To draw or to cross the line? The landscape architect as boundary spanner in Dutch river management

In many Western countries, flood policy is transitioning from a focus on technical flood defence measures towards more holistic and integrated flood risk management approaches. In this article, we explore the boundary spanning role of landscape architects in integrated flood risk management projects. The central research question is: what are the boundary spanning activities and roles that landscape architects perform and which factors are conditional to these activities? We have studied the boundary spanning behaviour of landscape architects in the Dutch ‘Room for the River’ programme. This programme had a dual objective of improving simultaneously the water safety and the spatial quality of the Dutch riverine areas. We conducted a comparative, in-depth case study of three ‘Room for the River’ projects, and investigated conditions that stimulated or frustrated the work of landscape architects in establishing safe solutions with spatial quality. We found that the landscape architects involved in these projects played various boundary spanning roles. We conclude that, depending on the conditional factors, their roles ranged from more traditional content-oriented domain expert/scout to the more innovative organisational expert/task coordinator. For successful boundary spanning, although cognitive capacities (e.g., knowledge about landscape) are important, landscape architects also need to have the appropriate social capacities (e.g., social-emotional competences, networking skills). That is, the work of the landscape architects essentially includes drawing lines that sketch the contours of future landscapes; but to do so, they must also cross the lines between the various actors, organizations, and disciplines involved.

Publication | Van den Brink, M., Edelenbos, J., Van den Brink, A., Verweij, S., Van Etteger, R. & Busscher, T. (2019). To draw or to cross the line? The landscape architect as boundary spanner in Dutch river management. Landscape and Urban Planning, 186, 13-23.

Strategies for integrating water management and spatial planning: Organising for spatial quality in the Dutch ‘Room for the River’ program

In response to extreme flood events and an increasing awareness that traditional flood control measures alone are inadequate to deal with growing flood risks, spatial flood risk management strategies have been introduced. These strategies do not only aim to reduce the probability and consequences of floods, they also aim to improve local and regional spatial qualities. To date, however, research has been largely ignorant as to how spatial quality, as part of spatial flood risk management strategies, can be successfully achieved in practice. Therefore, this research aims to illuminate how spatial quality is achieved in planning practice. This is done by evaluating the configurations of policy instruments that have been applied in the Dutch Room for the River policy program to successfully achieve spatial quality. This policy program is well known for its dual objective of accommodating higher flood levels as well as improving the spatial quality of the riverine areas. Based on a qualitative comparative analysis, we identified three successful configurations of policy instruments. These constitute three distinct management strategies: the “program‐as‐guardian”, the “project‐as‐driver,” and “going all‐in” strategies. These strategies provide important leads in furthering the development and implementation of spatial flood risk management, both in the Netherlands and abroad.

Publication | Busscher, T., Van den Brink, M. & Verweij, S. (2019). Strategies for integrating water management and spatial planning: Organizing for spatial quality in the Dutch ‘Room for the River’ program. Journal of Flood Risk Management, 12 (1), e12448.

Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen

After being a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Spatial Planning and Environment of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences at the University of Groningen for about 2,5 years, I am very happy to have been appointed Assistant Professor in Infrastructure Planning, Governance & Methodology (tenured) at the same department. I will contribute to the development of governance and methodological courses at the Faculty, supervise students in their thesis projects at the Bachelor, Master, and PhD levels, and aim to intensify the relationships between research and teaching. In doing so, I will continue to collaborate with governmental partners such as Rijkswaterstaat. More information can be found on the staff webpage of the university.

What makes decisions about urban water infrastructure forward looking? A fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis of investment decisions in 40 Dutch municipalities

Municipalities worldwide are confronted with the need to take long-term decisions about ageing water infrastructure in the face of unpredictable future developments. Previous studies on long-term decision making have proposed solutions targeted at the domain of either politics or planning. This study combines insights from the domains of policy, politics, and planning by using the Multiple Streams Framework to explain what enables municipalities to take forward-looking investment decisions. We combine the configurational MSF perspective with an explicitly configurational method, namely fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis, and apply this to 40 cases of Dutch municipalities. We conclude that enabling conditions differ for small versus medium-to-large municipalities. Furthermore, forward-looking investment decisions can be achieved regardless of the municipalities’ organizational analytical capacity. In fact, and contrasting to the requirement of the MSF, not all streams necessarily have to be present for forward-looking decisions to occur. For medium-to-large municipalities, forward-looking investment decisions are stimulated by: (1) the presence of organizational analytical capacity, (2) transactional/networking political leadership in situations without focusing events, or (3) entrepreneurial/transformative political leadership in situations with focusing events. For small municipalities, forward-looking investment decisions are stimulated by networking/interpersonal political leadership combined with the occurrence of focusing events.

Publication | Pot, W.D., Dewulf, A., Biesbroek, G.R. & Verweij, S. (2019). What makes decisions about urban water infrastructure forward looking? A fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis of investment decisions in 40 Dutch municipalities. Land Use Policy, 82, 781-795.

Evaluating infrastructure project planning and implementation: A study using qualitative comparative analysis

Many evaluations of infrastructure projects rely on methods that ignore the complexity of the projects. Although case studies are attentive to project complexity, it is difficult to identify general patterns that would apply to a larger sample of projects. Qualitative comparative analysis is a method that preserves the complexity of projects and generates insights across cases. In this contribution, we discuss our experiences with using qualitative comparative analysis for the evaluation of the planning and implementation of complex infrastructure projects. We will provide a short introduction into the main properties of the method (complex causality, systematic comparison) as well as describe some of the main operations (calibration, truth table analysis, interpretation). This will serve to demonstrate why qualitative comparative analysis is a fitting evaluation method in project development and implementation. Next, we will show how we used the method in a research project that aimed to find out under what conditions unplanned events in the implementation of infrastructure projects were dealt with satisfactorily, that is, what it took to respond to these events in an apt manner. Based on our experiences, we will summarize main lessons learned for conducting qualitative comparative analysis proper and provide suggestions for further reading.

Publication | Verweij, S. & Gerrits, L.M. (2019). Evaluating infrastructure project planning and implementation: A study using qualitative comparative analysis. Sage Research Methods Cases, 2, 1-16.

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