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.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Social media as a new playing field for the governance of agro-food sustainability

Tim Stevens has published his first paper as part of his PhD project in the Informational Governance programme at Wageningen University!
Social media as a new playing field for the governance of agro-food sustainability
The paper is based on a literature review and puts forward three different patterns in social media activities in relation to the governance of agro-food sustainability. It has been published in the first 2016 issue of Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

This is the abstract:

Social media bring various stakeholders of the agro-food system together into a new playing field. This article reveals the dynamics of this playing field and the ways in which this can influence the governance of agro-food sustainability. We delineate three pathways that highlight the ways in which social media can have implications for the governance of agro-food sustainability; firstly, hypes on agro-food sustainability issues, secondly, opportunities for the self-organization of food movements, and thirdly, data for new forms of agro-food governance. We conclude that while mass self-communication on social media forms an emergent force that disrupts agro-food governance, it also generates data that forms a resource for powerful players to regain control.

This is the full reference: Stevens, T., Aarts, N., Termeer, C. J. A. M., & Dewulf, A. (2016). Social media as a new playing field for the governance of agro-food sustainability. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 18, 99–106. doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2015.11.010

The paper can be found at or downloaded here

Citizen Science for Water Resources Management: Toward Polycentric Monitoring and Governance?

A position paper has been published recently in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, entitled "Citizen Science for Water Resources Management: Toward Polycentric Monitoring and Governance?". The author team reflects the collaboration through the Mountain-EVO project.

The paper develops ideas about polycentric governance of water resources, supported by a polycentric monitoring landscape, as an alternative to tightly integrated and centralized water management systems.

The full reference is Buytaert, W., Dewulf, A., De Bièvre, B., Clark, J., & Hannah, D. M. (2016). Citizen Science for Water Resources Management: Toward Polycentric Monitoring and Governance? Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 01816002. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)WR.1943-5452.0000641

The paper can be found at or downloaded here.

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