enforcement and close informal relationships between individuals may enable productive collaboration [7–10]. Cooperation within a small group may be simple
compared to governing multiple larger groups, which likely have more
diverse interests and preferences [11]. However, development and
economic growth can bring new actors and larger groups into am existing governance system. Governance will be forced to evolve, to adapt
institutions to new social (and often ecological) conditions and goals.
The process of how groups of actors establish cooperation and environmental governance, and how this process evolves, is the focus of
this research, particularly as groups of actors face new environmental
The situation above describes the growth and changes on the island
of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia since the 1990's. A small group of likeminded European travelers saw potential in the island destination near
Bali to be developed as a dive destination. The first dive shop was
opened in the early 1990's, followed soon after by many others. The
initial small group of owners shared similar characteristics and had likeminded goals about conserving the surrounding coral reefs from destructive fishing pressure in order to build a world-class dive tourism
destination. They worked together, and with the traditional head of the
island, agreed on rules and guidelines which developed into informal
institutions for cooperation and environmental governance. These included both social norms for life on the island and rules for economic
and environmental development. Everyone on the island knew each
other, they had close relationships, the conservation programs took
effect and the island grew into a global tourism destination. The informal governance structures proved successful for many years, but
Corresponding author at: Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), Bremen, Germany.
E-mail address: (S. Partelow).
Received 15 December 2017; Received in revised form 2 August 2018; Accepted 2 August 2018
0308-597X/ © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Please cite this article as: Partelow, S., Marine Policy (2018),
Marine Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
S. Partelow, K. Nelson
knowledge for sustainability [24]. Within EGT, there is recognition that
institutional diversity often relates to different discourses (i.e., sets of
concepts and ideas about reality) [17,25]. In coastal space, different
realties for different people and groups may exist, influencing preferences for how and why governance should work. For example, on
Gili Trawangan, tourists, business owners and local Indonesians may
each have different discursive realties in how they talk about, experience and use coastal resources. Perhaps tourists view the coast as an
item of social capital and enjoyment, business owners as a source of
income and local Indonesians as a source of cultural identity. Discursive
realties can shape our preferences for the types of institutions we prefer
and beliefs about who has the right to enact those preferences through
governance (e.g., power hierarchies).
Similarly, EGT also recognizes the role of path dependencies and
systems theory. These concepts are rooted in the idea that institutions
and discursive realties for governance emerge from what came before
and that the parts of an enclosed system create the building blocks for
what evolves next. For example, as examined further below, the Gili
EcoTrust – a community-based conservation organization, is the only
organization with the appropriate social and political connections, finances and influence on the island to deal with environmental challenges. When waste management became the primary issue, it was the
most institutionally capable organization to deal with the problem. It is
evident that the evolution of governance is dependent on existing features in a system, of which change builds on.
This article empirically analyzes the emergence of collective action
with social network analysis, and then use EGT to discuss our results
linking the development and change of institutions, path dependencies
and different discursive realties on Gili Trawangan. As a whole, the
island faces multiple collective action problems. Local businesses and
residents need to sustain the island's economy, waste management
system, beaches and coral reefs despite increasing numbers of tourists
and competing businesses. However, few incentives exist for any individual businesses to contribute to finding collective solutions. Thus,
examining why individual businesses cooperate to find collective solutions is of considerable interest for understanding how and why
governance emerges and evolves.
This analysis is presented over time. First, showing how informal
social networks have been instrumental in fostering informal collective
governance efforts. Second, showing how changing social-ecological
conditions are forcing governance institutions to evolve towards formalization. Using EGT, numerous discursive realities are unpacked
within the island's social-political sphere of cooperation, including
power hierarchies between the local and state government institutions
about who should be responsible for development on the island and
who should benefit. Similarly, the role of social-political relationships is
examined between a core group of mostly foreign (non-Indonesian)
influential business owners, new business investors, and local
Indonesians. These dynamics strain the island's informal social networks, the current foundation of governance. Overall, this article aims
to show how social network analysis can inform collective action theories, while simultaneously unpacking the complexities of coastal
continued growth has increased the pressure on the existing social,
environmental, and governance systems, demanding a change.
This article provides an empirical analysis for how informal social
networks provided the foundation for collective action and the emergence of environmental governance on Gili Trawangan. However, the
rapidly growing and changing island is stressing existing institutions for
cooperation to evolve, indicating a move from informality to formal
governance arrangements, involving actors at multiple levels of government. A larger group of business owners and tourists with more
diverse interests and preferences now occupy the island, including increasing interest from the Indonesian state. While the initially established informal mechanisms for cooperation still exist, i.e., those that
evolved from the island's social networks of dive shop owners, they are
no longer sufficient to address the island's myriad of sustainability
challenges. The remaining introduction outlines how Evolutionary
Governance Theory (EGT) can help to examine the complexities of how
coastal governance evolves and changes, and further outlines how social networks and collective action theory provide useful tools for
analysis. A more in-depth description of the case study on Gili
Trawangan is provided, followed by our empirical results and discussion.
1.1. Evolutionary Governance Theory (EGT) and coastal governance
Governance is a constantly changing and evolutionary process of
social institutions that structure human behavior and cooperation towards normative goals. Institutions are the formal rules (e.g., typically
written and enforced such as laws and legislation) and informal rules
(e.g., typically unwritten but socially mainstreamed norms) in society.
It is increasingly recognized that many different types of institutions
exist [12], and that whether they hinder or enable successful governance outcomes is influenced by both social and biophysical features of a
In this article we examine the development and change of institutions in the context of environmental governance, which is becoming
increasingly collaborative worldwide [1]. Further, we position environmental governance within the discourse on social-ecological systems (SES) [1,13,14]. The SES concept, as well as EGT, emphasizes two
aspects important for analyzing governance. First, the importance of
context, and second, recognition that social and ecological features in a
system have interdependent relationships [13–15]. A significant portion of the SES literature aims to link SES processes to the development
and change of institutions for collaborative environmental governance
EGT [16,17] provides a useful frame to view coastal environmental
governance, combining aspects of institutional economics [12,18], social systems theory, path dependency and evolutionary biology [19,20]
as well as discourse theory [16,17]. While each are extensive pursuits
on their own, EGT aims to link them, providing an overarching frame
for understanding the complex realities of governance, particularly
useful for coastal systems. In the following analysis and discussion, we
draw on EGT to examine the evolution of coastal governance on Gili
EGT is a useful tool for analyzing coastal governance because
coastal governance theories are largely in their infancy [21]. Few
governance theories and frameworks comprehensively explore the
complex overlaps and interactions between different institutions, biophysical features and resource uses in coastal systems. Existing coastal
governance approaches often mirror terrestrial ones, which are rarely
or poorly adapted to coastal complexities (i.e., the materiality and interconnectivity of land, air, and water) [22,23].
