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Governance - Knowledge context
Building with Nature is a knowledge-intensive practice. Water infrastructure is a tailor-made product that requires engineering expertise; and part of this expertise is still under development. All web pages of the BwN guideline outside of this governance section are meant to provide the new knowledge that is required for BwN projects. This governance subsection addresses the special governance challenges that are connected with working in an innovative and knowledge-intensive domain.
This chapter deals with knowledge issues in decision-making processes in general and specifically for BwN projects. BwN is an innovation on the brink of a break-through. Can an innovation process be managed, and if yes, how? It is helpful to know how innovation processes generally proceed and what factors can make the difference between a 'dead end' and a successful breakthrough of technology.
|BwN involves integration of different disciplinary domains, for instance morphology, hydrology, physics, ecology, technical sciences, social sciences. What challenges are resulting from such interdisciplinary projects?|
BwN projects require interaction with policy makers and other stakeholders. Conflicts of interests and misunderstandings can get easily out of hand. The use of technologies which still are under development cause uncertainties in BwN projects. Although project management will always be complex and in part unpredictable, guidance is provided how to understand and deal with these issues.
The present section addresses the following questions:
The section Examples illustrates how a project developer can handle knowledge and uncertainty issues in BwN-type projects, using the Sand Engine project case study as a concrete example where several aspects of these knowledge and uncertainty considerations have been tested. Finally, under References information can be found for further reading.
Knowledge, innovation and public policy
Knowledge can be functional in several ways. It is used to get the content right and it provides substantiation for legal procedures. Furthermore, knowledge can contribute to build up support for a project among actors and stakeholders and other parties involved (van Buuren et al, 2010). Knowledge plays an important role in different project phases. It provides a basis for:
- problem identification;
- master planning and project initiation;
- developing innovative solutions;
- developing design and planning alternatives;
- assessing designs and plans;
- project execution;
- sustainable and adaptive project operation and maintenance;
- environmentally friendly decommissioning of the project.
Integrating different knowledge domains in BwN projects
In BwN projects, multiple functions are combined into one design: nature is integrated with infrastructural goals. This ‘functional integration’ is mentioned in policy documents and managements plans, but in practice implementation proves to be problematic and runs into barriers. Barriers originate among others from the fragmentation of policy fields. The field of water policy in the Netherlands, for instance, is historically an autonomous and isolated field, which complicates integration (Wiering and Arts, 2006). The challenge of BwN projects is realising functional integration in practice.
A further challenge in BwN projects is to deal with fragmented knowledge in decision making. Knowledge is often assumed to be inherently linked to a specific policy field. Consequently, functional integration requires integrating different knowledge domains. The relation between policy fields and knowledge, also known as a ‘knowledge arrangement’, is often neglected, although its relevance is clear. In functional integration the confrontation of multiple knowledge arrangements needs to be steered towards an integrated BwN design.
BwN-type projects often involve larger spatial scales and longer time horizons than conventional ones and hence, also more and possibly larger knowledge-related uncertainties and ambiguity.
The Guidance section addresses the following questions:
a) How to manage an innovation process?
b) How to manage interdisciplinary knowledge in BwN projects?
c) What to expect from knowledge in decision making processes?;
d) How to deal with uncertainties in a BwN project?
a) How to manage an innovation process?
Knowledge is an important driver of innovation processes such as BwN. Insights form innovation studies can help to place the use of knowledge in BwN development in an economic perspective. Key aspects in managing innovation processes are
- identifying the level of development
- organising the innovation process
- spreading the news about innovations
- steps to be taken in an innovation process
Technological Readiness Levels
BwN is a technology under development, and an innovation on the verge of a breakthrough. Many customers will prefer a technology that has proven itself. If a technology is new they will want to know exactly how new or how risky it is. The EU H2020 programme uses Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) as indicators of the maturity of technologies. This indicator provides a common understanding of technology status and addresses the entire innovation chain. BwN technologies are often in the higher levels of this scale: TRL 6 and higher.
