Friday, January 27, 2017

User-driven design of decision support systems for polycentric environmental resources management

Another result from the Mountain-EVO project has been published in Environmental Modelling and Software. The paper was led by Zed Zulkafli, former postdoc at Imperial College and now Lecturer at Universiti Putra Malaysia. The paper presents and a participatory framework for designing decision-support systems that builds on understanding the decision making processes and on iterative design of the user interface. The framework is illustrated with a Peruvian case study.

User-driven design of decision support systems for polycentric environmental resources management

Open and decentralized technologies such as the Internet provide increasing opportunities to create knowledge and deliver computer-based decision support for multiple types of users across scales. However, environmental decision support systems/tools (henceforth EDSS) are often strongly science-driven and assuming single types of decision makers, and hence poorly suited for more decentralized and polycentric decision making contexts. In such contexts, EDSS need to be tailored to meet diverse user requirements to ensure that it provides useful (relevant), usable (intuitive), and exchangeable (institutionally unobstructed) information for decision support for different types of actors. To address these issues, we present a participatory framework for designing EDSS that emphasizes a more complete understanding of the decision making structures and iterative design of the user interface. We illustrate the application of the framework through a case study within the context of water-stressed upstream/downstream communities in Lima, Peru.

Zulkafli, Z., Perez, K., Vitolo, C., Buytaert, W., Karpouzoglou, T., Dewulf, A., … Shaheed, S. (2017). User-driven design of decision support systems for polycentric environmental resources management. Environmental Modelling & Software, 88, 58–73. 

The is open access and can be downloaded from

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Coping with the wicked problem of climate adaptation across scales: The 5-R Governance Capabilities

As part of a special issue on Working with wicked problems in socio-ecological systems a paper based on a collaborative effort between members of the Public Administration and Policy (Wageningen University) has been published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning. The paper builds on and extends the Governance Capabilities framework developed earlier by our group (see Termeer et al., 2013), and applies to the analysis of the governance of climate change adaptation. Each of the governance capabilities addresses a particular dimension of wicked problems, and absence of the capability leads to particular risks (see the table below).

This is the abstract of the paper:
Adapting social-ecological systems to the projected effects of climate change is not only a complex technical matter but above all a demanding governance issue. As climate change has all the characteristics of a wicked problem, conventional strategies of governance do not seem to work. However, most conventional governance institutions are poorly equipped to enable, or at least tolerate, innovative strategies. This paper analyses the various strategies used to cope with the wicked problem of climate adaptation across scales, and the institutional conditions that enable or constrain such strategies. For this, it relies on a theoretical framework consisting of five governance capabilities that are considered crucial for coping with wicked problems: reflexivity, resilience, responsiveness, revitalization and rescaling. This framework is used to analyse the governance of adaptation to climate change at three different levels: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its activities to assist adaptation; the European Union and its climate adaptation strategy; and the Netherlands and its Delta Program. The results show that conventional governance strategies are rather absent and that mixtures of reflexive, resilient, responsive, revitalizing and rescaling strategies were visible at all levels, although not equally well developed and important. In contrast to the literature, we found many examples of enabling institutional conditions. The constraining conditions, which were also present, tend to lead more to postponement than to obstruction of decision-making processes.
Termeer, C. J. A. M., Dewulf, A., Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, S. I., Vink, M. J., & Vliet, M. van (2016). Coping with the wicked problem of climate adaptation across scales: The Five R Governance Capabilities. Landscape and Urban Planning, 154, 11–19.

The paper can be found at or downloaded here

Monday, August 22, 2016

Governing adaptation to climate change through continuous transformational change?

UKCIP report on transformational adaptation
In an attempt to contribute to the debate on incremental and transformational adaptation to climate change (see e.g. Kates et al. 2012 or UKCIP report on transformational adaptation), Katrien Termeer, Robbert Biesbroek and myself have revisited the transformational change debate in organisational sciences, and come up with an alternative conceptualization of 'continuous transformational change'. The resulting article has been published on-line in the Journal of Environment Planning and Management.

Transformational change: governance interventions for climate change adaptation from a continuous change perspective

This is the abstract: 
Although transformational change is a rather new topic in climate change adaptation literature, it has been studied in organisational theory for over 30 years. This paper argues that governance scholars can learn much from organisation theory, more specifically regarding the conceptualisation of change and intervention strategies. We reconceptualise the divide between transformational change and incremental change by questioning the feasibility of changes that are concurrently in-depth, large scale, and quick; and the assumption that incremental change is necessarily slow and can only result in superficial changes. To go beyond this dichotomy, we introduce the conceptualisation of continuous transformational change. Resulting intervention strategies include (1) providing basic conditions for enabling small in-depth wins; (2) amplifying small wins through sensemaking, coupling, and integrating; and (3) unblocking stagnations by confronting social and cognitive fixations with counterintuitive interventions. These interventions necessitate a modest leadership. Governing transformational change thus requires transformation of the governance systems themselves.
The article can be found at or downloaded here

Termeer, C. J. A. M., Dewulf, A., & Biesbroek, G. R. (2016). Transformational change: governance interventions for climate change adaptation from a continuous change perspective. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, on-line first. doi:10.1080/09640568.2016.1168288

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Systematic literature review on adaptive governance of social-ecological systems (open access)

The result of a systematic review on adaptive governance has been published in the journal Environmental Science and Policy. The review has been conducted as part of the Mountain-EVO project, by Timos Karpozouglou, Julian Clark and myself. The review identifies adaptive capacity, collaboration, knowledge/learning, and scaling as key dimensions of adaptive governance scholarship, and explores the value of theoretical multiplicity for advancing adaptive governance ideas.

Advancing adaptive governance of social-ecological systems through theoretical multiplicity

This is the abstract:

In recent years there has been rising scientific and policy interest in the adaptive governance of social-ecological systems. A systematic literature review of adaptive governance research during the period 2005–2014, demonstrates a vibrant debate taking place that spans a variety of empirical and theoretical approaches. The particular strength of adaptive governance is that it provides a theoretical lens for research that combines the analyses of novel governance capacities such as adaptive capacity, collaboration, scaling, knowledge and learning. As a way to give greater depth and analytical rigour to future studies over the next decade and beyond, we highlight the added value of theoretical multiplicity (i.e., focusing on the combination of theories to address complex problems). We argue that theoretical multiplicity can encourage stronger synergies between adaptive governance and other theoretical approaches and can help address epistemologically grey areas in adaptive governance scholarship, such as power and politics, inclusion and equity, short term and long term change, the relationship between public policy and adaptive governance.

This open access paper can be found at or downloaded here.