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The business of environmental regulation and management is changing. Problems like sustainability confound traditional boundaries between public and private, local and national, and between the categories that define regulatory practice. Many of the individuals who face these problems in their daily work in public agencies, private firms, and civic organizations have a tangible sense of the limits of existing practice. It is increasingly common to find groups of actors working across traditional boundaries to invent new regulatory arrangements that promote innovation, respond more effectively to current problems, and enhance the legitimacy of environmental programs.

ETP’s mission is to contribute to this process of change and the development of practice as a research partner. We view research as a practical activity that contributes to the broad reorientation of institutions and to careful reflection on inventions that are made “on the spot.” In our role as researchers we strive to identify and document these inventions, to isolate new roles that are emerging, and to identify the characteristics of effective practice. We also work to develop partnerships with public and private organizations that make it possible to jointly assess the implications of our research and identify organizational tensions raised by the transition to new patterns of practice. We work to organize these partnerships in ways that enhance the potential for social learning. Finally, we try to provide a political and institutional perspective on the significance of these new patterns of practice as emerging forms of democratic governance.