Crafting adaptive capacity: institutional bricolage in adaptation to urban flooding in greater Accra

Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky
Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin; Germany; IRI THESys, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany; Department of Geography, King’s College London, UK fanny.frick.1@hu-berlin.de

ABSTRACT: Institutional bricolage, which explains how institutions are actively crafted across different degrees of formality, and urban adaptation have been studied separately in the past. Linking critical institutionalism and adaptive capacity research, this article describes how institutional bricolage shapes the distribution of adaptive capacity in adaptation to urban flooding. The Densu delta in Greater Accra, Ghana, is taken as a case of a rapidly urbanising area in coastal West-Africa. Interviews and stakeholder mappings show that institutional bricolage shapes who is likely to adapt to urban flooding and who isn’t, as well as where people are likely to adapt and where they are not. Interviews moreover provided evidence of the distribution of adaptive capacity in dynamic water governance contexts that are characteristic of urban areas particularly in Africa. The role of the traditional 'chief' is shown to be a dynamic institution that can contribute to or hinder adaptation to urban flooding, depending on his own world views and institutional context. Four new findings emerge. Firstly, key elements of bricolage foster the decisive role of chieftaincy structures in adaptation to urban flooding in the local context of a West-African city. Secondly, institutional bricolage exposes the role of culture in adaptive capacity. Thirdly, applying institutional bricolage in the setting of a rapidly urbanizing flood-prone area offers new perspectives on both institutions and adaptation in urban water and risk governance. Fourthly, a bricolage analysis enables incorporating different forms of knowledge towards transformative adaptation.

KEYWORDS: Flood, transformative adaptation, critical institutionalism, urban water, African cities