Social Capital and Fisheries participation in Marine Spatial Planning in Orkney – MSc-thesis Yanick Bakker

By Yanick Bakker, MSc International Development Studies.

MSc-thesis Social Capital and Fisheries participation in Marine Spatial Planning in Orkney, Scotland (complete thesis can be downloaded).

In the autumn of 2016, I spent three months on the Orkney Islands in Scotland, where I delved into the worlds of inshore shellfish fisheries and marine spatial planning. Marine spatial planning is a relatively new tool for marine governance designed to manage the use of marine space while minimizing user-user and user-environment conflicts. The marine environment around the Orkney Islands is an important natural asset for the island communities. The waters are used for recreation and transportation, they provide fresh sea foods and are a central part of the islands’ ecosystem, identity and diverse livelihoods. Since 2010, the inshore waters around the Orkney Islands and the North East coast of Scotland have also become sites for marine renewable energy developments. Controversy over the allocation of marine space for these developments, have led to the set-up of a pilot marine spatial plan for the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters.

Writing this thesis, I was curious to see how fishermen relate to this new way of looking at and giving direction to the development of marine space. As the waters in which they fish and the fish stocks they target are central resources for fisher communities, access to these resources is vital for their survival. Not only do new marine developments create concerns for sustainability, the notion of spatial planning at sea also causes concern for decreased mobility and consumption of space among fishermen. Taking community resilience theory as a starting point, I have focused on the use of community social capital in fisheries’ engagement with marine spatial planning in Orkney.

Social capital refers to practices, values and sets of norms found within different forms of social networks (or communities) which can contribute to the collaboration, functioning and collective action of the network. Social capital can be produced within a community (bonding), between different kinds of communities (bridging) or across scales and hierarchical structures (linking). Community resilience theory assumes that community members can act as agents of change, whereby they use different strategies to ensure the survival of the community in face of change. For example by engaging in social relation within and beyond the boundaries of the community to mobilize resources or gain power.

By conducting qualitative interviews with fishermen, representatives of fisher organizations, researchers and policy makers, I have gained insight in the different ways in which the Orkney inshore shellfish fisher community employs and continues to develop its community social capital in order to collaborate, mobilize resources to generate information to reframe the definition and formal representation of marine space and to gain power in (future) marine spatial planning negotiations.

Although social capital seems to be an enabling factor for participation in policy making, this research has shown that it is not a community asset which can be readily mobilized. Having social capital, does thus not equal having agency to act. Seeing the participatory sphere as one of unequal power, stakeholders’ ability to gain influence in governance processes is influenced by institutional limiting and facilitating factors. Social organization of fishermen in fisher organizations has shown to be an important enabling factor for participation in marine spatial planning, in Orkney.


Thesis: power to the people, roles and responsibilities

natuursupertour1The use of the wasteland, ‘Nobelveldje’, in Wageningen in 2012 is an example of a public collective platform being established for the temporary use of a nearby vacant lot. Continue reading

Thesis: evaluation of temporary use of wasteland in Wageningen

The civil initiative ‘Kerngroep Nobelveldje’ is very satisfied with its role and social activities for temporary use and food growing on wasteland ‘Nobelveldje’ in a Wageningen neigbourhood. They want to share their enthusiasm with people that have similar ambitions in their own neighborhood. However, first the ‘Kerngroep Nobelveldje’ wants to find out how their initiative is perceived in the neighborhood. The idea is to use these results to stimulate others that have similar ambitions. The ‘NatuurSUPER’ organization has been a supporter of civil initiatives like the ‘Nobelveldje’. This organization wants to evaluate their role in this kind of civil initiatives.
Hence, the Kerngroep Nobelveldje and NatuurSUPER have formulated the following research goals:
• To explore the range of qualitative and quantitative methods for the evaluation for this kind of civil initiatives, with a focus on neighborhood commitment and satisfaction
• To identify the best suitable and feasible method
• To test the method in the case of Nobelveldje
• To discuss the results in the context of the strategic intention of the use of these data
• Advising the NatuurSUPER organization in the use of an evaluation method fort their specific question.
The ultimate goal of the thesis can be to design a research method to value civil action in public space. If you are interested in the interface between participatory models, learning-in-action and civic action in urban agriculture, this could be your chance to do relevant research for external commissioners. For more information: Contact person for this project:

Participate in project Participand

Robin BukenyaWhat are the relationships between the ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ world? How does our perception of the difference shape this relationship? What can then be a basis for cooperation when diversity needs be cherished as a fundamental right to be different? What is then YOUR responsibility as global citizen in your own community? How then can we work together in our community as OUR responsibility to act together?
If you are interested in these questions, please join the meeting on the evening of December 15th!

In collaboration with the Dutch NGOs OIKOS and COS Gelderland our researches feed into a larger project by the Wageningen University ‘Science Shop’ (which aims at giving science more practical relevance). We (Franziska Nath & Robin Bukenya) are part of a larger team conducting an ‘Action Research’ Master thesis project (linking theory to practise) attempting to ‘do’ research differently. The main objective is:
‘Mapping and strengthening of the network of development initiatives and its active and potential actors in the Wageningen region’
There is always room for increased collaboration among individuals, initiatives and fields of knowledge. This research project seeks to actively develop open creative inter-active spaces and sessions where links and balanced inter-action can occur between peoples sharing ideas (across perceptual boundaries) based on their inner motivations.

Anyone within the Wageningen region (incl. Ede, Rhenen, Bennekom, Doorwerth) whom seeks to be part of this research project to cooperate and complement their development initiatives or fields of knowledge.

Rather than looking only at understanding how to solve problems, our focus is to build on your potential. Past struggles and obstacles have been overcome through the dreams and visions of those whom looked beyond their apparent limitations. So, why not build on what is and drives the vision of what could be, to achieve what may become!
Hope, joy and love are fundamental human emotions and energies of abundance from which creativity flows, overcoming the limits of obstacles. Creativity is the resource that will empower this research. This ‘opportunity’ and ‘dream’ driven research is to be positively steered by all whom are directly or indirectly involved into the research process. The theme is thus enhancing development cooperation in Wageningen. The outcome(s) or limits, YOU decide…

We are looking for a varied mix of interested participants for this ‘research project’ whom are willing to venture with us on this endeavour to bring out that which is within us from the local to the global community.
Are you active, or seeking to be, in development cooperation as a professor, student, project manager, founder, researcher, organization, institution, etc. and interested to be part of a different ‘way of doing’ and basis for collaboration? Please email us at for information, ideas and ways of collaborating with this research project.

***First meeting***
On the evening of December 15th there will be an introductory workshop session, initiating the first exploratory phase of the research. It will be held at the Vredehorst, Tarthorst 1 in Wageningen (near the C1000). Note! It will start at 17.30 with a tapas dinner! Places are limited so please sign up as soon as possible (Before Monday 12th December) with your:
• Name
• Age
• Gender
• Nationality(s)
• Name of initiative(s)/organization(s)/institution(s)/company in which you are currently active
• Your position or role in initiative(s)/organization(s)/institution(s)/company
• Your future desired role and dream for development cooperation (be creative!)
• Dietry needs

Questions, comments and ideas? Login to our Facebook site ‘Participand Now’. Send your details to: You can also show your appreciation of the Platform:
Sign up fast as space for the workshop sessions is. Nonetheless, there will be opportunities for other ways to engage with the research project.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Franziska Nath and Robin Bukenya