Friday, December 25, 2009

A participant-structured approach for assessing and addressing the framing of uncertainties

Another article by Nicola Isendahl has just been published on-line in the Journal of Environmental Management. I have been co-supervising her PhD project together with Claudia Pahl-Wostl at the University of Osnabrück. If all goes well, Nicola would be able to graduate in the spring of 2010!

The starting point for Nicola's project is that in order to improve the way uncertainties in water management are dealt with, we need to understand how water managers frame uncertainties. In this paper we present an approach where water managers developed criteria of relevance to understand and address uncertainties. The empirical research took place in the Doñana region of the Guadalquivir estuary in southern Spain making use of the method of card sorting. Through the card sorting exercise a broad range of criteria to make sense of and describe uncertainties was produced by different subgroups, which were then merged into a shared list of criteria. That way framing differences were made explicit and communication on uncertainty and on framing differences was enhanced. In that, the present approach constitutes a first step to enabling reframing and overcoming framing differences, which are important features on the way to robust decision-making. Moreover, the elaborated criteria build a basis for the development of more structured approaches to deal with uncertainties in water management practice.

The article can be found here or downloaded here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Knowledge for Governance of Climate Adaptation

Knowledge for Climate is a research programme for the development of knowledge and services that make it possible to climate proof the Netherlands. Governmental organisations (central government, provinces, municipalities and water boards) and businesses, actively participate in research programming through the input of additional resources (matching). The overall goal is to assess investments to be made in spatial planning and infrastructure over the coming twenty years in terms of their resistance to climate change, and for making changes where necessary.

Our Public Administration and Policy Group at Wageningen University has brought together a consortium with Utrecht University, VU Amsterdam, Radboud University Nijmegen and Erasmus University Rotterdam, that has submitted the winning pre-proposal for research into the governance of climate adaptation. We are now very busy developing the full proposal, together with regional hotspot partners and our international academic partners: University of East Anglia, Stockholm Resilience Center and Oldenburg University.

The summary of the project pre-proposal reads as follows:

"Climate proofing the Netherlands is not only a technical issue but also a demanding matter of governance. The specific complexities of adaptation governance call for new advanced governance knowledge. This programme will develop and test forms of governance that can contribute to realizing adaptation options, and to increasing the adaptive capacity of society.

The program will be concentrated around four concepts and corresponding work packages:
- organizing connectivity
- (re)allocating responsibilities and risks
- coping with controversies
- normative principles for adaptation

To fulfil the dual ambition of developing practically relevant and scientifically sound knowledge, two supporting methodological work packages will be set up: collaborative action research and comparative analysis across regional and national boundaries. This interdisciplinary programme will result in new insights in climate governance; tested governance strategies, instruments and structures; innovative methods; and international comparison of adaptation efforts between Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and UK."

If all goes well, we could start setting up action research projects on climate adaptation strategies with a group of 8 PhDs, a postdoc and a number of senior researchers from the involved universities, as of March 2010. But first, the full proposal has to worked out, projects have to be defined and substantial co-funding needs to be committed by hotspot partners.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Podocarpus simulation at Wageningen MSP Course

During the past 3-week course on Multi-Stakeholder Processes by CD&IC Wageningen International, coordinated by Jouwert van Geene, I was invited as a guest lecturer to run the Podocarpus National Park simulation. About 30, mainly African and Asian students, did a great job in assuming the roles of farmers, miners, bureaucrats, politicians and ngo workers, resulting in a lively simulation over 6 negotiation rounds. Together with Simone van Vugt, we discussed with the students what could be learned from this experience. We focused on the intricacies of collaborating with a diverse group of stakeholders, representation issues, negotiation strategies, issue framing, power dynamics and the institutionalization of multi-stakeholder domains.

Here's a short video I made about the Podocarpus National Park simulation, using

Monday, September 21, 2009

MOPAN 2010 at Keele University

At the MOPAN 2009 website the next conference location has been announced:

MOPAN logo "The 17th International Conference on Multi-Organisational Partnerships, Alliances & Networks (MOPAN 2010) will be held at Keele University, United Kingdom from 28th - 30th June 2010.

The Conference theme will be "Collaboration: Dynamics, Movement and Transformation"

The Conference will be held together with the ESRC Research Seminar on Collaborative Futures (which will form a stream within the Conference) and the British Academy of Management special Interest Group on Inter-Organisational Relations."

There is more interesting stuff to be found on the 2009 conference website:

- the presentations of the symposium on 'Competing claims on space - Framing interests in multi-actor collaboration' organized by Cycloop can be downloaded

- the conference photos are available

This is a picture of the 'monasterical' lunch room at the MOPAN 2009 conference in Dublin:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Book published on "Transitions towards Sustainable Agriculture"

A new book on Transitions towards Sustainable Agriculture, co-edited by Katrien Termeer, has just been published and presented to the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV). The book brings together insights on a range of transition experiments in food production.

