Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Taking meaningful decisions: sensemaking and decision-making in water and climate governance

Following my appointment as Personal Professor at the Public Administration and Policy Group, I will give my inaugural address on 7 February 2019 at 16:00 in the Aula of Wageningen University, Generaal Foulkesweg 1, 6703 BG Wageningen.

The inaugural address will be given between 16:00 and 17:00, and will be followed by a reception.

To co-produce or not to co-produce

As part of the SESYNC project on "The science of knowledge use in decision-making" and led by Maria Carmen Lemos, we have published a piece in Nature Sustainability on the co-production of knowledge between scientistis and decision-makers.

To co-produce or not to co-produce

Researchers, stakeholders and funding organizations have embraced co-production of knowledge to solve sustainability problems. Research focusing on the practice of co-production can help us understand what works in what contexts and how to avoid potentially undesirable outcomes.

In this Comment, we discuss knowledge co-production as a focus of research and as a rapidly spreading practice among scientists, stakeholders and funders seeking to increase the role of science in solving society’s most pressing problems. We write as a group of researchers, stakeholders, funders and co-production practitioners operating at the intersection of knowledge production and use — a space that happily is becoming larger and more crowded. We believe in advancing co-production as an important approach to increasing the impact of science, but we also believe that doing so requires recognizing its limitations and grappling with problems that arise as the practice of co-production becomes more broadly taken up and institutionalized.

Lemos, M. C., Arnott, J. C., Ardoin, N. M., Baja, K., Bednarek, A. T., Dewulf, A., … Wyborn, C. (2018). To co-produce or not to co-produce. Nature Sustainability, 1(12), 722–724.

Nine lives of uncertainty in decision-making: strategies for dealing with uncertainty in environmental governance

Together with my colleague Robbert Biesbroek, I have published a paper on decision-making under uncertainty, in the journal Policy and Society.

Nine lives of uncertainty in decision-making: strategies for dealing with uncertainty in environmental governance

Governing complex environmental issues involves intensive interac- tion between public and private actors. These governance pro- cesses are fraught with uncertainties about, for example, the current state of environmental affairs, the relevant set of decision alternatives, the reactions of other actors to proposed solutions or the future developments likely to affect an issue. Uncertainty comes in different shapes and sizes and different strands in the literature, which has placed emphasis either on the substance of the issue (e.g. in environmental sciences) or on the decision-making process (e.g. policy sciences). In this paper, we bring together these different strands of literature on uncertainty to present a novel analytical framework. We build on the argument that the nature ofuncertainty consists of three types: epistemic uncertainty (involving the lack of knowledge about a particular system), ontological uncertainty (irre- ducible unpredictability due to inherently complex system beha- vior) and ambiguity (conflicts between fundamentally different frames about the issue at hand). Scholars have also argued the importance of differentiating between three different objects of uncertainty: substantive uncertainty (uncertainty about the content of decisions or policy issues), strategic uncertainty (uncertainty about the actions of other actors in the strategic game of deci- sion-making) and institutional uncertainty (uncertainty about the rules of the game in decision-making). The framework is useful for analyzing and addressing the nine lives of uncertainty in decision- making. Better understanding of the range of uncertainties is crucial to design more robust policies and governance arrangements and to deal with wicked environmental problems.

Dewulf, A., & Biesbroek, R. (2018). Nine lives of uncertainty in decision-making: strategies for dealing with uncertainty in environmental governance. Policy and Society, 37(4), 441–458. (Open Access)

I presented this as a poster at the Annual Workshop of the Society for Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty at the University of  Oxford in November 2017:

Power in and over Cross-Sector Partnerships: Actor Strategies for Shaping Collective Decisions

As part of a special issue edited by Sandra Schruijer on Dynamics of Interorganisational Collaborative Relationships in the journal Administrative Sciences, our paper on power strategies in collaborative partnerships has been published.