Coastal systems have many natural resources, generating a wide
variety of values and institutions within and between the social-cultural
groups which use them. Biophysically, coasts have high boundary
fluidity and numerous overlapping ecosystem types, representing the
link between land and sea [21,22], requiring interdisciplinary
1.2. Social networks and collective action
Social networks refer to the structures and types of interactions
between actors in a group [26]. Thus, social network analysis is a useful
tool to examine how and why actors cooperate through their connections to each other, and by examining the organizational patterns of
those connections in a group. Social networks often reflect whether the
cooperative behavior between actors is structured in a way that best
enables or fits the context to sufficiently achieve governance goals. The
concept of fit is often used to describe this phenomena, to assess whether institutions for governance such as social networks are adapted or
not (e.g., spatially, structurally or to scale) to govern the intended
Marine Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
S. Partelow, K. Nelson
biodiverse but threatened tropical coral reefs in the world [42,43]. The
Indonesian ‘Throughflow’ current, passing between Bali and Lombok,
connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans, mixing the marine species diversity between regions [42]. However, this also mixes marine pollution across regions and between localities [44], creating challenges for
governance to adapt and respond to rapid changes in the region [45].
Gili Trawangan is the largest and most frequently visited of the
three Gili Islands, known worldwide as a destination for SCUBA
tourism. The island is less than 6 square kilometers, hosts more than
750 businesses, has more than 2000 permanent residents and averages
approximately 2000 new tourists per day during the high season and
approximately 1 million tourists per year [46]. However, the island is
fairly underdeveloped by global tourism standards with minimal public
infrastructure [47]. In addition, the island faces numerous challenges
for its sustainability including coral reef degradation, poor waste
management, plastic pollution, beach erosion caused by coastal development, unauthorized and illegal infrastructure development, illegal
fishing and anchoring, as well as tension between long-term business
owners and residents (both Indonesian and foreign), short-sighted
business investors, and the state [47,48]. In addition, the island is
threatened by many of the same broad spanning challenges facing
coasts worldwide. Climate change induced sea level rise, ocean acidification and increased mean sea surface temperatures are threatening
the island's low lying coastal developments and coral reefs, which are a
main source of economic capital, and have recently faced erosion and
major bleaching events [49].
environmental resource effectively [1,27,28]. Linking social network
analysis and collective action research is a promising for better understanding how cooperation is structured and responds to change
Collective action and social network theories can inform each other.
Social network theory can explain the structures and types of connections among actors, and reciprocally, collective action theories can
explain the social and ecological conditions which influence the
emergence of self-organization and social networks. In addition, both
bodies of literature draw on the SES concept [13,32]. Collection action
research has focused on the types of institutional arrangements that
lead to long-term success in environmental governance [2,33,34], and
the influential variables that determine success, as well as, defining the
barriers to success. Many social and ecological variables have shown to
be influential, with empirically supported hypotheses on their importance [8,13,35]. Socially, variables such as group size, communication, transaction costs, socio-economic heterogeneity as well as
operational and collective choice rule arrangements have repeatedly
proven to be influential [8,11,36]. Ecologically, variables such as
system size, system boundaries, the predictability of ecosystem dynamics and resource regeneration rates, among others, have shown to
be influential [13,36]. In the analysis below, many of these variables
influence the formation of social networks, and the ability of social
networks to be the foundation for governance on Gili Trawangan due to
its distinct features as a small island.
1.3. Coastal tourism on the Gili Islands, Indonesia
1.3.1. SCUBA tourism and funding conservation
SCUBA diving is the foundation of tourism on Gili Trawangan. The
dive industry started with simple bungalows established by foreign
travelers in the early 1990's. Only a few businesses existed with very
minimal additional services. The island has not been historically occupied by Indonesians; only permanently settled in the 1970's. The island now has more than 30 SCUBA diving businesses, with more
planned to open, and nearly the same number of SCUBA shops on the
neighboring islands of Gili Meno and Gili Air collectively. Most dive
shops are located on the main beachfront road on the eastern shore,
where most of the island's businesses and tourism activities are located,
i.e., Fig. 1.
Tourists face the choice between many similar dive shops who attempt to diversify themselves by catering to the many languages of
travelers, providing accommodation on-site, restaurants and bars as
well as other outdoor, lifestyle, and nightlife activities. Diving sites are
located within a few minutes boat ride in the nearshore waters, creating
easy access for all, i.e., Fig. 2. Dive sites named after popular marine
megafauna, such as Shark Point and Turtle Heaven, receive considerable dive and boat traffic, creating concerns for the health of the coral
reef and dive safety due to overcrowding, in addition to the tension
between businesses competing for use of the common marine space.
Small tropical islands can be defined as coastal social-ecological
systems [22,37], with many of them containing some of the highest
overlapping concentrations of people and biodiversity in the world
[24,38]. The societies, cultures, and economies of small island communities often evolve around a high dependence on local natural resources and move towards a heavy reliance on imported goods as the
island's economic growth develops, characterizing the challenges they
face for sustainable development [39], particularly when those resources are shared between an increasing numbers of actors with heterogonous economic interests over time. Challenges on small islands
can escalate due to spatial limitations and a lack of connectivity to
infrastructure and public services which mainland areas typically have.
This often creates the need for the self-organized provision of public
services. Small isolated islands provide useful examples of how governance emerges and evolves to provide needed services, particularly in
the tropics where multiple anthropogenic pressures from land and sea
are impacting coastal systems [24], necessitating adaptive governance
to change [38,40,41].
Gili Trawangan is one of the three small Gili Islands located off the
northwest coast of Lombok, West Nusa Tengarra, Indonesia i.e., Fig. 1.
The waters surrounding the Gili Islands contain some of the most
Fig. 1. (A) Map of Indonesia with the location of Lombok and Bali circled. (B) Gili Islands (circled) off the coast of northwest Lombok. (C) Satellite photo of the Gili
Islands. From left to right, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, Gili Air. Source: Google Earth 2017.
Marine Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
S. Partelow, K. Nelson
Fig. 2. (A) Divers in the waters off Gili
Trawangan. (B) Turtle laying on coral reef, a
frequent attraction for divers. (C) BioRock artificial reef structures for coral restoration and
erosion control implemented by Gili EcoTrust.
