Thursday, January 28, 2016

Understanding industrial symbiosis from a change perspective

In the first issue of the International Journal of Sustainable Development of 2016, a paper has been published by Veerle Verguts on "Industrial symbiosis as sustainable development strategy: adding a change perspective".

This is the abstract:
Industrial symbiosis (IS) is the coordination of energy and material flows among geographically proximate firms to increase economic performance while reducing environmental impact. Although IS is gaining popularity as a sustainability strategy, implementation is proving difficult. In an attempt to understand these roadblocks to implementation, we analyse the development and realisation of IS systems as complex change processes. Based on insights from organisational change literature we introduce the dual-perspective framework as an additional way to look at these IS change processes. Our framework combines two different but complementary perspectives to analyse IS: episodic change, meaning occasional and radical change driven by exogenous factors or interventions; and continuous change, meaning ongoing changes resulting from constant micro-adaptations. By adding insights on the nature of change, this framework extends the analytical reach and identifies situation-adapted intervention strategies. The framework is applied to a case of Flemish (Belgian) eco-industrial greenhouse park development.
The paper can found at or downloaded here

Verguts, V., Dessein, J., Dewulf, A., Lauwers, L., Werkman, R., & Termeer, C. J. A. M. (2016). Industrial symbiosis as sustainable development strategy: adding a change perspective. International Journal of Sustainable Development, 19(1), 15. doi:10.1504/IJSD.2016.073650

Monday, January 25, 2016

Framing ecosystem services at the landscape scale: two publications from the ECOMPRIS project

As part of strategic research programme of Wageningen University on Informational Governance for Sustainability, several research projects are on-going. I'm involved in the interdisciplinary ECOMPRIS project that has come to an end in December 2015. Two more publications have resulted from this project.

Framing ecosystem services: Affecting behaviour of actors in collaborative landscape planning?

Land Use Policy, 46 (2015) 223-231

Paul Opdam, Ingrid Coninx, Art Dewulf, Eveliene Steingröver, Claire Vos, Merel van der Wal

The concept of ecosystem services shifts the human–nature relationship from a conservation-oriented into a utility-oriented one. Advocates of the concept assume that it can alter the attitude and behaviour of human actors with respect to nature. The ecosystem services concept has so far received little attention in scientific literature about collaborative landscape planning. Consequently the potential of information about ecosystem services to influence landscape planning processes is unknown. In this paper we address the impact of different storylines about ecosystem services on actor behaviour. In these storylines, we distinguish three frames on ecosystem services: a social–cultural frame (emphasizing social–cultural services), an economic frame (emphasizing production services) and a sustainability frame (highlighting regulation services). We propose a conceptual framework in which we connect the concept of framing to attitudinal, sender–receiver and contextual factors. The framework is illustrated by a spatial planning experiment with academic students and by a case of collaborative landscape planning. The student exper- iment illustrates how attitudinal factors may intervene in the impact frames on actor behaviour. The case analysis shows how researchers who facilitated collaborative landscape planning used various frames as they attempted to build up the actor network to create collaborative relations in different phases of the planning process. The significance of our paper is that we provide an approach to investigate how information on ecosystem service benefits is processed by multiple actors in collaborative landscape planning processes. Our exploration implies that planners who facilitate a collaborative planning pro- cess have to be aware that purposively using ecosystem service frames stimulates engagement of actors with diverging backgrounds

This publication can be found at or downloaded here

Does information on landscape benefits influence collective action in landscape governance?

Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 18 (2016), 107-114

Paul Opdam, Ingrid Coninx, Art Dewulf, Eveliene Steingröver, Claire Vos, Merel van der Wal

There is general understanding that collaboration is a key element in the governance for a sustainable environment. In this context knowledge utilization has become a popular research topic. However, the role of information content in enhancing collaboration has been rarely addressed. We consider two types of information on mutual dependencies between actors that result from ecological interdependencies in the landscape: information on landscape sites providing multiple benefits to a range of stakeholders, and information on how these benefits depend on coordinated landscape–level management. Our survey of recent literature indicates that although there is a sound theoretical basis for the assumption that such information would enhance collaboration, the issue has been the subject of little empirical research thus far. We found some supporting studies demonstrating social network building and collective action, but none of them separated the effect of the information content from the effect of the organized social learning process. To increase understanding of the potential for informational governance of landscapes resources, we argue there is a need to integrate recent advances in the analysis of social network building in environmental management with emerging insights in knowledge utilization and spatial interdependencies of landscape benefits.

This publication can be found at or downloaded here

Thursday, November 26, 2015

What does policy-relevant global environmental knowledge do? The cases of climate and biodiversity

A paper by Esther Turnhout (Wageningen University), Mike Hulme (King's College London) and myself has been published on-line in the journal Current Opinion on Environmental Sustainability.