Power in and over Cross-Sector Partnerships: Actor Strategies for Shaping Collective Decisions

While cross-sector partnerships are sometimes depicted as a pragmatic problem solving arrangements devoid of politics and power, they are often characterized by power dynamics. Asymmetries in power can have a range of undesirable consequences as low-power actors may be co-opted, ignored, over-ruled, or excluded by dominant parties. As of yet, there has been relatively little conceptual work on the power strategies that actors in cross-sector partnerships deploy to shape collective decisions to their own advantage. Insights from across the literatures on multiparty collaboration, cross-sector partnerships, interactive governance, collaborative governance, and network governance, are integrated into a theoretical framework for empirically analyzing power sources (resources, discursive legitimacy, authority) and power strategies (power over and power in cross-sector partnerships). Three inter-related claims are central to our argument: (1) the intersection between the issue field addressed in the partnership and an actor’s institutional field shape the power sources available to an actor; (2) an actor can mobilize these power sources directly in strategies to achieve power in cross-sector partnerships; and, (3) an actor can also mobilize these power sources indirectly, through setting the rules of the game, to achieve power over partnerships. The framework analytically connects power dynamics to their broader institutional setting and allows for spelling out how sources of power are used in direct and indirect power strategies that steer the course of cross-sector partnerships. The resulting conceptual framework provides the groundwork for pursuing new lines of empirical inquiry into power dynamics in cross-sector partnerships.

Dewulf, A., & Elbers, W. (2018). Power in and over Cross-Sector Partnerships: Actor Strategies for Shaping Collective Decisions. Administrative Sciences, 8(3), 43. (Open Access!)

Special Issue on "Diagnostics of case studies on environmental virtual observatories for connective action"

In the Wageningen Journal of Life Science, a special issue has been published by the EVOCA project.

Environmental virtual observatories for connective action

According to the Preface for the issue:
This Special Issue of NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences contains a coherent set of first reports of research carried out within the International Research and Education Funds (INREF) program Responsible life-sciences innovations for development in the digital age: Environmental Virtual Observatories for Connective Action (EVOCA), funded by Wageningen University and Research and its research partners. This program explores whether and how the increased availability of information and communication technologies (ICTs) may be leveraged to support collective management of crops, water resources, livestock, wildlife and (human, animal and plant) diseases in several countries of rural Africa. In relation to this, the programme has a special interest in the potential of new ICT to support the co-creation of relevant knowledge by making community-based environmental monitoring part and parcel of citizen science activities that add value to available information. In addition, it is interested in exploring whether increased connectivity may support new forms of collective mobilization (labeled ‘connective action’) to address environmental challenges. The program aims to develop and test digital platforms that can support such functions in close collaboration with stakeholders and users across six case studies in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda.

The special issue includes a introduction paper, led by Katarzyna Cieslik, and a concluding paper, led by Cees Leeuwis.

  • Leeuwis, C., Cieslik, K. J., Aarts, M. N. C., Dewulf, A., Ludwig, F., Werners, S. E., & Struik, P. C. (2018). Reflections on the potential of virtual citizen science platforms to address collective action challenges: Lessons and implications for future research. NJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, (July), 0–1.
  • Cieslik, K. J., Leeuwis, C., Dewulf, A., Lie, R., Werners, S. E., van Wessel, M., … Struik, P. C. (2018). Addressing socio-ecological development challenges in the digital age: Exploring the potential of Environmental Virtual Observatories for Connective Action (EVOCA). NJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, (July), 0–1.

My PhD student Andy Nyamekye has also contributed to two papers in the special issue:

  • Nyadzi, E., Nyamekye, A. B., Werners, S. E., Biesbroek, R. G., Dewulf, A., Slobbe, E. Van, … Ludwig, F. (2018). Diagnosing the potential of hydro-climatic information services to support rice farming in northern Ghana. NJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, (July), 1–13.
  • Nyamekye, A. B., Dewulf, A., Van Slobbe, E., Termeer, C. J. A. M., & Pinto, C. (2018). Governance arrangements and adaptive decision-making in rice farming systems in Northern Ghana. NJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, (April), 1–13.