Tuesday, December 18, 2007

CAIWA 2007

The International Conference on Adaptive and Integrated Water Management took place in Basel (Switzerland) now about a month ago. It was an intensive week, with a lot of presentations, panels, discussions and interesting informal talks about such things as scaling, adaptation, uncertainty and knowledge frames. There was a good representation of the NeWater crowd but also quite some external people, including well-known international scholars such as Oran Young, Elinor Ostrom and Helen Ingram.

For those interested the conference papers (including three papers I worked on) are available at

Monday, October 22, 2007

Water-related research in the social sciences

My research generally deals with the organizational and governance aspects of negotiation, conflict and collaboration between multiple public and private actors in the context of natural resources management. Specific research topics focus on the processes of sensemaking, issue framing, dealing with differences, social learning and innovation, from an approach that emphasizes the role of meaning, interaction and language.

At the occasion of the "Water Café" of the Social Sciences Group at Wageningen University, I've prepared an overview of water-related research in which I'm involved. Topics

- Social learning in river basin management planning (www.harmonicop.info). In this project a concept for social learning and collaborative governance has been developed, rooted in the interpretive strands of the social sciences emphasizing the context dependence of knowledge. The role of frames and boundary management in processes of learning at different levels and time scales are investigated.

- Issue framing in multi-actor contexts. E.g. analysis of multi-actor meetings between a university engineering center and indigenous irrigation organization in Ecuador, about the use of a hydraulic simulation model for managing water flow in the irrigation system. The analysis focuses on the different frames about the issue that are voiced at the negotiation table during the joint exploration and construction of a potential common problem domain. This results in the identification of interaction patterns for dealing with differences in issue framing (accommodating, incorporating, disconnecting, polarizing, exploring and reframing).

- New methods for adaptive water management under uncertainty (www.newater.info). Water managers need to solve a range of interrelated water dilemmas, in a context where human actions and values play a central role. The growing uncertainties of global climate change and the long term implications of management actions make the problems even more difficult. Research within this research includes development of a broadened conceptualization of uncertainties in water management, including ambiguity as a different kind of uncertainty, apart from ontological and epistemic uncertainty. It also includes a case study of water management (HDSR, Kromme Rijn-gebied) about the differentiation of issues and stakes in the interactive decision-making process for a water area plan.

- Scaling and governance (IPOP Science Plan “Scaling and governance”). This research approaches the politics of scale from a sensemaking perspective. The framing of a problem as a local, regional or global problem is the result of an active process of sensemaking. When the European commission defined (transboundary) river basins as the scale for organizing water management they cut across existing administrative boundaries, resulting in many European countries in the activation of new relations and the deactivation of others. This research addresses the mutually influencing relations between a constellation of actors, their interdependencies and the framing of issues at a certain scale.

As part of the Scaling and Governance program a Ph.D. position has been opened at our Public Administration and Policy Group. More information can found at this website.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Publication "The importance of social learning and culture for sustainable water management"

Another manuscript that resulted from the HarmoniCOP project (Harmonizing Collaborative Planning) has been accepted for publication in Ecological Economics. It is entitled "The importance of social learning and culture for sustainable water management" and is the work of Claudia Pahl-Wostl, David Tàbara, Rene Bouwen, Marc Craps, Art Dewulf, Erik Mostert, Dagmar Ridder and Tharsi Taillieu.

Here's the abstract:

Currently water resources management is undergoing a major paradigm shift. Water resources management has a strong engineering tradition based on controlling environmental problems with technical solutions. The management of risks relied on the ability to predict extremes and limit their impact with technical means such as dikes, dams and reservoirs. In this paradigm, belief systems, human attitudes and collective behaviours are perceived as external boundary conditions and not as integral part of management. However, the situation has started to change dramatically. Over the past years, integrated water resources management has become the reigning paradigm. The importance of governance and cultural adaptation has become a major issue of concern. At the same time, there is a paucity of adequate scientific concepts that would allow addressing these issues. This paper introduces a concept for social learning developed in the European project HarmoniCOP and discusses its implications for the cultural and institutional context of water resources management. It aims to contribute to the new paradigm of integrated resource management by discussing the importance of processes of culture and social learning for environmental resources management, in general, and water resources management, in particular.

