‘Knowing beyond measurement’: integrating sustainability indicators and storytelling in an alternative approach to sustainable development in rural Newfoundland and Labrador

Lowery, Brennan (2020) ‘Knowing beyond measurement’: integrating sustainability indicators and storytelling in an alternative approach to sustainable development in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The theory and practice of sustainable development has often under-emphasized rural and natural resource-dependent areas, including in sustainability indicators (SIs) to measure and monitor local sustainability conditions. It also remains unclear how SI tools should be used by local stakeholders to support governance for sustainable development, including the roles of governmental and non-state actors in their design and application, and the efficacy of direct instrumental use versus more communicative forms of influence. This dissertation examines these inter-related knowledge gaps in the context of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), Canada, wherein rural coastal communities have been central to the province’s history and identity, yet are often labelled as unviable in popular debates. Drawing on socio-economic indicators like demographic decline and aging population, these characterizations are used to call the sustainability of rural NL into question, mirroring deficiencies-based narratives in other rural and resource-dependent places and reinforcing calls for asset-based approaches to local development. In this context, the present dissertation explores the potential for integrating indicator-based tools with community storytelling, which has been examined as a potent way to represent contextualized local realities and mobilizing stakeholders for sustainability transitions. Taking a transdisciplinary approach, this study aims to bridge scholarship, policy, and practice while striving for community-based research methods and engagement with rural stakeholders. Through this approach, I examine existing ways of using SI and asset mapping tools in rural and resource-based areas and introduce a storytelling approach for not only identifying and measuring, but ultimately mobilizing rural sustainability assets. By proposing an alternative way to link knowledge and action through the power of storytelling, this study thus contributes to understandings of governance for sustainable development and the use of SI tools therein. This dissertation is presented in four stand-alone manuscripts, including: a) an inventory of existing SI initiatives across rural Canada; b) a comparative analysis of three SI and asset mapping projects in rural NL; c) a reformulated conceptual framework for integrating storytelling and SIs in rural and resource-based areas; and d) an exploratory application of this storytelling approach on the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. These manuscripts build incrementally on one another, with the storytelling framework responding to the shortcomings of existing SI tools and providing a novel contribution to research and practice. Overall, this study makes significant theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions to research on sustainable community development, rural sustainability, and SI tools, while bridging knowledge and action between academic, policy, and practitioner spheres.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/14969
Item ID: 14969
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 333-369).
Keywords: sustainable development; rural development; governance; sustainability indicators; storytelling; asset mapping; transdisciplinary sustainability; community-based research; Newfoundland and Labrador
Department(s): Grenfell Campus > School of Science and the Environment > Environmental Policy Institute
Date: November 2020
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.48336/84m7-1s43
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Sustainability--Newfoundland and Labrador--Folklore; Sustainability--Government policy--Newfoundland and Labrador

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