(D) Aerial photo of the northeast side of Gili
Trawangan. (E) The island's uncontrolled
landfill, overflowing into pasture area. (F)
Beachfront with SCUBA dive boats parked directly on the beach. Photos A–D and F provided by The Jetlagged. Photo E provided by
the authors.
year of establishment, size, nationality of owner, memberships to
community organizations, services provided, their most frequently
visited dive locations and their most frequent collaborations with other
businesses. In addition, data was collected on perceptions of challenges
on the island as well as statements regarding cooperative activities and
potential solutions. Participant observations played a large role in understanding social dynamics, politics, and on-going efforts for conservation and waste management on the islands. In a parallel study,
additional data was collected and analyzed on the willingness of tourists to pay for bundled environmental management efforts implemented
by the Gili EcoTrust [53].
The original group of dive shops on the island started a local nongovernmental organization called the Gili EcoTrust (www.giliecotrust.
com) to focus on marine conservation and coral reef restoration activities. To fund this organization, shops agreed to charge a voluntary ‘ecofee’ to each dive customer of 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) (~ $3.75
USD). This donation would go directly to the Gili EcoTrust. In addition,
to mitigate price competition the dive shops established a minimum
price agreement for the cost of dive courses and recreational diving.
The cost of one open-water SCUBA dive on Gili Trawangan (as of 2017)
is typically 490,000 IDR (~ $37 USD). The establishment of these
agreements and the evolving informal regulations are explored below.
2. Methods
2.2. Data analysis
2.1. Data collection
Survey data was cleaned and structured into two edge1 list data sets
for social network analysis, represented in Figs. 3 and 4, coupled with a
third data set with attribute information. Nodes2 in both data sets were
individual businesses. Edge connections in Fig. 3 are guided by the
question ‘Did the owner or manager work at or get a diving certification
with any of the other dive businesses on the island in the past?’ Edge
connections in Fig. 4 are guided by the question, ‘If this business collaborates with other dive shops, please list up to 5 dive shops you
collaborate with the most?’ Analysis of the social network data was
conducted in Gephi, a software and interface for network analysis [54].
Neighbors in Fig. 4 are either the first or second closest dive business.
The second closest business may be less than 50 m away in most cases
due to the density of the island.
Qualitative interview data was systematically analyzed from notes
taken directly during or immediately after interviews. The diagnostic
approach allowed for the aggregation of interview statements into core
topics, to then compile and contrast the conflicting perspectives related
to each topic. Much of this process was done while in the field, with the
The data collection for this study was conducted by the authors on
Gili Trawangan and Gili Air during March–April 2017. More than 50
semi-structured were conducted as well as opportunistic open-ended
interviews with key informants, owners and managers of SCUBA dive
businesses, leaders of local non-governmental organizations (NGO) and
local government officials on the island. Interview questions aimed to
provide data saturation on social, political, economic and environmental topics on the island through a diagnostic approach [50–52].
Initial rounds of interviews aimed to accumulate a comprehensive list
of the island's most pressing challenges, and subsequent interviews
aimed to provide more detail into the drivers and potential solutions to
challenges from all interviewees. Due to interviewee preferences, audio
recording was not possible in many cases. For consistency, all interviews were conducted in the same format when possible. Interviewees
gave verbal consent and were aware of the research purpose. However,
anonymity of individuals and businesses is maintained. To our knowledge, all but one of the dive businesses on the island were interviewed,
along with all available local officials and NGOs who were willing to
Thirty commercially operating recreational SCUBA dive centers
were given self-completion surveys regarding their attributes including
Edges in network analysis are defined as social relationships, connections or
Nodes represent the actors (i.e., businesses) within the network.
Marine Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
S. Partelow, K. Nelson
Fig. 3. Social network analysis of the ‘family tree’ of dive
shops on Gili Trawangan. Nodes are businesses and connections between them represent managers or owners who
used to work at or were certified at a different shop. Each
business is labelled with the year of establishment. The
size of each node is the ‘degree’, i.e. the sum total of the
number of connections going in and out of the node. Only
five shops are not connected in the network (bottom left).
Fig. 4. Social network of self-stated collaborations between SCUBA dive businesses. Node size equals the indegree, i.e. the number of connections coming into each
node. The color of each node is the self-stated size of each
business on a categorical scale (small, medium, large). The
year of establishment is labelled on each node, representing a unique business. Red edges (connections)
indicate that the businesses are neighbors, i.e. physically
located next to each other on the island. Black edges are
non-neighbors. Collaborations can include the exchange or
borrowing of gear, sending customers when they are
overbooked, sharing boats, exchanging employees or staff
when needed, or communicating on dive locations and
professional dive certifications and worked in an older shop, and have
close informal relationships with the owners and managers of those
The network also provides insight into business exchanges. Shops
hire employees between each other including dive masters, SCUBA
instructors and general staff. Trust and social capital when hiring or
training employees is a liability for SCUBA shops which often have a
high turnover rate of seasonal and short-term employees. Knowing that
employees are reliable during hiring processes is valuable, and this
informal information is exchanged if the managers have worked or
were trained on the island previously. This additionally highlights the
career progression of individuals who were trained at an older established business and then took the opportunity to become a manager of a
more recent business or to start their own.
Many more network exchanges occur, particularly among dive
masters and instructors, who often work seasonally, and frequently
move between businesses based on availability and demand. The strong
degree of business relationships is mirrored and reinforced by a network of informal relationships between shops that have generated trust
aim of the diagnostic process to develop continually and refine research
questions for each proceeding round of interviews, to follow-up on
previous responses. When a diversity of actors were interviewed regarding any topic, and the responses were saturated through repetitive
answers, the data regarding this topic was considered to be sufficient
for analysis.