Organising the innovation process
Schumpeter was the first economist to identify innovation as an economic process. According to Schumpeter (1911) an innovator is an entrepreneur who is interested in creating something new that will improve the society he lives in. With an innovation the entrepreneur is able to gain a higher profit than the average producer. However, others will imitate a successful innovation soon, and only with repeated innovations the technological entrepreneur will be able to keep up the higher margin.
Theoretical models of innovation became more complex over time (Rothwell, 1992; Rothwell, 1994). Early models of how innovation takes place show a linear process: the technological push model.
source: Žižlavsky, 2013
source: E.M. Rogers (1962)
Later models include market pull factors such as market needs, customer satisfaction, and risk analysis. In this model innovation does not start in the head of the entrepreneur, but in the market itself. Marketeers collect information about customer needs which can then be processed by designers. For an example see the innovation process model from Žižlavsky. In this model an invention is distinguished from an innovation: an invention is a new idea, a scientific discovery or a new technology, while an innovation is an invention that is integrated into economic and social practice (Diaconu, 2011; Žižlavsky, 2013). The model still shows the boxes from the previous models (from technology development to marketing) but has expanded this with things like learning and recycling.
Today consumers have gained more power through public product reviews. Producers have increasingly opened up to direct contact with customers. The newest model for innovation, therefore, is co-creation, in which customers are actively involved in the development of new products. See for example the coloured figure in which the technology has moved out of focus entirely.
Diffusion of innovations
The Diffusion of Innovations theory of E.M. Rogers (1962) explains how new ideas are adopted in a society. Not everyone responds the same to a new technology. Depending on personal characteristics people can be innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority or laggards (see figure). BwN communications need to aim at innovators, early adopters or the early majority, depending on the Technological Readiness Level of a specific BwN technology.
Categories of adopter groups and how they respond to innovations.
Of course a person can belong in one adopter group for one type of product, and in another adopter group for another type of product, depending on personal preferences and expertise.
For a BwN-er the message of these innovation models and theories is that innovation is not just about optimizing a technology, but also about understanding the market and about close contact with customers. Innovation can even be seen as a complex system requiring interactions with customers, suppliers, traders, competitors and various other public and private organizations.
Ingredients for successful innovation:
• A technological entrepreneur with a visionary idea based upon technical knowledge
• Exploring market opportunities for new/improved products and services
• Scientific and technological expertise for development and production engineering
• Targeting of different customer types based on the technological readyness level
• Innovation of production techniques, learning by doing.
• Learning by using and knowledge of customer perceptions for continous innovation
Innovation is not a linear process and successes are hard to predict. Even when a product is technically perfect, there is no guarantee that it is accepted by customers (Žižlavsky, 2013) Innovations also go through drastic changes in their lifetimes (Diaconu, 2011).
b) How to manage interdisciplinary knowledge in BwN projects?
The strategies for the use of knowledge in BwN projects are based on the assumption that knowledge related to different policy fields needs to be integrated. Knowledge is assumed to be inherently related to a particular policy field, which is called a ‘knowledge arrangement’: actors, discourse, rules, regulations and resources affect the process of knowledge structuring and the other way around. This leads to knowledge arrangements with different perspectives, concepts and priorities.
Example of policy fields with different perspectives: the nature sector and the water sector both use the concept of ‘robustness’. For ecologists, robustness means a large nature area with a high biodiversity which is robust to disturbances. In the water sector robustness means a water body with few sensitive species so that the water body does not need too much maintenance (Veraart, 2016).
Knowledge arrangements are confronted with each other and interact in BwN projects. The strategy for using knowledge in BwN projects relates to this confrontation and interaction among knowledge arrangements. In the next section the ensuing enabling and constraining factors for realising a BwN design are identified.
Enabling and constraining factors for interdisciplinary work
Using knowledge from different policy fields requires bridging activities. While activities bridging boundaries between policy fields can help (enabling factors), they can also have an adverse effect by emphasizing existing boundaries (constraining factors). Demarcation of existing boundaries will not result in an integrated design. Inspired by the policy arrangement approach, the enabling and constraining factors are shown in the table below.
c) What to expect from knowledge in decision making processes
Conceptualisation of the knowledge-policy-interface
adapted after Turnhout (2007)
Knowledge use within projects results from interaction between the knowledge domain and the policy domain. This interaction results in context-specific knowledge ((Koppenjan and Klijn, 2004, In ‘t Veld 2000, Turnhout 2007). The figure represents a conceptualisation of this interface.