Together with my colleagues at the Public Administration and Policy Group, I wrote an introductory theoretical chapter, comparing transition management theory with an number of other theoretical approaches to change and intervention (including organizational change theories, multi-actor collaboration, network governance, adaptive management, social learning and policy agenda setting theory).
The chapter is entitled "Transition management for sustainability: towards a multiple theory approach". In the conclusion, we argue that a broad base of different (and partially overlapping) theories is needed to address the thorny sustainability challenges, such that multipe insights can be generated and that different approaches can suggest new intervention options where one approach to change runs into trouble.

Here are the details of the book.

Transitions towards sustainable agriculture, food chains and peri-urban areas

Krijn J. Poppe, Katrien Termeer and Maja Slingerland
2009, 392 pages, hardback

Transitions towards sustainable agriculture, food chains and peri-urban areas
Agriculture is changing rapidly. The greatest current challenge to the agricultural sector is for it to become sustainable in all three of the dimensions profit, people and planet. This is certainly the case in highly urbanized countries like the Netherlands, where agriculture is confronted with high land prices, rising consumer concerns for issues like animal welfare and negative environmental effects but also with new demands from the city for recreation, health care and local food products. These are some of the developments in our society that are forcing agriculture to change. The government, farmers, the agri-food industry and the retail sector struggle to meet this challenge and find new forms of governance. In the Netherlands, the government has called for a 'transition towards sustainable agriculture' and it is investing in this programme with its research and education policy. Similar trends have been observed in other countries.

This book presents the expertise that has been accrued from at least five years of Dutch research in this area. The aim is to collate the results of the experiments, to learn from them, to confront them with existing theory and to share them with a larger audience in order to foster learning about transition. Given the leading position of the Netherlands in global agriculture, in a highly urbanized setting, and its leading position in the study of transition theory this should be of significant interest to students and researchers of the transitions in agriculture.

Download table of contents of the book 'Transitions towards sustainable agriculture, food chains and peri-urban areas'. (PDF file)

The book can be ordered on the website of Wageningen Academic Publishers

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"The Art of Research" Web Clips

I've been cleaning up both my real and virtual desktop over the summer vacation and one of the results can be seen in the right hand column of this blog. I've rearranged and tagged the research notes I share publicly through Evernote.

These notes refer to upcoming conferences, interesting publications, blogs or websites. The most recent items appear in the blog column, but clicking through gives access to the whole archive of research notes. These are viewable as thumbnails or as a list (icons on the right), can be searched (search box in the top right corner) and filtered using tags (column on the left). When viewing a note, clicking on "Go to source" brings you to the original webpage.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Barriers to new modes of horizontal governance

Recently, an article on barriers to new modes of horizontal governance, by my colleague Katrien Termeer, was published in Public Management Review.

She discusses barriers public managers encounter when implementing new modes of horizontal governance (like partnerships or network governance). Using a sensemaking perspective, three cases in the field of sustainable agriculture are analysed.

This is a quote from the conclusions:

"We revealed five main groups of barriers caused by: (1) conflicting convictions concerning good policy making; (2) stereotyping potential partners (as ideological, incompetent or old-fashioned); (3) the framing of the situation (as a crisis, a race to reach a deadline or an experiment for a selective group); (4) fear (of undermining existing policy, relapsing into old politics or not reaching governmental targets); and (5) cover-up strategies (not showing doubts, hiding internal struggles or not being willing to face disappointments). Barriers cannot be viewed as isolated obstacles to horizontal modes of governance because they reinforce each other. Possibilities for breaking open these barriers were found in organizing reflections, creating new
contexts and recognizing small wins."

To download the article click here

Thursday, May 7, 2009

MOPAN Conference program available

The program for the 16th Annual Conference on Multi-Organisational Partnerships, Alliances and Networks (MOPAN, NUI Maynooth, June 17th - 20th 2009) is available at the the conference website:

Together with the network for research and facilitation of multi-actor collaboration 'Cycloop' I'm organizing a Symposium “Competing claims on space – Framing interests in multi-actor collaboration”. The symposium is planned for Friday and consists of three sessions.

Registration for the MOPAN Conference is still possible at

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Assessing Framing of Uncertainties in Water Management Practice

Another result of the fruitful cooperation between Osnabrück, Leuven and Wageningen in the context of the NeWater project has just been published on-line as an article in Water Resources Management. This paper was led by Nicola Isendahl as part of her PhD project at USF Osnabrück.

This is the abstract:

Dealing with uncertainties in water management is an important issue and is one which will only increase in light of global changes, particularly climate change. So far, uncertainties in water management have mostly been assessed from a scientific point of view, and in quantitative terms. In this paper, we focus on the perspectives from water management practice, adopting a qualitative approach. We consider it important to know how uncertainties are framed in water management practice in order to develop practice relevant strategies for dealing with uncertainties. Framing refers to how people make sense of the world. With the aim of identifying what are important parameters for the framing of uncertainties in water management practice, in this paper we analyze uncertainty situations described by decision-makers in water management. The analysis builds on a series of “Uncertainty Dialogues” carried out within the NeWater project with water managers in the Rhine, Elbe and Guadiana basins in 2006. During these dialogues, representatives of these river basins were asked what uncertainties they encountered in their professional work life and how they confronted them. Analysing these dialogues we identified several important parameters of how uncertainties get framed. Our assumption is that making framing of uncertainty explicit for water managers will allow for better dealing with the respective uncertainty situations.

