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International Institute for Innovation in Governance

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Research methods as bridging devices

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the potential, both analytically and practically, of understanding research methods as bridging devices. Methods can bridge theory and empirics, but it is argued that they can perform several bridging functions: between theory and praxis, between analysis and strategy and between past and future. The focus is on those forms of bridging relevant for understanding and effectuating change in governance, at community level and at the scale of organizations.

The paper develops a perspective on methods as bridging devices. It uses the newly minted methods of governance path and context mapping as a case study. These methods conceptually derive from evolutionary governance theory (EGT) and were developed and tested in Canadian empirical research. The case helps to develop insight in features, forms and limitations of methods as bridging devices in governance research and practice. The authors then use the case to further develop the initial concept of bridging more generally, emphasizing the shifting balance between methods as bridging and creating boundaries.

Both the case study and the theoretical analysis underline the necessary imperfection of any method as bridging device. The authors affirm the potential of method to perform different bridging functions at the same time, while revealing clear tradeoffs in each role. Tradeoffs occur with adapted versions of the method producing new strengths and weaknesses in new contexts. In each of the forms of bridging involved neither side can be reduced to the other, so a gap always remains. It is demonstrated that the practice of bridging through method in governance is greatly helped when methods are flexibly deployed in ongoing processes of bricolage, nesting and modification. Governance enables the continuous production of new framing devices and other methods.

The idea of methods as bridging devices is new, and can assist the development of a broader understanding of the various forms and functions of research methods. Moreover, it helps to discern roles of research methods in the functioning of governance. The context of governance helps to recognize the multi-functionality of research methods, and their transformation in a context of pressured decision-making. Moreover, this approach contributes to the understanding of governance as adumbrated by EGT.

Van Assche, K., Beunen, R., Gruezmacher, M., Duineveld, M., Deacon, L., Summers, R., Hallstrom, L. & Jones, K. (2019). Research methods as bridging devices: path and context mapping in governanceJournal of Organizational Change Management.

Comparative Learning in and for Planning Systems

This thematic issue of the journal Urban Planning explores the ways in which comparative studies of planning systems can be useful for gaining a deeper understanding of learning processes and learning capacity in spatial planning systems. In contemporary planning systems the pressures towards learning and continuous self-transformation are high. On the one hand more and more planning is needed in terms of integration of expertise, policy, local knowledge, and response to long term environmental challenges, while on the other hand the value of planning systems is increasingly questioned and many places witness an erosion of planning institutions. The issue brings together a diversity of contributions that explore different forms of comparative learning and their value for any attempt at reorganization, adaptation and improvement of planning systems.

All papers are open access

Learning from Other Places and Their Plans: Comparative Learning in and for Planning Systems
Kristof Van Assche, Raoul Beunen and Stefan Verweij

Rethinking Planning Systems: A Plea for Self-Assessment and Comparative Learning
Frank J. D’Hondt, Kristof van Assche and Barend Julius Wind

Comparative Planning Research, Learning, and Governance: The Benefits and Limitations of Learning Policy by Comparison
Kristof van Assche, Raoul Beunen and Stefan Verweij

Diverging Ambitions and Instruments for Citizen Participation across Different Stages in Green Infrastructure Projects
Jannes J. Willems, Astrid Molenveld, William Voorberg and Geert Brinkman

Building Adaptive Capacity through Learning in Project-Oriented Organisations in Infrastructure Planning
Bert de Groot, Wim Leendertse and Jos Arts

Public Design of Urban Sprawl: Governments and the Extension of the Urban Fabric in Flanders and the Netherlands
Edwin Buitelaar and Hans Leinfelder                       

A Pattern Language Approach to Learning in Planning
Remon Rooij and Machiel van Dorst

Mitigating boom & bust cycles: the roles of land policy and planning

A special issue of Land Use Policy, edited by Kristof Van Assche, Monica Gruezmacher, Leith Deacon

The focus of this special issue is on the struggle by communities in many parts of the world to manage radical ups and downs. The cycles of ‘boom and bust’ are diverse, transcending the often referenced dependency on a dominant resource, and many different responses can be observed.

The special issue presents a global collection of experts who have diverse experiences with, and perspectives on boom and bust. The articles emphasize land use tools (e.g. policies and plans) as means to mitigate the consequences of boom and bust on impacted stakeholders, communities, and regions. The articles present a wide variety of responses to boom and bust, some coordinated into strategy, others less so. In some cases, cycles are anticipated, in others, a community aims at reinvention after a dramatic downturn. 

Taming the boom and the bust? Land use tools for mitigating ups and downs in communities
Kristof Van Assche, Monica Gruezmacher, Leith Deacon

Land use tools for tempering boom and bust: Strategy and capacity building in governance
Kristof Van Assche, Monica Gruezmacher, Leith Deacon

Long run agricultural land expansion, booms and busts
Edward B. Barbier

Dealing with the bust in Vorkuta, Russia
Nikolay Shiklomanov, Dmitry Streletskiy, Luis Suter, Robert Orttung, Nadezhda Zamyatina

Mining towns and urban sprawl in South Africa
Lochner Marais, Stuart Denoon-Stevens, Jan Cloete

The social impact management plan as a tool for local planning: Case study: Mining in Northern Finland
Leena Suopajärvi, Anna Kantola

Evolutionary governance in mining: Boom and bust in peripheral communities in Sweden
Simon Haikola, Jonas Anshelm

Long distance commuting: A tool to mitigate the impacts of the resources industries boom and bust cycle?
Fiona Haslam McKenzie

Regional economic transformation: Changing land and resource access on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island
Etienne Nel, Sean Connelly

Planning strategies for dealing with population decline: Experiences from the Netherlands
Raoul Beunen, Marlies Meijer, Jasper de Vries

Problem-Based solutions from the classroom to the Community: Transformative approaches to mitigate the impacts of boom-and-bust in declining urban communities
Jesus J. Lara

Urban expansion, the politics of land, and occupation as infrastructure in Kinshasa
Filip De Boeck

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