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This Building Block describes the importance of governance assessment and scoping in BwN. Scoping and decision-making processes are essential parts of a BwN project. The feasibility of a BwN-approach depends on the connection with society and decision makers, effectively to anchor BwN. It is important for proponents of a BwN-approach to involve important actors and not to overlook regulations. The strategic question how to connect society into a design process should be integral part of every BwN-project. There is no single strategy that guarantees success in all cases. A good participatory process is custom-made and timing is essential. A general rule of thumb is that participating early in preparatory activities often offers the best opportunities to effectively promote BwN-principles and alternatives. The governance context often provides important triggers or indicates potential stumbling-blocks that need to be addressed before any Building with Nature idea can be realised in practice.

    General Building Block Description

    The text of this Building Block is based on the governance section in this Guideline. The feasibility of a BwN-approach depends on the translation of societal concerns and interests into engineering designs. BwN-proponents should therefore make contact with relevant actors and stakeholders and involve them in their considerations. Moreover, they must be aware of the prevailing laws and regulations. Strategy formation on how and when to connect the engineering and design process with society should be an integral part of BwN. Note that there is no single strategy that will be successful in all cases. An effective participatory process adapts to the institutional and policy contexts and is tailor-made. Generally speaking, participation of actors (governors, civil servants, consultants, constructors and administrators) and stakeholders (persons, groups and NGOs that have a stake, and interest that might be influenced by the initiative/project) in preparatory activities will offer the best opportunities to promote BwN-principles and alternatives. The governance context may also provide useful information on important triggers or stumbling-blocks for the project, items that need to be addressed in order to practically realise Building with Nature ideas, at all.


    • The connection to actors and stakeholders effectively enhances the feasibility of a BwN-approach;
    • Involving actors and stakeholders with their local and empirical knowledge may yield unexpected and tailor-made solutions which meet the various interests as much as possible;
    • Involving actors and stakeholders early in the process is likely to accelerate the permitting processes;
    • Scanning the regulatory context is important to ensure that the BwN-alternatives developed are statutory and legal. 


    • Involving actors and stakeholders and scanning the regulatory context can be time-consuming (though ultimately worth while);
    • Multiple rivalry perspectives are always present and reflected in multiple options advocated in the various project phases; this means that compromises and trade-offs have to be made during the process in order to keep all parties on board;
    • Stakeholders tend to focus on the short term and their vested interests, on 'what is' rather than on 'what can be'. They need to be invited to step out of their comfort zone and take a longer-term perspective. Among actors such short term perspective is also often observed among governors.

    Related pages

    Governance - Networks

    Governance - Regulatory context

    Governance - Knowledge context

    Governance - Realization framework

    Tool - Stakeholder Analysis

    Tool - Valuation of risks and opportunities

    Tool - Visualising and managing uncertainties

    How to Use

    As the feasibility of BwN-approaches depends critically on the connection with society and decision makers, the following governance aspects need to be considered:

    • Networks- how to connect – It is essential for BwN-proponents to connect to relevant networks and influence arenas where decisions are actually being made or prepared.
    • Regulatory context: how to handle regulations – BwN faces a large number of rules and standards that have to be taken into consideration.
    • Knowledge context: how to create a strategy – Knowledge can play an important role in decision-making, as it fills information gaps and helps defining the nature of the problem, developing solutions and predicting and assessing their effects.
    • Realization framework: how to arrange realization - Organizational aspects of the realization of BwN within a concrete project environment need to be understood: how to build organizational and contractual arrangements which support the realization of BwN-type projects.

    Practical Applications

    In this section the most important governance lessons learned from a number of Building with Nature pilot experiments in different environments are summarised. For more information on the Building with Nature cases we refer to the case description pages.

