A BwN-proponent needs to connect to relevant networks and influence arenas. A network is a cluster of interdependent actors and stakeholders, each of which has an interest in decision making, tries to influence the decision(s) and is connected to others by shared ambitions or resources. In order to assure that BwN alternatives gain momentum in the socio-political system the following actions need to be undertaken:

  • Connect to political and societal agendas: a good start for the BwN-proponent is to find out who the various stakeholders to the proposal might be and what current issues, problems and challenges are on the agendas. Talk to relevant actors and stakeholders to find out how BwN could help them to achieve their goals..
  • Track arenas and processes (backward mapping): Track down processes and arenas that may be relevant to acceptance or refusal of BwN project alternatives. This is most efficiently done by backward mapping: starting from the expected, yet unknown final project-decision, and then mapping backwards in time all steps that are required to reach that goal. An overview of relevant factors, processes and arenas helps the BwN designer to connect with the right arenas and actors at the right time and with the right message in the right form.
  • Map out actors and stakeholders, positions and stakes: map out actors and stakeholders and their social relations, assessing their positions by criteria such as role, stake, preference, power position, relationship, etc. and decide whether and how they can and should be connected with the BwN-side of the project. Also include an assessment of your relationship with them.
  • Connect to actors, stakeholders and arenas (forward mapping): Sometimes opportunities can be seized by just contacting persons, participating in meetings and actively presenting BwN-principles and alternatives. Networking and communication is essential. It is crucial to think not only strategically about development of BwN-alternatives, but also tactically about how BwN-alternatives can be included in the power game.
  • Organize BwN arenas: There is a chain of design activities ranging from ‘out of the box’ brainstorm sessions raising BwN-alternatives through to sessions on ready-to-construct detailed designs. Creative working sessions to unlock the BwN-potential should involve expertise in the fields of engineering, hydrology, morphology, ecology and policy and decision making, as well as practical knowledge about the local socio-economic system. Out-of-the-box thinking should be mirrored by expertise with regard to political issues, problem perceptions, local history and local rivalries. Several tools included in this Guideline can support these kind of working sessions (maptableopen earthvisual thinkinginteractive design tool).
  • Connect to the decision makers: Ideally, the developer and his network work themselves gradually into the regular arenas for preparation and decision making. Do not hesitate to talk with coordinating civil servants, senior civil servants and governors. Ask for the agenda, planned meetings and have yourself invited to them. Try to lock some of the BwN-activities into the regular trajectories of public administration. Connect as early in the process as possible. These activities will give insight and influence in the power game.
  • Monitor changes in the arenas and coalitions: It is essential to realise that socio-political systems are not entirely rational. People may change their preferences without warning or notice, coalitions may be suddenly disbanded and circumstances may change and be exploited during the process. Like physical systems, socio-political systems are seldom static, they change in time. Their developments need to be monitored and strategies need to be reconsidered accordingly. Staying connected to the right experts, stakeholders and decision-makers therefore requires continuous attention and updating, instead of a single moment of analysis.
  • Use the right arguments for BwN: The cases analysed in the BwN-programme proved that effective arguments tend to vary between project phase and have to be presented understandably for and adapted to the specific target group or person. Arguments encountered in the cases are:
    • Coping with regulatory settings : Because the ambitions put forward in the cases studied all had significant effects on designated habitat areas, reducing or compensating these effects was the most frequently used argument why BwN and similar approaches were welcomed. One might also perceive this as enabling human ambitions (in habitat areas).
    • Lower costs   and/or added value (compared to traditional solutions and approaches in use):  In several cases this argument opened doors. One relevant category is avoided costs, i.e. ecosystem services that reduce (future) costs that one would incur without BwN. The argument of added value applies for instance to fisheries, tourism and nature; the ecosystem services approach is relevant here to underpin claims.
    • Transfer of costs : Sometimes BwN-alternatives transfer costs over projects, programs and scales. Long-term maintenance costs of BwN might be lower than those of traditional designs. Since cost transfer often involves different authorities, it may facilitate or hinder BwN.
    • Flexibility:  If effects of the implemented design are different from expected, or if conditions change in an unforeseen way, BwN-solutions offer adpative capacity, i.e. adaptation in small, incremental steps. As this implies that the authorities responsible stay in control and the probability of an early write-off of investments is minimal, the tendency to costly over-engineering can be avoided.
    • Controllability : BwN-advocates should refrain from claiming that “we let nature take its course”, since this suggests an uncontrolled situation. Instead, he/she should focus on the elements of steering and control in the design: BwN is anything but uncontrolled. For politicians, the BwN-solution should be amendable and steerable, for in the end they are held responsible when things go wrong.
  • Check the Networks lessons learned from various BwN projects