This section deals with
- the knowledge perception,
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- the knowledge opportunities
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- the knowledge pitfalls in decision making
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Knowledge perception in decision making
Different interpretations of knowledge emerge due to different perceptions by stakeholders, which can result in ambiguity. Each stakeholder may prefer a specific field of knowledge, methodology or research to be used. An environmental NGO, for instance, will be specifically concerned with effects on the ecosystem, while a flood authority may rather be concerned with the probability of flooding. Different parties may therefore value knowledge in a different way. Furthermore, tensions can emerge between different sources of knowledge. Some parties may prefer scientific or expert knowledge, developed by scientists and practitioners who strive for its general applicability and objectivity. On the other hand there is practical or lay knowledge, typically owned by local parties and based on experiences and local observations (Van Buuren et al, 2010; Hommes, 2008, Eshuis and Stuiver, 2005). Lastly, different disciplines may have different perceptions of knowledge. Research methods differ greatly between natural sciences and social sciences, for instance. The case study methodology, very common in social sciences, may not always align with the natural science approach of experimenting. The interaction between different disciplines is particularly relevant to Building with Nature projects, which strive for integration of functions. This includes opportunities, but also pitfalls, as discussed below.
Knowledge opportunities for decision making
Use of knowledge in BwN projects offers the following opportunities:
• Knowledge use leads to evidence based policy making and thus to effective solutions.
• Knowledge can lead to innovations which can be sold and implemented elsewhere.
• Social science can help to sort out conflicts.
The following strategies for realising these opportunities of knowledge in decision making are identified.
Cognitive and strategic learning are both needed to create a shared knowledge base (Hommes, 2008).
Knowledge pitfalls for decision making
The following pitfalls are commonly observed when applying knowledge in decision making processes:
d) How to deal with uncertainties in a BwN project?
- What is uncertainty?
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|Uncertainty refers to an incomplete and unclear understanding of the system to be managed (Brugnach et al., 2008). More conservative scientific interpretations of uncertainty state that it relates to missing insights and facts concerning choices and their effects. Irrespective of its nature or magnitude, uncertainty can become an issue of concern if it jeopardises the success of an initiative.|
BwN-type projects have to deal with high levels of uncertainty. Firstly, no complete knowledge exists regarding the behaviour of the natural system considered. Secondly, BwN involves larger and more variable spatial and temporal scales as compared with traditional "hard" engineering projects. Thirdly, BwN requires an interdisciplinary approach, which implies that many phenomena and their mutual interactions, each inherently uncertain, need to be taken into account. Finally, uncertain contextual factors such as climate and weather conditions are 'driving forces' of BwN and are of paramount importance.
It makes no sense to deny these uncertainties, as they are inherent to the system and to BwN. It is better to deal with them by, for instance, considering different scenarios and introducing flexibility in the chosen solutions.
Not every uncertainty can be reduced by additional research. Some of the contextual factors, including human behaviour, are unpredictable. Modeling, though easily disputed, can support decision making, e.g. by exploring scenarios and uncertainty ranges.
Many decision makers do not like uncertainty, but they will accept uncertain information as long as the process remains manageable. Certainty has to be provided that, if things take an unexpected turn, measures can be reversed, or at least controlled through adaptive management.
- What is ambiguity?
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In the literature, ambiguity is considered as a special type of uncertainty. It refers to a lack of clarity what the problem is and how it should be solved, due to the presence of multiple, equally valid knowledge frames (Dewulf et al., 2005; Brugnach et al., 2011; Brugnach and Ingram, 2012). As a consequence, multiple approaches and interpretations are promoted, and there are no criteria to distinguish between more and less valid interpretations of facts. In such situations, it is tempting for actors in the power game to question facts and knowledge, and to produce rivalry facts and knowledge. Stakeholders can hire their suppliers of knowledge to deliver knowledge that is gathered from their preferred perspective. Rivalry between governmental institutions sometimes also leads to a 'reports war' or 'dialogue of the deaf'.
Additional research usually cannot
- Three types of scientific uncertainty
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Following the definition of uncertainty provided above, a distinction is made between three types of uncertainty (Brugnach et al., 2008):
When identifying the most important uncertainties in a BwN project's development process, actors need to focus on the most important factors. These are the factors that can seriously hamper development, cause budget overruns or retrenchment, influence milestone decisions or even cause the cancellation of the entire project ("showstoppers"). Uncertainties in a project using BwN design principles are numerous, an inherent characteristic of this type of projects. Therefore, one should not be distracted by the many smaller issues, but focus on those uncertain factors that may become a major concern.
Beware that there is a difference between "true" uncertainty and perceived uncertainty. Some factors are "truly" uncertain, for instance because there is insufficient knowledge available. Other issues, however, can be perceived as uncertain by some actors, while there actually is sufficient knowledge available. Yet, both "true" and perceived uncertainties have the ability to influence project developments and are therefore equally relevant. Perceived uncertainty may be an ambiguity (e.g., different views about the level of certainty of a particular factor).
- Uncertainty identification: which uncertainties are most important?
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|Uncertainty has a meaning in policy development which goes beyond the classical scientific definition that uncertainty is just a 'deficit of knowledge'. In policy development, there are many stakeholders and actors, each with different backgrounds, values and beliefs. Therefore, multiple interpretations of an (uncertain) phenomenon are possible. As a consequence, ambiguity is often the most important type of uncertainty in BwN projects. More specifically, uncertainty becomes meaningful in policy development through its financial and social implications (e.g., swimmer safety around the Sand Engine). These are far more important than the unpredictability of weather conditions or a lack of knowledge concerning the behaviour of natural systems. BwN concerns projects with unclear temporal and spatial scales. Therefore, it is also difficult to determine which actors have to be involved in the project development process. This, in turn, can yield uncertainties if parties feel ignored and start objecting against the project.|
In the study of uncertainties in BwN project governance, no evidence was found that their size is important. No clues were detected in either documents or interviews that there is something like a maximum acceptable deviation or uncertainty bandwidth. Uncertainties are important if they have a potential effect on the success of a project. So: size does not matter: it is the (potential) effect of the uncertainties that counts.
- Uncertainty management: how to cope with it?
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Managing uncertainty is of major importance to BwN projects. The following general rules have to be regarded when choosing a strategy for coping with a particular type of uncertainty:
This is elaborated in further detail in the tool
Actually, the attitude of people towards uncertainty and its acceptability needs to change in order to make BwN successful. People tend to prefer a command-and-control approach to water engineering, with hard structures such as dikes and dams, aiming at controlling the natural system and eliminating uncertainties. This suggests full predictability of the water system and a guaranteed future state of the system. However, water engineers know that the system they build is limited for economic reasons and the natural system is capable of extremes that go beyond that design.
Contrastingly, flexibility is an inherent characteristic of the BwN approach; this means that guarantees about the future state of the system involved cannot be given. Current policy practices cannot cope with high levels of uncertainty in projects / designs. One way to change this situation might be to increase the media exposure of BwN, so as to increase its visibility to the general public. Also, raising awareness of the problems associated with climate change may make the general public realise that the adaptability of BwN solutions may be a better way to cope with higher future unpredictability of the climate.
In the BwN projects analysed so far, ambiguity and social implications were found to be the most important uncertainties. This means that addressing the differences between the various actors and stakeholders offers perspectives for managing uncertainties in BwN projects. Participation and cooperation are keywords, negotiation and dialogue important tools.
Start managing uncertainty as early as possible in the project development process by stimulating participation and cooperation. This will prevent framing differences, and hence ambiguity. In the Sand Engine project, for instance, there was concern about the budget and whether dredging contractors would accept a relatively low price per m3 of sand. This potential problem was successfully coped with by early involvement of market parties, in order to prevent problems in a later phase.
