Steering has negative connotations nowadays in many discussions on governance, policy, politics and planning. The associations with the modernist state project linger on. At the same time, a rethinking of what is possible by means of policy and planning, what is possible through governance, which forms of change and which pursuits of common goods still make sense, in an era of cynicism about steering yet also high steering expectations, seems eminently useful. Between laissez faire and blue-print planning are many paths which can be walked. In this thematic issue, we highlight the value of evolutionary understandings of governance and of governance in society, in order to grasp which self-transformations of governance systems are more likely than others and which governance tools and ideas stand a better chance than others in a particular context. We pay particular attention to Evolutionary Governance Theory (EGT) as a perspective on governance which delineates steering options as stemming from a set of co-evolutions in governance. Understanding steering options requires, for EGT, path mapping of unique governance paths, as well as context mapping, the external contexts relevant for the mode of reproduction of the governance system in case. A rethinking of steering in governance, through the lens of EGT, can shed a light on governance for innovation, sustainability transitions, new forms of participation and self-organization. For EGT, co-evolutions and dependencies, not only limit but also shape possibilities of steering, per path and per domain of governance and policy.

Table of Contents:

Steering in Governance: Evolutionary Perspectives
By Raoul Beunen and Kristof Van Assche

Steering as Path Creation: Leadership and the Art of Managing Dependencies and Reality Effects
By Kristof Van Assche, Martijn Duineveld, Monica Gruezmacher and Raoul Beunen

Economic Transitions in South Africa’s Secondary Cities: Governing Mine Closures
By Lochner Marais, Verna Nel, Kholisa Rani, Deidré van Rooyen, Kentse Sesele, Phia van der Watt and Lyndon du Plessis

Irritation Design: Updating Steering Theory in the Age of Governance
By Marc Mölders

Social Investment Policies in the EU: Actively Concrete or Passively Abstract?
By Gaby Umbach and Igor Tkalec

Strategy and Steering in Governance: The Changing Fates of the Argentine Planning Council
By Rodrigo Alves Rolo, Kristof Van Assche and Martijn Duineveld

What Is the Role of the Government in Wildlife Policy? Evolutionary Governance Perspective
By Krzysztof Niedziałkowski and Renata Putkowska-Smoter

Mitigating Pro-Poor Housing Failures: Access Theory and the Politics of Urban Governance
By Katja Mielke and Helena Cermeño

Policy Assemblages and Policy Resilience: Lessons for Non-Design from Evolutionary Governance Theory
By Kris Hartley and Michael Howlett