3. Results
3.1. From past to present: social networks lead to cooperation
The social network analysis in Fig. 3 visualizes how the development of institutions for cooperation evolved on Gili Trawangan as a
type of ‘family tree’ over time i.e., Section 3.2. Informal relationships
between SCUBA businesses are very strong, as nearly all dive shops are
connected through previous employer/employee relationships. Older
businesses have more overall connections and more links to recent
businesses, as employees from the older shops have branched off to
start their own shop. Nearly all owners or managers have earned
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S. Partelow, K. Nelson
shops made it more difficult for informal social networks to be the
foundation for effective governance (i.e., keeping the price agreement,
the dive fee, and the progression of conservation efforts to reflect the
pressing environmental issues). GIDA made the first attempt to formalize aspects of governance in the island's SCUBA industry through
creating a written charter that established operational rules for the
sector and collective choice rules for decision making [12]. Although
the rules were not legally enforced, the charter initiated a process of
formalizing established social norms. Operational rules aimed to address safety and environmental standards for diving and the joint use of
marine space, as well as procedures for island politics and business
development. Participating GIDA members are asked to pay a
1,000,000 IDR (~ $75 USD) yearly membership fee and to attend
monthly meetings hosted at rotating locations between the participating members. Specific rules include water safety protocols such as
the number of staff required on a dive boat, guide to diver ratios, speed
limits, safe distances from divers in the water, boat maneuvering regulations for controlling boats around dive sites, mandatory spotters on
the front of the boat, and rules about anchoring. In addition, the GIDA
charter attempts to formalize cooperation, stating that GIDA members
will lend needed equipment such as SCUBA gear, pool space for
teaching, or tank air-fills to other GIDA members, and that all GIDA
members agree to not lend anything to non-members. The charter also
includes formalized cooperative emergency response protocols between
all dives shops, regardless of membership, to ensure general safety for
all divers and to ensure the island's safety reputation. If a diver goes
missing or assistance is needed in the water during an emergency, all
GIDA members have pledged to respond immediately by deploying all
boats until the diver is found or the situation is deemed safe. If the
response is to assist a non-GIDA member, this shop is charged for the
incurred costs. GIDA members do not have to pay. Collective choice
rules include majority voting procedures on all rules, attendance requirements, membership fees, and elected positions in the association.
This written charter, agreed on by a majority of dive shops, formalizes
the conditions for cooperation on the island to incentivize all SCUBA
operators to join the association.
The most established and more politically influential dive shop
owners, those with the most experience dealing with issues on the island, are also the owners who have been there the longest and have
witnessed drastic social and ecological changes. These well-established
owners and managers are central actors in the social networks. The
establishment of GIDA, Gili EcoTrust, the dive fee, and price agreement
emerged into social norms based on the leadership roles and connections of these owners, which largely convinced new shops to cooperate
informally. Living on a small island, it is easy to observe what new
shops are doing, and being welcomed into social-political life on the
island is difficult for non-cooperators and can affect the reputation of a
new business. This narrative has been effective in maintaining cooperation, but as more businesses emerge, social-political norms for
cooperation via informal networks have become less influential without
formal mechanisms for enforcement.
and social capital amongst themselves to collectively deal with challenges facing the island. Both formal exchanges (e.g., written formal
agreements) and informal (e.g., unwritten or social norms) relationships exist, reinforcing each other and enabling cooperation i.e., Fig. 4.
3.1.1. The development of institutions for cooperation
Initial SCUBA businesses valued institutionalizing economic stability and environmental safeguards, and made early efforts to cooperate
on the development and implementation of governance initiatives
during the late 1990's and early 2000's. Growing concerns about illegal
fishing and coral reef degradation motivated the establishment of the
Gili EcoTrust in 2001, supported by all dive shop owners at the time
i.e., Fig. 3. The original purpose of the Gili EcoTrust was to raise funds
through establishing a voluntary ‘eco-fee’ on diving. Divers are charged
(an opt-out donation request that is strongly suggested) a one-time fee
of 50,000 IDR (~ $3.75 USD) when they go diving at a participating
dive shop on the island. A majority of dive businesses supported the
formation of the Gili EcoTrust and collectively established the goals and
purpose of the organization. This collaboration was straightforward as
there were few dive shops (less than 10) on the island at the time. The
Gili EcoTrust was initially managed through one of the core SCUBA
shops, but this has since evolved into a distinct organization with several full time staff and a well-established volunteer internship program.
Initially, funds raised for the Gili EcoTrust were used to buy a patrol
boat and pay fishers to fish further away from the island to avoid
conflict with dive boats and marine habitat destruction [47]. Today the
Gili EcoTrust deals with a wide variety of sustainable development issues including waste management programs (i.e., collecting, sorting,
recycling, and composting waste, and offering training to businesses on
these activities), BioRock coral reef restoration and training courses,
beach clean-ups, animal welfare, outreach programs on good environmental practices, fundraising, environmental research, and political
lobbying. The BioRock concept builds artificial metal structures connected to a low voltage electric grid, derived from the hypothesis that
electric current enhances the growth of naturally dislocated and
transplanted coral fragments into new reef structures (EcoTrust
BioRock) i.e., Fig. 2C. The Gili EcoTrust and cooperating businesses on
the island have sponsored and installed more than 120 BioRock structures on the Gili Islands for coral and habitat restoration, to mitigate
coastal erosion, and to create new recreational dive sites. In combination, the Gili Trawangan BioRock reefs are among the largest coral reef
restoration projects in the world.
As the number of dive shops grew, a minimum price agreement was
agreed upon between cooperating shops, placing lower limits on the
prices for SCUBA certification courses and the prices of recreational
dives. The agreement aimed to eliminate price competition. The establishment of the Gili EcoTrust and the price agreement shows the
ability of the businesses to self-organize in the collective interest of the
group. Social networks i.e., Fig. 3, largely enabled this, in part through
a sense of collective identity among the owners, described by many
interviewees as playing a central role in the ability of owners to realize
their joint interests and create a sense of community. This collective
identity enabled communication and trust building, leading to mutual
understandings of their collective interests in sustaining the island's
economy, lifestyle, and ecosystems. The small size of the island also
enabled closer relationships to form (discussed further below). However, while SCUBA businesses play a large role in driving the tourist
economy, overtime they have become a smaller minority of the total
number of businesses (i.e., hotels, restaurants, bars, hostels). In addition, the discursive power hierarchies between expatriate owners and
Indonesians, as well as, short-sighted investors and long-term residents
often manifests into social-political tension over who is responsible for
organizing and financing infrastructure and conservation.
The Gili Island Dive Association (GIDA) was self-organized by
SCUBA shops in 2010, partly in response to more than 15 new SCUBA
shops that opened between 2007 and 2012 i.e., Fig. 3. The influx of new
3.2. From present to future: growth, change, and the evolution of
The social network in Fig. 4 shows current collaborations between
SCUBA businesses. Strong interconnected relationships exist showing
the close-knit nature of the industry, mirroring Fig. 3 with key central
roles for older and larger businesses that have more extensive collaboration networks. Neighboring businesses cooperate substantially,
often stated in interviews due to the close proximity and ease of sharing
quickly needed gear, staff or boats. Only a few business are not collaborating, the reason for this was explained in numerous interviews as
those businesses who have either created tensions by actively undermining cooperative efforts or those who are not integrated well enough
into the social-political networks of the island to feel obligated to
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Table 1
Survey responses from the statement: “Please rank the top 3 issues in terms of current importance for the Gili Islands.” Respondents were given
issues to select from and an option to add a response if necessary.