Uncertainty can be a powerful tool in project development. Project opponents can use "the presence of high levels of uncertainty", or a specific "uncertain, dangerous issue" to object against promising initiatives. They may mobilise politicians that share their ideas, like in the Sand Engine case on the issues of swimmer safety. Furthermore, other experts can come up with new facts to support their case (beware: these facts can be false or subjective, but they may just as well be true!). Be prepared to recognise and further identify these problems and invest in addressing them. Avoid getting into the spiral of a reports war. Some opponents may have become so upset that they are not interested in the facts anymore, but just want to stop the project. Instead, aim at reducing the feelings of distrust and insecurity by paying proper attention to people’s concerns. Use stakeholder input as early as possible to prevent these adverse dynamics.
Lessons learned regarding uncertainties
BwN initiatives will benefit from the following lessons and best BwN practices:
Uncertainties occur in almost every phase, but their influence on policy development is mostly indirect.
Toggle Cloak exclusive true id knowledge - uncertainty - lesson 1 Cloak id knowledge - uncertainty - lesson 1
Uncertainties concerning the technical aspects of a project, the project’s functionality and its effects on the ecosystem occur in almost every phase, but their influence on policy development is mostly indirect.
In policy development the emphasis is on the social implications of these uncertainties. Uncertainties tend to differ between project phases. Uncertainty management in a project should take this into account.
BwN projects, having both longer temporal and larger spatial scales are usually not yet taken into account in the policy development process.
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BwN projects have both longer temporal and larger spatial scales than traditional water engineering projects. Analyses from a governance perspective indicate that these scale differences are not yet taken into account in the policy development process of BwN projects.
Concerning uncertainty, focus among policy makers is on the short-term (disadvantageous) effects of the BwN projects, rather than on the long-term benefits. Short-term effects of the BwN project are inherently uncertain, meaning that it is ‘unfair’ to judge a BwN project on these characteristics only. Furthermore, communication should aim at increased understanding and negotiated acceptance of uncertainties in BwN water engineering projects.
A higher level of unpredictability requires a different approach to uncertainty.
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The higher level of unpredictability in BwN-type projects means that they require a different approach to uncertainty.
Current policy practices, however, are not accustomed to accepting high levels of uncertainty in projects / designs. Consequently, current strategies of coping with uncertainty are not likely to fit dealing with uncertainty in BwN projects. ‘Doing more research’, the usual response to uncertainty, is not an effective way of coping with the inherent unpredictability in a BwN project. Yet, performing social scientific studies into peoples concerns and perceptions might be a powerful instrument to manage the uncertainty in the social system that is related to the unpredictability of the natural system.
- Use the media to expose the general public to the BwN philosophy.
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Use the media to expose the general public to the BwN philosophy.
For instance, establishing a clear link between climate change and the potential of BwN to provide sustainable solutions may increase the awareness of the general public that BwN solutions are really needed in the future. Furthermore, keeping up the speed in the policy decision process of a BwN project can be a key strategy to prevent endless discussions about uncertainty. Stress that monitoring and feedback enable finetuning and adjustments, if necessary.
Practical applications - examples
Sand engine located in front of the Delfland coast,
Pilot Sand Engine Delfland
Building with Nature is a form of 'functional integration': combining nature and infrastructural goals in one design. The pilot Sand Engine Delfland is an example of a project (a dynamic, moving flood defence), in which multiple functions are combined: the projects aims at contributing to nature development, increased safety and recreation development. In 2011, this concentrated mega-nourishment was completed. From the perspective of knowledge arrangements, experiences are reported on
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constraining factors for functional integration,
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Actors and coalitions
Rules and regulations
Discourse / the story about the Sand Engine
Below we list a few constraining factors. It should be noted that certain factors may constrain functional integration, whereas they have a positive effect on other aspects on BwN. The ‘brains from Delft’ discourse (referring to the civil engineering expertise from Delft University of Technology), for instance, helped generating public support, but was a constraining factor in working towards an integrated approach.
Actors and coalitions
Rules and regulations
| Uncertainty identification|
In the Sand Engine case, three uncertainties were identified as potential threats to the project (Van den Hoek et al., 2012). They were categorised as ambiguities, caused by the existence of multiple (equally valid) interpretations of the situation:
In order to cope with these ambiguities, the following strategies were followed:
Knowledge in decision making
Functional Integration in BwN projects