What does policy-relevant global environmental knowledge do? The cases of climate and biodiversity

There is a surge in global knowledge-making efforts to inform environmental governance. This article synthesises the current state of the art of social science scholarship about the generation and use of global environmental knowledge. We focus specifically on the issues of scale — providing globalized representations of the environment — and relevance — providing knowledge in a form that is considered usable for decision-making. Using the examples of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Millennium Assessment, the article discusses what policy relevant global knowledge does: how it represents the environment, and how this specific form of knowledge connects with governance and

The paper can be found at or downloaded here

Friday, September 18, 2015

EVOs, knowledge and resilience in the digital age

As a result of the Mountain-EVO project, an article has appeared on-line in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability on Environmental Virtual Observatories (EVOs). It has been written by scholars from Imperial College, Birmingham University and Wageningen University, led by the project postdocs Timothy Karpouzoglou and Zed Zulkafli.

Environmental Virtual Observatories (EVOs): prospects for knowledge co-creation and resilience in the Information Age

Timothy Karpouzoglou, Zed Zulkafli, Sam Grainger, Art Dewulf, Wouter Buytaert, David M Hannah

Developments in technologies are shaping information access globally. This presents opportunities and challenges for understanding the role of new technologies in sustainability research. This article focuses on a suite of technologies termed Environmental Virtual Observatories (EVOs) developed for communicating observations and simulation of environmental processes. A strength of EVOs is that they are open and decentralised, thus democratising flow and ownership of information between multiple actors. However, EVOs are discussed rarely beyond their technical aspects. By evaluating the evolution of EVOs, we illustrate why it is timely to engage with policy and societal aspects as well. While first generation EVOs are primed for scientists, second generation EVOs can have broader implications for knowledge co-creation and resilience through their participatory design.

The article is Open Access and can be found at

Karpouzoglou, T., Zulkafli, Z., Grainger, S., Dewulf, A., Buytaert, W., & Hannah, D. M. (2016). Environmental Virtual Observatories (EVOs): prospects for knowledge co-creation and resilience in the Information Age. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 18, 40–48. doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2015.07.015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Governing the future of the delta? An article and a PhD position.

The climate change issue has put a long term decision-making horizon high on the agenda of water governance in delta areas. Long term planning seems more needed than ever, but the future presents itself as broad range of possible scenarios - climate scenarios, socio-economic scenarios, political scenarios, ... - surrounded by irreducible uncertainties. Does this mean we can do nothing more than wait and see, try to adapt to whatever happens, and hope for the best? Not necessarily. Bringing long term considerations into short term decision-making might be both feasible and fruitful.

A paper on this topic, which I co-authored with Katrien Termeer, just appeared on-line in the Journal of Water and Climate Change ( The paper is about the potential of adaptive delta management to contribute to governance capabilities for dealing with the wicked problem of climate change adaptation. This is the abstract:
Due to the long term character of the policy issue, the associated uncertainties and the large variety of affected stakeholders, adapting densely populated delta areas to the impacts of climate change is an important governance challenge and a wicked problem. In this paper, we analyse adaptive delta management (ADM), a policy development approach that relies on adaptation tipping points and adaptation pathways, used by the Dutch Delta Programme to climate proof the Dutch delta. ADM operationalizes adaptive management ideas for the long term governance of river deltas. Taking a governance perspective, we assess the potential of ADM to contribute to each of the five governance capabilities required to deal with wicked problems: reflexivity, responsiveness, resilience, revitalization and rescaling. We conclude that ADM can contribute substantially to the governance capabilities of resilience (through robustness and flexibility) and rescaling (through addressing the time scale mismatch). ADM has the potential to contribute to the governance capabilities of reflexivity and responsiveness, but also has some characteristics that could result in non-reflexivity and non-responsiveness. Enabling ADM as a policy development approach for long term issues requires a long term commitment to iterative policy revision, flexibility and learning in the broader governance system.
The paper can be downloaded here

Work on this topic will continue. Last month, the Ducht Research Council (NWO) awarded a grant for a 4-year project "Deciding about the New Delta: Towards governance arrangements that enable forward-looking decisions on critical water infrastructure". Water management infrastructure has a critical role in enabling and protecting the myriad of activities and resources in deltas all over the world. However, decision-making about constructing, replacing and maintaining structures with lifetimes of 50-100 years has to account for highly uncertain long-term developments, including socio-economic and biophysical developments. Moreover, most existing governance arrangements are ill-equipped to enable forward-looking decisions due to short electoral cycles, vested interests in the status quo, inability to deal with uncertainties, and the tendency to discount the future. The overall question addressed by the PhD position in this project is: how can governance arrangements enable the incorporation of long-term developments in short-term decisions on water management infrastructure? The focus of this project will be on two types of physical assets in the Dutch delta where forward-looking decisions are urgent and consequential: hydraulic structures and wastewater systems. Partners in this project are Rijkswaterstaat, RIONED, Tauw, Hanzehogeschool Grongingen, and waterboard Zuiderzeeland.

This means we are currently looking for a candidate for this PhD position at the Public Administration and Policy group at Wageningen University. We are looking for a social scientist with a completed Master's degree in public administration or related discipline, excellent research skills and a keen interest in water governance and long-term policy issues.

Applications are welcome until 6 September 2015 through this link: