The facilitation of concerted action for sustainable water management
2001 - 12 / 2004
METIS Wageningen Universiteit en Researchcentrum
The study aims to investigate the creative process of concerted action for innovation amongst multiple stakeholders involved in water management in the Netherlands. Special attention is given to the understanding of the facilitation practices, the institutional support needed and conductive policies that explain success factors in the interactive process between stakeholders. A shift in thinking is taking place in policy making in the Netherlands with regard to water management. Policy makers recognise the need for a different focus on the relation between societal demands and the role of water. This is reinforced because water is considered more an actor itself. demanding space and attention. Previously humans had to be protected against the forces of water, nowadays the water system itself needs to be protected. Issues as excess water, pollution, drought require concerted action between different users, surpassing the level of individual interests. Multiple stakeholders such as water boards, provinces, agricultural and nature conservation organisations nowadays have to co-ordinate and integrate their activities, because water needs to fulfil numerous functions. Water management is becoming more and more a soical process, which involves users, policymakers, research institutions, and traditionsl water managers. This leads to an increasing level of complexity of water management in the Netherlands. New challenges are present, and not only from a technical point of view, as more insight is required in the social and institutional aspects of water management. Two dimensions of this complexity seems to be important: uncertainty and amboquity. Uncertainty can be defined as an absence of objective information, for example the unpredictable changing water regimes due to climatic changes.Ambiguity refers to a lack of understanding and the exising of multiple conflicting interpretations. A few dimensions are mentioned: the chaning of roles of the main actors involved, including those of the traditional water managers; the search for local level tailor made solutions and the complexity to articulate these with existing fragmented policies at national and provincial levels; existing, sometimes incompatibel use functions of the water; the challenge of stakeholder to combine individual interest with those of the society. How does the process of decision making take place in a situation wherte uncertainty and ambiguity prevail? Which decisions are taken in an arena of stakeholders who have different perspectives and often-diverging interests? The shift of thinking in water management and the seaarch for making alliances with the water instead of treating it as the "enemy", have not yet been articulated well with the day-to-day reality of the water managers. It poses the following questions: * How can the process of water management be shaped in such a complex and chaning setting? * How can this dialogue between the different stakeholders be facilitated towards collectively desired solutions? * Do these decisions taken contribute to a more sustainable wateruse? This process, through which stakeholders meet, interact, exchange perceptions, negotiate different interests, and ultimately reach a common agreement, will be referred to as "social learning" and should lead to meaningful action and innovation. it should also lead to improved practices from a perspective of sustainable use of water. The role of institutions, both as a means to, and the outcome of, social learning will be looked upon. Improved insight in the institutional dimension of social learning will provide valuable insight in ways to facilitate such processes of concerted action for sustainable water management.