International Institute for Innovation in Governance



The Persistence of Tightly Coupled Conflicts. The Case of Loisaba, Kenya

Contributing to the debate on the multidimensional nature of resource-based conflicts in political ecology, and building upon Niklas Luhmann’s Social Systems Theory, we have studied the persistent and shifting nature of conflicts as well as their dependencies on other conflicts in and around Loisaba conservancy. This private conservancy is situated in northern Laikipia (Kenya). For a long time, its management was focused on wildlife conservation, high-end tourism and commercial ranching. Developments and events at neighbouring ranches and community conservation areas shifted this focus. Decades of more or less peaceful regional co-existence has recently transformed into conflictual, sometimes even violent situations. At first sight, these emergent conflicts seem related to recurrent droughts, competing resource dependencies, national elections, or incitements by wealthy and influential politicians. For this study, however, we conceptualise conflicts as particular kinds of discourses that emerge, exist and change. This happens not only according to their own internal logics, but also through their dependencies with other conflict discourses. In this paper, we characterise the relations between conflicts on a range from tight to loose couplings and introduce three related forms of coupling (overpoweringresisting, and resonating)to provide a more detailed understanding of how conflicts may interrelate.

Pellis A, Pas A, Duineveld M. The Persistence of Tightly Coupled Conflicts. The Case of Loisaba, Kenya. Conservation & Society 2018;16:387-96


Speculation, Planning, and Resilience: Case studies from resource-based communities in Western Canada

This paper investigates the linkages between speculation and resilience in resource-based communities (boomtowns) susceptible to economic swings (boom/bust) and reflect on the actual and possible roles of spatial planning to stabilize communities under conditions of boom, bust and speculation. The findings are based on a nested case study method, where the Western Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia are investigated more in detail through semi-structured interviews (N = 145) in 12 case communities. The paper shows that spatial planning must be understood broadly to discern its effects on community resiliency, with resiliency understood as the coordination of spatial organization. Planning, then, is crucial at two stages of development: in the choice of a settlement model and afterwards in the spatial embodiment of that model. The paper further highlights the importance of expectations and managing expectations in understanding and re-thinking the linkages between speculation and resilience, and the importance of associated ideologies in risk assessment and conceptualizations of resilience.

Deacon, L., Van Assche, K., Papineau, J., & Gruezmacher, M. (2018). Speculation, Planning, and Resilience: Case studies from resource-based communities in Western CanadaFutures.

Re-learning Public Spaces Summer School: 28 th June – 30th June and July 3rd 2018 (AMSTERDAM/WAGENINGEN)

You are welcome to join the Re-learning Public Spaces Summer School: 28 th June – 30th June and 3rd July. The Summer School will further develop your thinking about the social impact of your research. It is connected to an event that turns around the concept of traditional academic conferences, in the sense that participants will spend most of their time doing fieldwork and generating new insights, rather than solely reporting on their ongoing research. The Summer School will thus have the set-up of an Action Research Lab.

You can find the learning outcomes on the website:

Mapping institutional work

This paper investigates the potential of mapping institutional work in communities as a method for both analyzing and formulating local development strategy. Twelve Canadian case communities experiencing dramatic ups and downs (‘boom and bust towns’) serve as the empirical base. Analytically, it finds that institutional work for strategy takes on very diverse forms, some of them not described in the literature, and further identify a special class of institutional work associated with leadership. Normatively, it demonstrates that mapping institutional work can be a structured process of self-reflection underpinning strategy. For the Canadian case study, it finds that lack of local autonomy is often a stumbling block for strategy. More broadly, the paper conclude that mapping institutional work for strategy works best when governance evolutions are grasped as context, and when strategy itself is understood in its complex, multifaceted nature: a narrative, a way of linking institutions, and an institution in itself.

Van Assche, K., Gruezmacher, M., & Deacon, L. (2018). Mapping institutional work as a method for local strategy; learning from boom/bust dynamics in the Canadian west. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 1-21.

The paper is part of a special issue that explores the concept of institutional work in the context of environmental governance. It aims to develop a better insights in the actions that underly plannend and unplanned changes in evolving governance contexts.

The difficulties in co-creating institutional change in urban planning

This paper analyzes the institutional work that underlies the attempt to institutionalize a more active role of citizens in urban planning. It draws on a case in which a group of citizens aims to redevelop a brownfield site into a vital urban area. This citizens’ initiative is co-creating a new form of urban planning with the municipality, private organizations and individual citizens. The study shows how citizens’ initiatives can be a driver for institutional change, but that uncertainties about new institutions tend to reinforce the maintenance of existing ones. This paradox explains why even if the ambition for a new form of planning is widely shared, actually realizing institutional change can still be difficult and time-consuming.

Bisschops, S., & Beunen, R. (2018). A new role for citizens’ initiatives: the difficulties in co-creating institutional change in urban planningJournal of Environmental Planning and Management, 1-16.

Governance arrangements, funding mechanisms and power configurations

Implementing strategic spatial plans is a complex task. The process involves strategy formation, institutional capacity building, funding mechanism establishment and governance arrangements, which take shape within complex power configurations. Based on empirical evidence gathered by interviewing regional planning experts, this paper focuses on the role of governance arrangements and funding mechanisms in current practices of strategic plan implementation in 14 European urban regions. This investigation was completed bearing in mind power configurations, which shape and frame governance arrangements and funding mechanism in planning practice. A cross-case comparison provides evidence that, among the governance arrangements influencing plan implementation, negotiation and interest groups involvement are pivotal. Negotiation involves private interest groups, such as real estate agencies and environmental non-governmental organizations. The paper shows that in some case studies private interest groups have a substantial bargaining power to negotiate, for example, the development of a new housing settlement or a retail facility, while other groups struggle to safeguard natural areas. It is also during negotiations that plan implementation intentions are prioritized, strategic urban projects are formulated and funding mechanisms are established. The paper demonstrates that to truly grasp plan implementation praxis it is necessary to go beyond multi-actor involvement and inter-scalar government cooperation. It is necessary to scrutinize the funding sources, investigate who wins and who loses while negotiations are happening, and how plan implementation decisions are actually made.

Oliveira, E. & Hersperger, A.M. (2018) Governance arrangements, funding mechanisms and power configurations in current practices of strategic spatial plan implementation. Land Use Policy. Online first:


The contingency of landscape design interpretations

To address visual communication issues in landscape planning and design processes, an analytical framework that enables the study and possible anticipation of the interpretation of visual design representations is presented here. This framework consists of a hybrid theory of Peircean social semiotics and Laclaudian post-foundational discourse analysis (PDA). The semiotics of Peirce, through the concept of the interpretant, enable the conceptualization of the discourses that make up the socio-political contexts of design projects as so-called ‘interpretive habits’. This framework is demonstrated by partly reconstructing the socio-political context of Rebuild by Design, a design competition organized in the wake of hurricane Sandy in New York. It is suggested through this demonstration that the sign systems and discursive networks that influence the interpretations of design images by different stakeholders can be partially uncovered during the design process itself. By recognizing these interpretive habits during specific phases of the design process, planners and designers could potentially better anticipate the productive and counter-productive interpretations of their design representations.

Raaphorst, K. (2018) Knowing your audience: the contingency of landscape design interpretations. Journal of Urban Design. Online first

Call for papers: Spatial planning & place branding: rethinking synergies and governance

In a special issue for European Planning Studies we intend to bring together experts on spatial planning and place branding to think explicitly on the relation between the two fields and the potential of  theories and practices in which the two are integrated.

We believe exploring the relation between spatial planning and place branding is useful and important because, on the one hand, the relation is still under- explored, while planning could use the insights in place-based value creation stemming from place branding, and place branding often lacks insight in how places might actually be changed or preserved through coordinated intervention. On the other hand, much of the literature on place branding in our view either under- estimates or over- estimates what branding can do, partly because of underlying ideological assumptions, partly because of simply a lack of insight in the functioning of governance, including spatial governance.

Bringing planning and branding closer together in theory and practice means seeing their relation in the context of governance. Planning in this view is spatial governance, the coordination of policies and practices affecting the organization of space. Place branding refers to the creation of value in space by reinforcing and representing the assets of the place in a cohesive manner, in an image and a narrative of the place itself.

Given this context various topics could be explored in this special issue:

  • planning and branding and participatory governance
  • planning and branding and sustainable development
  • planning/branding and the balance preservation/innovation
  • spatial planning as part of place branding
  • place branding as part of spatial planning?
  • planning/branding as core of a development strategy?
  • nature and environmental assets in planning/branding
  • cultural landscapes as meta- assets for planning/branding
  • planning/branding and policy integration
  • innovation and branding
  • design in planning/branding
  • power/knowledge in planning/branding
  • scales in governance/ multi- level governance
  • combining planning/branding for places with deep history
  • agriculture and new food cultures as drivers of planning/branding
  • planning/branding and the balance between collaboration and competition
  • models of branding or planning: caution with best practices

If you are interested in making a contribution to the special issue, please send an abstract of 300-500 words to the guest editors by Feb 15, 2018; for those invited to submit a full paper, please submit this to the guest editors by August 1, 2018; after an internal review and revision, the usual external review for the journal will take place.

Kristof Van Assche, Raoul Beunen and Eduardo Oliveira


Call for papers: land use instruments

The Journal Land Use Policy is organizing a special  issue on land use instruments to mitigate radical shifts or boom and bust cycles in communities. The special issue will include papers from well-known universities and research institutes in the United States, Indonesia, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, among others, and is currently looking to expand the breadth of topics and geographical areas in order to have a genuinely comparative approach.

The special issue starts from a broad understanding of land use tools that includes all those institutional tools that affect the coordination of land use. Various sorts of planning, zoning, economic development strategies, preservation policies, etc. can have the character of land use policy tool if they aim at the coordination of land use and the reorganization of land. They can include and activate more circumscribed and focused land use tools.

The cases presented in this special issue are expected to highlight the diverse ways communities have confronted the radical changes associated with boom and bust and the lessons learned to try to mitigate them.

If you are interested you can participate by sending a 300 word abstract to Monica Gruezmacher (gruezmac[at]ualberta[dot]ca) by December 30th this year. 

Via this you will find a short explanatory document with details on the content, process and approach.

Blog at

Up ↑