Percentages of issues ranked 1st
Percentages of issues ranked 2nd
Percentages of issues ranked 3rd
50% Waste collection
25% Waste sorting/recycling
11% Animal welfarea
7% Marine conservation
7% Pollution
36% – Waste sorting/recycling
25% – Marine conservation
11% – Waste collection
11% – Pollution
11% – Government involvement
4% – Corruption/transparency
4% – Infrastructure
39% Monitoring & enforcement
14% Security/safety
11% Beach erosion
11% Marine conservation
7% Infrastructure
7% Pollution
4% Government
4% Corruption transparency
4% Waste sorting/recycling
Note: There are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island and the primary method of transportation is by traditional horse-carts, hence the
concern for animal welfare.
the island's early days. However, initial success is now challenged by
change. Growth has led to new environmental challenges with either no
previous governance solutions or failed attempts at governance.
Governance is needed to address new problems, and many social and
ecological factors are influencing this evolution.
Collective action theories suggest many variables that may influence
cooperation [2,35,55]. Table 3 summarizes our findings in relation to
different hypotheses of variables within collective action theory and
presents our analysis of how they influence cooperation on the island.
Both social and ecological characteristics play a role, and they affect
each other interdependently. For example, the size of the island, its
distance to Lombok and Bali, and social-political relationships between
investors and residents all affect collaboration. The island must import
all goods and develop its own public services, making the cost of living
relatively high. Many businesses provide private daily transport for
Indonesian employees on and off the island to Lombok where living is
cheaper. Municipal waste, including septic tank waste, is often transported privately off the island to Lombok. Waste accumulation and
human health problems are exacerbated by the pace of change on the
island and its small size, leading businesses to turn to convenient individual solutions rather than invest the time into establishing collective arrangements. These quick solutions may serve the immediate
challenge but they do not address the underlying problems which are
only growing in magnitude. Gili Trawangan is approximately a 30 min
boat ride to Lombok, which makes individual solutions for transporting
employees and goods/waste to and from the island feasible for the
larger affluent businesses, rather than dealing with the transaction costs
of finding collective solutions locally. However, individual solutions
often drive prices up given that the activities are not organized or scaled
and not all businesses can afford individual solutions, providing an
incentive for businesses to find collective arrangements.
Although individual solutions are costly, they are reliable.
Collective solutions to build a better land fill and recycling center are
not guaranteed to be successful or less costly, at least initially.
Collective solutions are nonetheless needed, as the majority of small
businesses and residents face a waste management crisis. The Gili
EcoTrust has absorbed much of the responsibility for dealing with the
solution, as the only existing organization with institutional capacity
(i.e., networks, staff, and political influence) to deal with challenges.
This is not only a dive shop problem, but due to the well-established
social-political relations between the dive shops, particularly with the
Gili EcoTrust, their motivation and support for collective solutions is
necessary. However, because dive shops are really the only businesses
funding the Gili EcoTrust, resentment is building up among some dive
shop owners and managers because they seem to be the only ones investing in collective solutions that address everyone's problems.
participate in voluntary governance arrangements such as GIDA, the
price agreement, or collecting the dive fee to support the Gili EcoTrust.
However, non-cooperative owners stated similar concerns in regards to
their perceptions of sustainable development challenges in the survey.
Growth has brought substantial challenges for sustainable development on the island. Table 1 shows the responses from SCUBA business owners or managers who were asked to rank the top 3 issues
currently facing the island. Waste collection, sorting, and recycling are
the top ranked issues. While marine conservation and monitoring and
enforcement were the dominant issues in the past that motivated cooperation, growth is creating new waste management challenges.
Table 2 shows survey responses regarding the perceptions of current
challenges. A large majority of SCUBA businesses believe that waste
and the marine environment are not being well managed, and this is
consistent with tourist perceptions [53]. While respondents stated that
cooperating with other businesses is easy, a majority also stated that
more cooperation is needed, but that cooperation will become more
difficult with the establishment of more businesses. While a large majority agree on the issues facing the island and agree that more cooperation is needed, 31% of businesses are not part of GIDA, the primary organization attempting to mobilize collective efforts within the
SCUBA industry.
3.2.1. As the island changes, governance evolves
Informal social networks are a distinct feature of life on Gili
Trawangan. Small physical space (i.e., size of the system), common
identities of the initial owners (i.e., relative cultural homogeneity), similar reasons for being there (i.e., economic interest homogeneity), and
a strong sense of community (i.e., social capital) enabled cooperation in
Table 2
Business or manager responses to survey statements, showing emerging disagreement concerning collective action problems facing the island. Consensus
on the problems and solutions facing the island in the 1990's and 2000's was a
key driver for cooperation through strong social networks that led to establishment of the Gili EcoTrust, the price agreements, and GIDA.
Issues concerning marine ecosystem conservation/
restoration/pollution are currently being effectively
managed on the island.
Issues concerning waste collection, sorting and recycling are
currently being effectively managed on the island.
Pollution is increasing on the Gili islands, and it is negatively
affecting your business.
Cooperating with other businesses on the island is easy.
More cooperation is needed between dive shops and
businesses on the island.
The more businesses on the island, the more difficult it is to
cooperate and solve problems.
This business is a member of GIDA.
3.2.2. Waste management: congruence of local governance with outside
Waste management issues provide a useful example of how
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Table 3
Alignment of case study conditions with theories of collective action (CA). A summary description of theory is provided for each variable. The case values of the
variables on Gili Trawangan are shown with their current trend, with the stated values being relative to other variables in the case study context. A brief case
explanation is provided.
Variable and collective action (CA) hypothesis
Case explanation
Case value
Accountable leadership better motivates groups for CA
Gili EcoTrust, GIDA and influential businesses lead decision making on the
island in relation to the SCUBA industry, primarily through informal leadership
roles often driven by power linked to business size. Local non-SCUBA businesses
have an association for decision making but exclude foreign managers and
owners. Local government exists but unstable at the time of this research.
Very small island surrounded by coral reefs, making it clear who is in or out of
the area and using the shared resource.
In relation to how seasonality (ecosystem fluctuation) drives tourism (social
predictability), there is more tourism during the dry season due to better
weather and diving conditions. However, predictability of optimal ecosystem
conditions is decreasing due to increasing pollution brought by regional currents
to the beaches and coral bleaching events from climate change. Social trends in
regards to island popularity are less certain as the island continues to gain global
recognition while at the same time other areas are rapidly developing in the
region for tourism.
Coral reefs are highly valued around the Gili Islands, they drive the tourism
industry. This is in part motivating CA due to the joint interests of businesses on
the island to conserve them. However, with a highly valued resource being
overburdened without formal governance, a gilded trap of exploitation has
potential to develop [56].
GIDA members attend monthly meetings and communicate informally as well.
Otherwise communication between non-GIDA members and other businesses on
the island is informal and infrequent.
Very low formal government or police presence; rare marine regulation
enforcement. GIDA is only informal place for participating dive shops to resolve
conflicts, with low monetary costs but higher social costs, as getting people to
commit to meetings and finding solutions is difficult.
No regular external sanctioning from the regional/national government exists. A
recent enforcement of beach development regulations was enforced, clearing all
beach infrastructure which nearly every business had; property ownership
disputes are common. Rare marine regulation enforcement exists mostly
pertaining to boat licensing.
Clear divide between Western owned and Indonesian businesses as well as shortsighted investors vs. long-term residents and business owners. Tourists come
from all over the world, but primarily from Australia, European countries and
East Asia with different norms on purchasing, disposing of waste, and recycling
Clear divide between large upscale resorts, large dive businesses and local and
smaller businesses. However, the large businesses donate a lot of money to the
Gili EcoTrust and worthy causes around the island. This is needed but also
causes power asymmetry.
Gili Trawangan now has more than 30 dive shops and more than 750 businesses.
More than 15 other dive shops exist on Gili Meno and Gili Air, sharing the same
marine area.
All businesses and residents have interest in sustaining tourism and maintaining
a healthy marine and coastal environment as a public good.
Everyone on the island is dependent on the islands marine and coastal resources
to be healthy. Larger businesses with investments in other locations may be less
dependent than smaller ones, who may only have one location.
Past collaborations allowed cooperation to form on the island, however, social
capital is decreasing with increasing island growth and amounts of new
businesses and local residents.
A few large powerful businesses, mostly the original SCUBA businesses with a
few large resorts, are funding a considerable portion of conservation and waste
management efforts. Non-proportional benefits for the contributing actors may
dis-incentivize them to continue collective efforts as the benefits are distributed
to all but they are the only ones bearing the costs.
Informal social networks facilitated collaboration on the island for years,
however, as increasing numbers of businesses are established it makes social
transactions, such as communication, difficult.
Difficult to exclude fishers and any business from using marine area. Difficult to
exclude new businesses from opening on the island. Also difficult to exclude any
boat from anchoring and destroying the reef, and convince businesses with
boats to conform to informal agreements due to low social capital among many
GIDA charges non-GIDA members if they require services from GIDA i.e.
emergency diver rescues. However no sanctions exist for services provided by
the Gili EcoTrust, non-compliance with waste management, littering or illegal
infrastructure development.
GIDA has developed collective choice for decision making, but only applicable
to members in the SCUBA industry. No collective choice rules for waste
management or development among all actors on the island.
Clear physical boundaries increase likelihood of CA
High predictability of system dynamics increases likelihood of CA as
actors can prepare and adapt to fluctuations or changes
Low resource unit value may not motivate CA but high resource value
may lead to rapid exploitation before CA can occur.
Communication increases likelihood of CA
Having low cost mechanisms for conflict resolution increase likelihood
of CA.
Crowding out from external sanctioning causes less other regarding
behavior in order to ensure individual compliance, decreasing
likelihood of CA.
Cultural heterogeneity decreases likelihood of CA, due to increased
transaction costs
Economic heterogeneity increases likelihood of CA. Wealthy actors
can offset costs or invest for group.
Small group sizes increase likelihood of CA, as transaction costs
increase with group size.
Interest homogeneity, if actors have common interests, CA is more
If dependence on a resource is high, motivations for CA are higher.
If past collaboration and social capital exists the likelihood of CA is
If the proportionality of costs and benefits are equal, CA is more likely.
As transaction costs increase, the efficiency and likelihood of
collective action decrease
Clear user group boundaries
increase excludability, increasing likelihood of CA.
Graduated sanctions increase compliance and trust in institutions for
Collective choice rules for decision making increase likelihood of CA
(continued on next page)
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Table 3 (continued)
Variable and collective action (CA) hypothesis
Case explanation
Case value
Congruence of rules with outside authorities increases likelihood of CA.
Outside authorities and regulations exist but rarely enforced. Enforcement of
national regulations would likely benefit the island, but businesses are forced to
develop own rules.
The self-organized governance of the island fit well in the late 1990's and early
2000's allowing the island's economy to grow substantially. However, increasing
tourism and businesses are changing the social-ecological conditions, creating a
mis-fit of existing institutions to address new challenges such as waste and
infrastructure development.
Only local governance institutions exist, however there is potential that local
institutions will evolve into nested institutions of governance and that regional
or federal governance will become actively involved. Cooperating with
government is likely to occur in the future, as the islands have recently changed
jurisdiction into the north Lombok region focusing on the islands as a
substantial financial asset.
If governance fits the social-ecological conditions the likelihood of
(continued) CA increases.
Nested enterprises of governance increases likelihood of continued CA.
forward to address the islands new realities such as the need to formalize the social-political norms for island governance and to work
with authorities at the regional and national level.
Waste is only one example of numerous problems that have led to
similar conclusions. Further instances of multi-level conflict with the
state include bringing motorized vehicles to the island despite a locally
imposed ban on vehicles, bringing national police guards to control
security (although typically there is a local security force and no state
police), temporarily shutting down the privately owned desalinization
plant, and suddenly demolishing the beachfront structures of local
restaurants, hotels, and bars. In addition, oversight of property rights on
the island has been organized locally in the absence of state involvement in most cases. However, the national government sporadically
claims property rights and it is speculated that they allocate land to
businesses willing to pay high fees for access to the island. The lessons
are largely the same. Multi-level conflicts are causing chaos, but chaos
is leading to institutional change and the evolution of governance.
conflicting multi-level governance arrangements can create chaos, but
ultimately drive the evolution of governance. The concept of developing institutions congruent with outside authorities is useful for understanding the role of institutional fit to the island's changing conditions. On the island, a lack of formal regional and national government
involvement has left an operational void for the management of waste.
The head of the island's local government, in agreement with businesses
and the Gili EcoTrust, developed a voluntary fee to be collected from
businesses willing to participate in a waste collection program. In an
attempt to establish legitimacy and for ease of collection, the fee was
bundled with tax collection for security and schools by the local government. This was an agreed up on solution among many businesses
and organizations, perceived as an informal solution to increase collection efficiency. However, due to the fact that the fee was not an
officially recognized and government imposed ‘tax’, its collection was
considered extortion, a form of corruption, and the head of the island
was subsequently accused of the fraudulent use of public funds by national authorities and jailed. The collection system was subsequently
undermined and no longer functional, placing the island in a waste
management crisis. The Gili EcoTrust necessarily took over the collection of voluntary funds from willing businesses, an act of social-political
triage to maintain any collective organization of waste. However,
evolving skepticism of the Gili EcoTrust (discussed below) in relation to
seemingly non-transparent collection and spending of funds (because its
focus is supposed to be marine related, and its culture of financial and
social-political informality) made the continued development of waste
programs difficult without formalization, as far fewer businesses participated after the Gili EcoTrust took over waste management.
The natural response to the waste crisis was for the Gili EcoTrust to
take control given their involvement in waste recycling initiatives by
using the island's strong social networks. However, the financial and
political culture of informality, which led to the Gili EcoTrust's early
success, now undermines its own efforts due to the high transaction
costs incurred when trying to manage and motivate a larger number of
businesses with a large degree of economic and interest heterogeneity.
A significant majority of businesses were not part of the Gili EcoTrust's
original social network, which has created difficulties for motivating
collective financing for waste collection due to a lack of formal transparency in how the Gili EcoTrust does businesses, creating a sense of
skepticism and mistrust as the starting point for collaboration with new
We can see that the previous financing scheme with the local government worked well, but it was not congruent with national regulations. Local businesses and the Gili EcoTrust are hesitant to establish a
formal tax with regional or national authorities with skepticism that the
revenue would not be invested back into the island, at least at the same
rate that it would be if it were collected locally. This multi-level conflict
created chaos, but chaos forced institutional change. Gili EcoTrust,
political leaders, and businesses were forced to reflect on how to move
3.2.3. Trust, social capital and funding governance
While trust and social capital have been built through strong social
relationships in the late 1990's and early 2000's, growth and actor
heterogeneity are increasing the transaction costs of maintaining those
relationships. Growing skepticism of the Gili EcoTrust is manifesting
due to its informality of financing and political motivations, in part due
to the need to diversify the problems it now manages. Some of this
skepticism comes from dive shops who are discontent that they are the
only businesses regularly charging their customers the fee which funds
all activities of the Gili EcoTrust. Many SCUBA shops are requesting
more transparency on how the Gili EcoTrust is spending the funds as
they believe the costs and benefits are unequal. Dive shop motivations
to fund the Gili EcoTrust are centered on the idea that funds are reinvested into dive-related marine conservation activities. Many believe
that if it finances general problems on the island, all businesses should
be collecting an eco-fee, or that a centralized fee should be collected
from tourists in a different way. Research on the preferences for alternative funding schemes was conducted in parallel with this study [53].
3.2.4. Rivalry on the reef and competition between businesses
Coral reefs surrounding Gili Trawangan are faced with rivalry in use
(i.e., consumption) issues and difficulties with excluding users.
Although there are numerous reefs in the area, the popularity of a few
charismatically named reefs (i.e. Shark Point, Turtle Heaven, Manta
Point) absorb much of the pressure as nearly every shop takes divers to
these few popular sites at least once per day. Due to the limited space
and the increasing amount of SCUBA businesses, rivalry in the ‘consumption’ of the reef space becomes a water safety hazard at times and
a point of contention which undermines trust between businesses who
believe that others do not follow the informal norms (or formal GIDA
rules) of respect for sharing the reef. It is also impossible to exclude
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This phenomenon in EGT is called the path dependency of social systems, drawing on the idea from evolutionary biology that enclosed
systems can only evolve from the components contained within them
[16,20]. For example, GIDA only evolved from the cooperating dive
shops participating in the dive fee, price agreements, and supporting
the Gili EcoTrust. This was the only way to build on something that
already existed, through the social networks, to create something new
that actually works well and incorporates existing institutions by
adapting them to a changing context.
Moreover, the Indonesian state has been increasingly involved in
island politics, creating often contentious multi-level governance interactions. EGT recognizes that governance can evolve due to conflicts
or mis-fit institutions that result from multi-level arrangements
[6,59,60]. The Indonesian regional and national governments were not
involved in the development of the island's institutions. However, they
have become increasingly interested in being a present authority and
collecting more speculated tax revenue from the island's businesses and
tourists, much of which never makes it back to benefit the infrastructure of the island. Certainly the state has the ultimate right to
govern the island, but due to its previous absence, the island has largely
self-organized. Thus, the presence of the state is partly undermining the
island's own efforts to find governances solutions in its absence.
While multi-level governance interactions have caused conflict, and
often social-political chaos, they have been catalysts for the evolution of
governance. Gili EcoTrust is adjusting to the presence of the state to
find more formalized and transparent financing solutions for waste,
including private international investors. Tax amnesty interventions
from the state have in part seemed to shift the mentality of businesses
towards recognizing that formalizing institutions such as GIDA, property rights, and marine governance is probably for the betterment of
everyone, although this process will take time and bring contention.
Social networks were the original driver of evolving governance, but it
is now largely a result of interactions of multi-level governance with the
state. Path dependency from the existing institutions and networks remain as the building blocks for change, but the drivers of change are
now a more complex system.
In EGT, discourse plays a substantial role in how governance
evolves through the sets of ideas and concepts which structure how
actors act and make decisions about reality. On Gili Trawangan, two
prominent governance discourses are evident, both of which have
manifested contention between different actors. One relates to the relationship between the Indonesian state and local institutions. Second,
the relationship between non-Indonesian business owners, which are
fewer but more politically influential, and local Indonesia businesses,
which are smaller, more numerous, but have less power in island politics.
Numerous non-Indonesian owners have stated the value of having a
stronger state presence, particularly in relation to providing public infrastructure for waste management. These are desired and needed services on the island, which require considerable investment.
Simultaneously, a more formal system of taxation and state oversight
on the island would likely not bring further investments back to the
island from the state, drawing money away from the island that could
otherwise be utilized. However, many also capitalize on the lack of
formal enforcement in relation to illegal infrastructure development for
their businesses, the provision of legitimate visas for non-Indonesian
employees and/or the evasion of taxes. This dichotomy has created a
discourse on the role of government, and how it should be dealt with
politically among the island's network of powerful foreign business
owners. This has manifested conflict regarding the development of
tourism and who it is benefitting, considering the different interests and
inherent rights to benefits between the Indonesian state, local
Indonesian employees and the smaller, less politically influential
Indonesian owned businesses. As the island has grown, separate associations for smaller Indonesian owned businesses have formed which
are not participating in the initially developed cooperative efforts such
businesses from accessing the reef, there are no legal barriers and
compliance with GIDA standards is voluntary, with about 30% of
SCUBA businesses not being members (Table 2).
Clear inequities in the gains from accessing a reef are evident as
some larger SCUBA businesses take boats with up to 25 divers multiple
times per day to popular locations, while smaller businesses may take
4–6 divers on a similar sized boat. Only a limited number of boats can
safely access a reef at a time. Tourists often shop around for an operator
to dive with, often making a choice to go with an operator that will go
to the sites they are interested in, and thereby creating competition
between businesses for access to reefs throughout the day.
The ability of previously strong social networks to manage the rivalry and excludability challenges of reef access through GIDA, as well as
enforce the minimum price agreement to level competition, is undermined through non-compliance to informal rules. Informal agreements
are only functional when trust and social capital are maintained
through social networks. Increasing group size and heterogeneity of
dive shops is eroding trust and social capital, leading to more frequent
instances of non-compliance. It is evident that a core group of original
dive shops still support voluntary GIDA rules, but largely on their
goodwill and experience with previous cooperative success.
4. Discussion
Gili Trawangan presents a case study of evolving and adaptive
governance of a coastal social-ecological system. As the state of the
coastal ecosystem has changed from pristine to environmentally
threatened, businesses on the island have evolved and adapted their
local governance arrangements (i.e., institutions) to deal with them,
often amidst contention and chaos. The selective nature of adaptation,
in the sense that business actors are choosing the response that best fits
their needs and surrounding ecological system, has made the self-organization of governance fit well to the island's needs. This was certainly the case in the early years. The Gili EcoTrust, dive fee, and price
agreement were institutions that fit the island's problems. As the island
changed with growth, GIDA was a selected adaptation to the new
changing context of more actors, which attempted to formalize the
cooperation between a larger and more heterogeneous group of dive
businesses. Similarly, the Gili EcoTrust adapted its focus to waste
management, as the islands environmental needs shifted from marine
issues to terrestrial ones. This adaptive approach to governance is
functional because it adapts to the context of the island when it
Our analysis shows how strong social networks allowed these selforganized adaptations of governance. Overall, we can see that the social
system responds to the ecological context, and the characteristic features of the ecosystem partly dictate which institutions will work and
why. Evolutionary Governance Theory (EGT) recognizes that systems
thinking is a critical feature of how governance evolves and can be
adaptive, and in the case of Gili Trawangan we can see how both social
and ecological characteristics influence adaptation to context, such as
the islands small size and its proximity to Lombok and Bali i.e., Table 3.
The adaptive nature of social-ecological systems governance described above shows how self- organized governance can respond to
change and fit well to a context [28,57,58]. However, the story above is
simplified to provide a general sense of what we mean by adaptive
governance by giving an empirical example. In reality, the story is more
complex, and EGT provides a useful lens to explore the more complex
realties of how governance adapts and evolves in the coastal context.
From an EGT perspective, we can see that the presence of strong
informal social networks can be an explanatory factor for why collective action emerges in some cases and not others. We can see that social
networks can enable self-organized governance to emerge, but that
networks also create path dependencies in its evolution; governance
must evolve from networks and institutions that already exist. Thus,
future governance arrangements must build on existing social systems.
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as fund raising and waste management. This discourse over who has
power will play an important role in the evolution of governance in
relation to how institutions on the island will change to accommodate
the often conflicting views of actors on what should be done and what
approaches to governance need to take place to find sustainable solutions.
Drawing on EGT, we can see how adaptive governance emerges and
evolves due to a complex array of interacting pieces. EGT is a useful
theoretical starting point for expanding theories of coastal governance
in more integrated and interdisciplinary ways. Systems thinking, path
dependencies, multi-level governance, and discourse all interact to
shape outcomes. All these processes are in part shaped by the island's
characteristics as an interacting social-ecological system.
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5. Conclusion
This article has analyzed the role of social networks as a foundation
for collective action and as a driver for the evolution of adaptive environmental governance. Drawing on a SES perspective, empirical
evidence demonstrates how collective action between SCUBA businesses on the island of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia has enabled the formation of institutional arrangements for governance to address marine
conservation and waste management amidst increasing pressure from a
growing tourism industry. Our empirical analysis shows the link between informal social networks and collective action, driven in part by
the island's unique social-ecological conditions. In addition, this study
draws on EGT to frame the many dimensions which affect the establishment, change and evolution of governance on the island. A SES
perspective is discussed in relation to the interplay between social and
ecological drivers of change on the island, which is facilitated in part by
the unique biophysical conditions that small-tropical islands have,
which reciprocally influences how collective action emerges and how
institutions evolve. The path dependency of social systems and multilevel governance provide useful concepts for understanding the drivers
of institutional change, although often contentious. Finally, the role of
discourse is discussed in relation to tensions between the Indonesian
state and local institutions for governance as well as between foreign
business owners and the local businesses in relation to who is in power
and who is benefitting. While this article examines a single case study,
the lessons learned can guide future research on the link between social
network analysis, collective action and the evolution of governance,
particularly in the context of a changing social-ecological system.
This study was funded and made possible with a Rapid Ocean
Conservation (ROC) grant from the Waitt Foundation. The authors
would like to thank Delphine Robbe, Sian Williams and interns at the
Gili EcoTrust as well as the Gili Shark Foundation for assisting with this
research. We send extended thanks to local residents, staff and owners
of the many businesses on the Gili Islands for their generosity, hospitality and willingness to participate in this study. We would like to
thank The Jetlagged for the contribution of photos and assistance
during the project. We also thank Achim Schlüter for discussions and
comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. The development of this
paper was additionally supported by the European Cooperation in
Science and Technology (COST) action network on Ocean Governance,
and the Land-Sea interactions working group in particular.
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