Rewilding on the banks of Loch Ness (source: Caitlin Hafferty)

Our study examines how governance influences transformative change in nature recovery initiatives. Part of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery at the University of Oxford, our research explores the governance conditions that enable or constrain the transformative potential of nature recovery for delivering simultaneous community, biodiversity, and climate benefits.

Successful nature recovery involves benefitting people and fostering deep connections between humans and nature. This requires embracing local, indigenous, and scientific knowledge through holistic, integrated, and participatory decision-making processes. However, current approaches risk perpetuating norms and practices which may exacerbate inequalities and injustices, hindering the necessary changes for transformative human-ecological well-being. In particular, there is considerable opportunity to investigate the role of natural and private capital, along with supportive policy mechanisms, in achieving scientifically robust ecological and climate goals while addressing social risks, enhancing community benefits, and strengthening local democracies. There is a continued debate around how natural capital markets support high-integrity and equitable nature recovery, including the risks or trade-offs for promoting meaningful community participation and empowerment. It is important to explore the careful balance of collaboration at the local level while managing broader priorities, incentives, standards, and regulations.

We aim to understand, examine, and advocate for inclusive governance frameworks that actively address inequalities and promote collaboration to tackle the biodiversity and climate crisis, build community wealth and a circular economy, strengthen democracy and social justice, ensure a just transition, and diversity land ownership. Key questions will revolve around:

  • Views on the interactions between community and socio-economic benefits and nature recovery initiatives in Scotland.
  • How local knowledges, values, and community benefits can be captured, mapped, and integrated into monitoring, evaluation, and broader decision-making processes for landscape and ecological change.
  • Emerging opportunities for and tensions between mechanisms for financing, incentivising, and certifying nature recovery and delivering community benefits, strengthening local democracies, and contributing to a ‘just’ transformation.
  • How we can achieve the balance between high-integrity, credible, and scalable nature recovery and delivering democratic, socially inclusive forms of governance that are place-based and locally sensitive, while aligning with broader standards and priorities.

Overall, our study investigates how politics and governance – including framings, actors, and institutional dynamics – shape transformative change in nature recovery. We will explore how different governance and institutional arrangements affect social and ecological outcomes, drawing initially from case study landscapes in Scotland, and grounding these in national and international debates. This project ultimately aims to understand, promote, and embed new ideas and pathways for reimagining and remaking the future to support justice and well-being for humans and nature. In doing so, it aims to deliver conceptually-driven, pragmatic and actionable options for policy-makers and practitioners on how to ‘grow’ transformative change through nature recovery.

If you are involved in nature recovery initiatives in Scotland, we would love to hear from you!

We are conducting a study on the governance conditions that enable and constrain the transformative potential of nature recovery initiatives for meeting multiple ecological, climate, and social objectives. Your insights, expertise, and experiences will help us understand how we can grow transformative pathways that support justice and well-being for both humans and nature. Your contributions may also help inform pragmatic and actionable recommendations for policy-makers and practitioners in Scotland, across the UK, and beyond.

We appreciate that participating in academic studies takes time, and we believe it is important that research relationships are participatory and reciprocal with a positive, mutual exchange of benefits. If there is anything that the research team can do to help you in return, please do let us know!

Research team:

Caitlin Hafferty (Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery, University of Oxford).


Caitlin will be occasionally joined by two MSc students from the School of Geography and the Environment.

Who can participate?

Anyone involved in working with nature to benefit both people and biodiversity in Scotland are warmly invited to participate. This includes anyone involved in the policy, financing, strategy, design, and/or delivery of a range of nature recovery projects like rewilding and restoration, marine and peatland restoration, urban greening, species introduction and management, community-led conservation, and more. We welcome insights from a range of private, public, and civil or community-led initiatives, including blended finance collaborations and community wealth building.

We are initially interested in participants involved in nature recovery projects in Argyll and Bute, Inverness-shire, and Aberdeenshire, however also welcome broader perspectives across Scotland, the UK, and further afield. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about your eligibility to participate.

What’s involved?

A 45-60 minute interview conducted in-person or online. Interviews will be semi-structured, informal and conversational, and can be conducted at a time and location to suit you. All interviews will be confidential and used solely for research purposes.

The research team will be based in Scotland and able to conduct in-person interviews in Argyll and Bute, Inverness-shire, and Aberdeenshire over specific periods of time in 2024.

In-person interviews are being conducted in Inverness-shire between the 20th June and 10th July 2024. The research team would love to visit a diversity of nature recovery projects in the area and conduct interviews while walking around the site. Alternatively, sit-down interviews (e.g., in a café) or online interviews can be conducted flexibly.

Further dates for in-person interviews in Inverness-shire, Argyll and Bute, and Aberdeenshire, are to be confirmed. Please get in touch with Caitlin to discuss.

How to enquire & more information

Please contact Caitlin Hafferty ( for more information or to arrange an interview. Please include a brief description of and/or link to your nature recovery project/s or organisation. We look forward to hearing from you!

For more information about the project, what to expect, what happens to data provided, and more, you can view and/or download the project information sheet in the PDF below.