POLIS Project on Ecological Governance


Kim Stephens (R) presents  framed Champion Supporter "letter of recognition" to Oliver Brandes (L)

Kim Stephens (R) presents framed Champion Supporter “letter of recognition” to Oliver Brandes (L)

About the POLIS Project

The POLIS Project on Ecological Governance is a centre for transdisciplinary research that investigates and promotes sustainability. POLIS was established in 2000 by the Eco-Research Chair of Environmental Law and Policy at the University of Victoria and and became part of the Centre for Global Studies in 2011.

A Vision for the 21st Century

POLIS fills a unique niche on campus as a place where academic and policy research meets community action. POLIS researchers work together with a diversity of people in different ways – urban and rural communities, First Nations, Aboriginal organizations, businesses, co-operatives, public officials and the non-profit sector – to foster healthy and sustainable communities.

The POLIS mission is to cultivate ecological governance through innovative research, policy analysis and strategic advocacy, law reform, education and community action. Ecological governance offers alternatives to linear, extractive, and unsustainable systems – alternatives that are circular, reflective and self-sustaining in ways that reduce urban demands on distant and local ecosystems.

“For our communities to become sustainable, we must re-imagine and re-invent our systems of governance. At POLIS, we don’t see ecological governance as a choice, but as an imperative for the 21st century,” states Oliver Brandes, Senior Research Associate and Co-Director. He is also the leader of the POLIS Water Sustainability Project.

POLIS Water Sustainability Project

“Water scarcity is largely a social dilemma that cannot be solved by technical innovations alone. Instead, it must be addressed through new, integrated approaches to water management and decision-making,”explains Laura Brandes, POLIS Communications Director.

“The POLIS Water Sustainability Project (WSP) began in 2003 as part of the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance. It works to develop innovative legal, institutional, and practical approaches that embody the principles of ecological governance, providing the foundation for a comprehensive legal and policy framework for sustainable water management.

Think Like a Watershed: A Governance System Rooted in Ecological Principles

“Sustainable wate”r management must focus on ensuring all ‘new’ water comes from better use of existing supplies, and from changes in attitudes and water-use habits. By demonstrating the powerful potential of new approaches, new perspectives, and innovation, the WSP team works to develop a clear model for ecosystem-based water governance in Canada—a model based on conservation, stewardship, and sustainability,” states Oliver Brandes.

“By examining all actions in the context of the watershed, we can move toward a governance system that is rooted in ecological principles, and shift the focus towards managing the people within a watershed, rather than controlling the watershed itself.”

To Learn More:

Click on “Think Like a Watershed”, advocates Oliver Brandes, leader of the POLIS Water Sustainability Project to download a document posted on the Water-Centric Planning community-of-interest.

POLIS Project is a Champion Supporter of the Partnership for Water Sustainability

The Champion Supporter designation allows the Partnership to formally recognize agencies and organizations that provide substantial financial and/or in-kind support that in turn enables the Partnership to develop tools and deliver programs under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia.

Convening for Action in British Columbia

“Our collaboration dates back to the genesis of the Partnership a decade ago. POLIS helped us launch the Convening for Action initiative in February 2005. Oliver Brandes was a founding member of the CAVI Leadership Team in 2006. He has never hesitated to play defining roles in outreach and education events organized by the Partnership, for example – Penticton Water Balance Workshop (2005), Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series (2008) and Worth Every Penny Workshop (2010),” states Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director.

“We appreciate the contributions that Oliver Brandes and his POLIS colleagues have made on the many occasions and venues when we have aligned our efforts. POLIS has indeed been a consistent warrior on the water sustainability front! The Partnership appreciates POLIS’ unique ability to bridge academic research with successful, on-the-ground action, and your team’s unflagging efforts to catalyze a true shift towards a new model for ecosystem-based water management and governance in Canada.”

Framework for Collaboration

“In 2005 we formalized our relationship in a Statement of Collaboration. We defined the partnership framework in terms of influencing practitioners (professionals and others) whose vocations deal with or impact upon water issues,” stated Oliver Brandes. “We set out to shift practice in British Columbia to address water resource management as an integral part of land use and landscape development or redevelopment. We agreed to collaborate to promote development and province-wide implementation of a fully integrated Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia; and thereby achieve a more holistic approach to water management in BC.”

“We are thrilled to receive the Champion Supporter designation from the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC,” added Laura Brandes, Communications Director at the POLIS Water Sustainability Project. “At POLIS, we make a strong effort to communicate our research to ensure on-the-ground groups are equipped with the tools they need to move forward on water sustainability in their communities. It’s so encouraging to see that work pay off. We’re honoured that the Partnership has chosen to feature us as a Champion Supporter.”

“We are humbled by this award and the Partnership’s kind words about our work at POLIS. For nearly 10 years, POLIS has been supporting the work of the Partnership, and we continue to be inspired by its fine example,” concluded Oliver Brandes.

Oliver Brandes (foreground) and Kirk Stinchcombe tell their story at the “Worth Every Penny Workshop” hosted by Regional District of Nanaimo in September 2010

Oliver Brandes at “Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation at UVic” in October 2008

Oliver Brandes at “Achieving a Water Balance Workshop” held in Penticton in 2005