Ecological Economics is the Transdisciplinary Journal of the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE). To access the paper click here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

More articles available for download

A number of published articles can be downloaded as pdf-files below:

The references can be found on my publication list

Publication "A framing approach to cross-disciplinary research collaboration"

More good news from Ecology and Society: the manuscript "A framing approach to cross-disciplinary research collaboration" has been accepted for publication. I worked together on this one with my WOPP colleagues Greet François and Tharsi Taillieu, and Claudia Pahl-Wostl from the University of Osnabrück, as part of the NeWater project.

This is the abstract:

Although cross-disciplinary research collaboration is necessary to achieve a better understanding of how human and natural systems are dynamically linked, it often turns out to be very difficult in practice. We outline a framing approach to cross-disciplinary research that focuses on the different perspectives that researchers from different backgrounds use to make sense of the issues they want to research jointly. Based on interviews, participants’ evaluations, and our own observations during meetings, we analyze three aspects of frame diversity in a large-scale research project. First, we identify dimensions of difference in the way project members frame the central concept of adaptive water management. Second, we analyze the challenges provoked by the multiple framings of concepts. Third, we analyze how a number of interventions (interactive workshops, facilitation, group model building, and concrete case contexts) contribute to the connection and integration of different frames through a process of joint learning and knowledge construction.

he final version of the paper can be read or downloaded on the Ecology and Society open access journal website: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol12/iss2/art14/

Here's an updated publication list

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

MOPAN 2007

The 14th International Conference on Multi-Organizational Partnerships, Alliances and Networks took place in Leuven on 28-29 June 2007. A lively exchange of ideas took place during a full two-day program among about 85 participants.

More pictures can be found on the conference website http://ppw.kuleuven.be/mopan2007

Qualitative Research

Resources for doing qualitative research are often not easy to find. On the following webpage you'll find some starting points that I came accross: http://art.dewulf.googlepages.com/qualitativeresearch

The collection is somewhat biased towards discourse analytic methods, which I have been using most in my own research.

Publication "Social Learning and Water Resources Management"

A manuscript on "Social Learning and Water Resources Management" just got accepted for publication in Ecology and Society. The authors are a group of people who were involved in the HarmoniCOP project: Claudia Pahl-Wostl (Univ. Osnabrück), Marc Craps (VLEKHO Business School), Erik Mostert (T.U.Delft), David Tabara (Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona) en Tharsi Taillieu (K.U.Leuven) and myself.

Here goes the abstract:

Natural resources management in general and water resources management in particular, are currently undergoing a major paradigm shift. Management practices have largely been developed and implemented by experts using technical means based on designing systems that can be predicted and controlled. In recent years, stakeholder involvement has gained increasing importance. Collaborative governance is considered to be more appropriate for integrated and adaptive management regimes needed to cope with the complexity of socio-ecological systems. The paper presents a concept for social learning and collaborative governance developed in the European project HarmoniCOP (Harmonizing COllaborative Planning). The concept is rooted in the more interpretive strands of the social sciences emphasizing the context dependence of knowledge. The role of frames and boundary management in processes of learning at different levels and time scales are investigated. The foundation of social learning as investigated in the HarmoniCOP project are multiparty collaboration processes which are perceived to be the nuclei of learning processes. Such processes take place in networks or “communities of practice” and are influenced by the governance structure in which they are embedded. Requirements for social learning include institutional settings that guarantee some degree of stability and certainty without being rigid and inflexible. Our analyses based on conceptual considerations and empirical insights suggest that the development of such institutional settings involves continued processes of social learning where stakeholders at different scales are connected in flexible networks and where the capacity and trust is developed to collaborate in a wide range of formal and informal relationships from formal legal structures and contracts to informal, voluntary agreements.

The article can be downloaded from the Ecology and Society open access website at http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol12/iss2/art5/

Here's an updated publication list