    Governance lessons Delta Lakes: case Markermeer-IJsselmeer

    • Building with Nature interventions involve careful consideration of stakeholders’ interests and translation of those interests into multi-functional designs. Also decision making, legal procedures and networking are part of the project development process. When dealing with conflicting interests three purposefully implemented strategies proved helpful:
      • Don't work with too detailed plans in the initiation phase of the project (e.g. by presenting detailed pictures or technical designs). In this phase it is the moment to invite potential partners to bring in their ideas and translate their own interests into the plans. Being unnecessarily precise leaves too little room for compromising. In the planning and design phase more elaborate plans can be presented, but even there the design should still be open to improvements.
      • Find champions from high-level political or administrative circles. In the preparation of the pilots on the Frisian coast, part of the Markermeer-IJsselmeer case, a short movie was produced in which decision makers expressed the importance of a BwN approach for the project area. It showed support from high-ranking officials for the experiments, providing informal legitimation and facilitating negotiations.
      • Arrange political and high-level sponsorship by inviting officials to visit the project area.
    • In many cases authorization and permit procedures are strict and time-consuming, sometimes with unexpected turns and developments. Right from the initiation phase attention needs to be paid to the preparation of formal procedures, consultation of authorities and the timing of procedures. Multi-stakeholder involvement inherently requires longer planning and implementation processes, but giving them due attention in the initiation phase may (and usually does) pay off during permit acquisition procedures and the execution of the works.
    • Detailed local governance-related information and data are often missing or not accurate. Careful quality checks are important.
    • In the initiation phase a relatively small creative project team with a wide range of expertise and a mandate to make its own decisions is recommendable; as such a team can quickly react to unexpected developments and interact with relevant stakeholders.
    • Communication directed at multiple levels is essential. Both authorities at regional and sub-local levels and local stakeholders must be involved. Especially local stakeholders tend to be overlooked during the discussions and often complex decision making processes at higher administrative levels. A circular letter (in this case 4 times a year) including interviews with stakeholders and an update on the project’s progress turns out to be a good means of communication to various parties
    • Pilot-studies turned out to be important and stimulated cooperation between stakeholders. Also a covenant in which rules of the game were made explicit, including funding responsibilities, favoured an effective cooperation between stakeholders.

    Governance lessons Estuaries: case South-westerly Delta

    • For the BwN-proponent it is important to connect to important societal networks and policy arenas in which relevant decision making takes place. An inventory of stakeholders’ perceptions of BwN (partners) can provide valuable insight into prejudices and first experiences with the programme.
    • People’s perceptions appear to be useful starting points for a discussion on future collaboration or improving current cooperation.
    • It is important to conduct a network and stakeholder analysis at the beginning of a BwN-project development. It helps not only to identify relevant networks, stakeholders, their stakes and their mutual relationships, but also to decide with which networks to align and how and when to interact with which stakeholders.
    • To start off with a stakeholder analysis use can be made of the networks of the BwN-partners involved.
    • Good collaboration requires regular contact. Working together on concrete experiments favours effective collaboration.
    • Communication is important. This requires easily accessible information on what BwN actually is to be available in the early phases of a BwN-trajectory. There is need for a good mix of publications on BwN results, popular layman-oriented as well as professional and scientific publications. A movie showing practical examples of Building with Nature experiments is another useful means of communication.
    • Be open and communicate about uncertainties in BwN, don’t conceal them.
    • Project proponents should prepare permit requests in consultation with (public) agencies experienced and specialised in this field.
    • It is important to realise that laws or regulations, which may tend to be viewed initially as obstacles, can just as well become opportunities for development. This is a matter of interpretation of the law or regulation by the authority responsible for granting the permit, but also of the basic attitude of those trying to get a project through.
    • Direct and regular contact with the person who is responsible for providing the required permits can help to change perceptions and speed up the process.
    • Every project has inherent uncertainties. Typical for BwN-projects is the uncertainty regarding the long term ecological and / or morphological effects of the intervention.
    • Ways to deal with uncertainty in BwN-projects can be:
    • The possibility to manage unknown and unpredictable events is important during the design, implementation and maintenance phase of BwN-projects; adaptation and emergency procedures should therefore be at hand.
    • Institutional arrangements involving environmental organizations appear to facilitate the funding of BwN experiments.
    • When it is considered important to make the economic value of a BwN-project visible, a societal cost benefit analysis or a lifecycle cost-benefit analysis can be included.