The reference is :

Isendahl, N., Dewulf, A., Brugnach, M., Francois, G., Moellenkamp, S.and Pahl-Wostl, C. (2009) Assessing Framing of Uncertainties in Water Management Practice. Water Resources Management, On-line First.

The paper can be downloaded on this blog or at Springerlink

Monday, March 16, 2009

Upcoming conferences

A number of interesting conferences are in sight, most of which I will have to miss because of an imminent family enlargement, but you might be able to make it. I did (or still have to) work on a number of contributions together with other authors.

IRSPM, Copenhagen
The 13th Annual Conference of the International Research Society for Public Management, Copenhagen Business School, April 6, 2009 – April 8, 2009.
Together with Katrien Termeer I worked on a paper in the Panel track 'Managing transitions in public sector infrastructure' entitled "Theoretical multiplicity for the governance of transitions: the energy producing greenhouse case".

ECPR Joint Sessions, Lissabon
The Joint Sessions of workshops of the European Consortium of Political Research, 14th - 19th April 2009.
Together with Maartje van Lieshout, Katrien Termeer and Noelle Aarts, I work on a paper for the session 'Studying the Political through Frame Analysis' entitled "Framing scales and scaling frames".

IHDP, Bonn
7th International Science Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (Open Meeting), "Social Challenges of Global Change" originally scheduled for 15-19 October 2008, will take place from April 26-30 2009 in Bonn, Germany.
Together with Helen Ingram, Marcela Brugnach and Katrien Termeer, I'm working on a paper for the session 'Institutionally challenged: history and prospects of managing river basins in a changing global environment', entitled "The Co-Production of Knowledge about Water Resources: Framing, Uncertainty and Climate Change".

KSI, Amsterdam
First European Conference on Sustainability Transitions: Dynamics & Governance of Transitions to Sustainability, 4th to 6th June 2009Felix Meritis, Amsterdam.
Together with my colleagues at the Public Administration and Policy Group, Katrien Termeer, Renate Werkman and Gerard Breeman, I worked on a paper entitled "The value of theoretical multiplicity for steering transitions towards sustainability".

MOPAN, Dublin
16th Annual Conference on Multi-Organisational Partnerships, Alliances and Networks (MOPAN), NUI Maynooth, June 17th - 20th 2009.
Together with the network for reserach and facilitation of multi-actor collaboration 'Cycloop' I'm organizing a Symposium “Competing claims on space – Framing interests in multi-actor collaboration”

AISDRC, Utrecht
15th Annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference July 5-8, 2009, Utrecht, Netherlands.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Disentangling approaches to framing" paper just published in Human Relations

It all started in October 2004 in Wageningen. Still a PhD student at the University of Leuven at the time, I was lucky to join a small group of experienced scholars in the field of framing research. Together with Barbara Gray, Roy Lewicki, Linda Putnam, Noelle Aarts, René Bouwen and Cees van Woerkum, we spent a weekend at Hotel 'De Wageningse Berg' to sort out the conceptual confusion among framing researchers. The basis for the 3 by 2 matrix of approaches to framing research was developed there. Now, four years, numerous revisions and a move to Wageningen later, Human Relations has published our article in its February 2009 issue. If you are interested in how people make sense in and of conflicts and negotiations, in the differences and overlaps between cognitive and interactional approaches to framing, or in the potential contributions of embodied cognition or discursive psychology to framing research, then this article might be of use to you.

The final reference is:

Dewulf, A., Gray, B., Putnam, L., Lewicki, R., Aarts, M., Bouwen, R., & van Woerkum, C. (2009). Disentangling approaches to framing in conflict and negotiation research: a meta-paradigmatic perspective. Human Relations, 69(2), 155-193.

To download the article click here

Monday, January 19, 2009

MOPAN 2009 Call for papers

The call for papers is out for the
16th Annual MOPAN Conference
June 17th - 20th 2009
National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Here are some important dates:
Closing Date for Abstracts

Abstracts of proposed papers, posters and other media (500 words maximum) are due by Friday 13th March 2009 and should clearly indicate the content of the final paper / poster / other. (See registration dates & charges).
Closing Date for Full Papers
To be able to include them in the proceedings, full papers are due by Friday 15th May 2009.
All contributions should be submitted by e-mail to
More information can be found on the website:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Conference on Sustainability Transitions

The Dutch Knowledge Network on System Innovations has announced its International Conference for 2009:

First European Conference on Sustainability Transitions
Dynamics & Governance of Transitions to Sustainability

4th and 5th June 2009, Felix Meritis, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Deadline for paper abstracts is January 31, 2009.

More information can be found on the conference website: