event 31 août 2018 time 09:00

Session at RGS 2018 // Governing the Water-Energy-Food Nexus: The Role of Blockchain Technologies

Ensuring good governance of Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus systems is pivotal, as these underpin human sustenance. A number of characteristics have been identified in the literature as indicators of good governance, including connectivity, participation, interdependencies, and scale. Monitoring and understanding these for interlinked WEF nexus systems presents a huge task. Blockchain technologies provide one possible solution to these challenges.

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Blockchains are a distributed ledger on which data can be permanently stored so that it is open, verifiable, and cannot be modified. As a result, applications of blockchain technologies have been identified in several domains, including provenance, logistics, finance, as well as in governance. Within the context of WEF nexus systems, blockchain technologies can provide two major contributions. First, they can provide persistent identities for actors and interdependencies within WEF nexus systems (i.e. the who and what of nexus systems), which can enable accountability of stakeholders. Second, they contribute to understanding the governance system by providing data on its characteristics and behaviours. This presentation therefore concludes that blockchain technologies can have an important role in understanding
and assessing the governance of the WEF nexus.


  • Katrien Steenmans (Kings College London, UK)
  • Phillip Taylor (University of Warwick, UK)
  • Ine Steenmans (University College London, UK)

Chair: Kirsty Blackstock, James Hutton Institute, UK

About this Session

The concept of the food-energy-water-environment nexus has been in vogue since being identified as part of the ‘perfect storm’ of drivers on society by the UN in 2011. It has become a narrative to try to capture and explain the systemic nature of global wicked problems; and also to provide innovative solution to these wicked problems. For some, it is an invitation to grapple with the persistence of complex socio-ecological challenges and offer a site for transformation in our relationship to the material landscapes. For others, it remains a technical challenge to be resolved through optimisation of resource use in any given landscape. As social scientists, we are interested in how institutions, governance and management lie at the heart of either approach to the nexus in specific places and spaces.

The session "Adaptive management and governance of the food-energy-water-environment Nexus (1): Speed Talks" at the Annual Conference 2018 of the Royal Geographical Society involves contributions from those involved in Water-Energy-Food nexus research or those trying to manage or govern the nexus in practice, asking them to reflect on the following questions:

  • To what extent can the nexus be managed or governed?
  • To what extent does adopting a nexus perspective improve the governance of social-ecological systems?
  • Has the narrative of the nexus simulated innovative approaches or do the same fundamental governance and management challenges apply?
  • Are there new actors or sites for action emerging from taking a nexus lens?
  • Are new methodologies emerging from taking a nexus lens?
  • What can we learn from other governance and management domains; and what can nexus scholarship offer to others?

This session will consist of grouped speed talks followed by small group discussions with the presenters. The sister session Adaptive management and governance of the food-energy-water-environment Nexus (2) will involve a workshop based around a rapid synthesis of the main points.

Where and when

Part of Session "Adaptive management and governance of the food-energy-water-environment Nexus (1): Speed Talks"

31 Aug 2018

Glamorgan Building
Seminar Room -1.80

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