    Governance lessons Sandy Shores: case Hollandse Kust

    • Shore nourishment is not only a means to maintain coastal safety, it also can support nature development and recreation. The essential drivers for BwN on sandy shores are flood safety, recreation potential and nature development; these foci are therefore leading criteria for nourishment strategies and for the design of each individual larger-scale nourishment.
    • Gradual accretion is often more acceptable to local communities than abrupt changes of 'their' local shoreline.
    • Large-scale shore nourishments are multifunctional and require cooperation between coastal protection authorities, nature organisations, recreation industry and dredging industry from the early development stages on.
    • The costs of coastal maintenance can be reduced by smarter nourishment strategies, but also by smarter contracts, enabling dredging contractors to provide their services in the most cost-effective way by planning ahead and making opportunistic use of equipment availability.
    • Adaptation and emergency procedures should be at hand. In the case of the Delfland Sand Engine, flow velocities in the feeder gully to the tidal lagoon went up so high that they were considered a risk for swimmers. Despite the availability of huge amounts of sand, the authorities decided to temporarily close the gully with a rock dam.  This demonstrates (i) the complexity to organize a real-world, long-term pilot experiment in the context of stakeholder pressure and governmental responsibilities, (ii) the need for public authorities, experts and other parties involved to liaise in order to arrive at adaptation measures if necessary, even if time and stakeholder pressure is high.
    • The Building with Nature innovation program has produced a number of tools to support nourishment-based coastal maintenance. The Interactive Tool Coastal Intervention for the Holland Coast is a tool to give stakeholders an indication of the potential long-term impacts of coastal interventions. MapTable is an interactive tool for design and decision support. OpenEarth is a community approach towards handling data, models and tools. It has a robust user community which collaborates based on the philosophy that data, models, tools and information should be exchanged as freely and open as possible, across the artificial boundaries of projects and organizations.

    Governance Lessons: case Melbourne Port Extension – Adaptive Management

    • In a project with a high risk profile related to the sensitive environment the risk could be mitigated in collaboration with the contractor. To ensure input of highly qualified construction expertise, early contractor involvement is necessary and can be achieved with an alliance contract.
    • A very open risk assessment process has been used, in which the risks were quantified, so that a trade-off could be made between different assets. The government has to provide guidelines on which impact is still acceptable and which is not. This type of risk assessments cost quite a lot of time, but this ensured the accuracy of the process. Another advantage was that this enabled a better informed and more effective communication with the public.
    • The project showed that work method adjustment can be a very good instrument to mitigate effects. This includes controlling and managing the measures taken, hence the impact.
    • It is very important that the environmental limits such as turbidity limits are based on the local situation, considering the local flora and fauna. A model-based approach can yield realistic and workable criteria. In addition, much attention has to be paid to a solid baseline study in order to have sufficient information about the background data, especially to include natural variability and dynamic aspects.
    • High quality monitoring needs to be established and maintained. Regular review of monitoring scheme is to be made in relation to the ecological response.
    • Communication is essential in environmental management and needs to be addressed explicitly in the Environmental Management Plans. All procedures should be clearly defined, correct and communicated in case of irregularities. The client should inform the public and the contractor should assist in this, mainly by informing the client. The procedures for the internal communication (between client, contractor and government) should be clearly defined, for irregularities as well as the regular process. This requires a transparent and open process.
    • Communication should also include the progress of the construction works. This is where the contractor can play a major role, as he has all the information regarding progress. Therefore he should provide the Client with this information via transparent and open communication.


    The text in this Building Block is based on the governance section and experiences obtained at several cases.

    The original and more comprehensive texts can be consulted:

    Lessons learned are taken from:

    There, also more specific literature references are given.

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