International Institute for Innovation in Governance



Steering in Governance: evolutionary perspectives

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

Long-term perspectives & strategy

The journal Futures has published a special issue on Long-term perspectives and strategy. This special issue analyses and reflects on relations between long term perspectives and strategies in governance. While dismissing high modernist planning and acknowledging constraints to long-term policies, the different contributions in this volume, each in their own way, contend that strategy is necessary to face the challenges of our times. The fifteen articles highlight different aspects of the possibilities of and limits to strategy in governance, to turn long-term perspectives into strategy and strategy into reality. They all examine how long- term perspectives and issues are constituted by different governance practices and emerge in rather different policy contexts, which points to the need to better understand the diverse interplay between strategy, long-term perspectives and patterns of policy integration. Furthermore, the contributions emphasize how long-range governance requires careful attention to issues of temporality, the management of uncertainty and the interplay between the short term and the long term.

Strategy for collectives and common goods: Coordinating strategy, long-term perspectives and policy domains in governance

Kristof Van Assche, Gert Verschraegen, Monica Gruezmacher

Strategic openings: On the productivity of blended long-term perspectives in spatial strategy. A Dutch case study

Ferry van de Mosselaer, Martijn Duineveld

Strategy’s futures

Liliana Doganova, Martin Kornberger

There is no such thing as a short-term issue

Michael K. MacKenzie

Assessing the options for combatting democratic myopia and safeguarding long-term interests

Jonathan Boston

Breaking through the epistemic impasse: Ending homelessness with the invention of ‘functional zero’ in the Anglo-American world

Joshua Evans, Tom Baker

What makes long-term perspectives endure? Lessons from Dutch nature conservation

Raoul Beunen, Iulian Barba Lata

Governing through strategies: How does Finland sustain a future-oriented environmental policy for the long term?

Vesa Koskimaa, Lauri Rapeli, Juha Hiedanpää

Anticipating and planning for mine closure in South Africa

Lochner Marais, Anri de Lange

Shaping future perspectives in policy advice under deep, long-term uncertainty. The case of the Dutch Delta Committee

S.A. Van ‘t Klooster, S.A. Veenman

Prospects of a transition to the knowledge economy in Saudi Arabia and Qatar: A critical reflection through the lens of spatial embeddedness and evolutionary governance theory

Abbas Ziafati Bafarasat, Eduardo Oliveira

Governing technological zones, making national renewable energy futures

Shana Lee Hirsch

‘Solving for X?’ Towards a problem-finding framework to ground long-term governance strategies for artificial intelligence

Hin-Yan Liu, Matthijs M. Maas

Reinvention paths and reinvention paradox: Strategic change in Western Newfoundland communities

Kristof Van Assche, Monica Gruezmacher, Kelly Vodden, Ryan Gibson, Leith Deacon

Strategic spatial planning through pragmatic blueprints: Forms and levels of adaptivity in modernist planning of the Dutch IJsselmeerpolders

Terry van Dijk

Futures Special Issue: Linking strategy, long term perspectives and policy domains in governance

Collective visions and expectations for the long- term future shape and influence what kind of governance strategies are used, while the latter encode, perform and transform what is meant by ‘long-term’ governance challenges and perspectives. The unique character of linkages between long term perspectives and strategies per institutionalized policy domain is something deserving investigation: water governance and pension policy each envision a long term, but these are different, and the translation into strategy follows different paths.

This investigation can shed a light on the possibilities and limits of strategies which link policy domains, which transcend their topical or geographical boundaries. Such strategies in some cases can materialize an imagined future for a community, the community associated with the governance system, a community which to a certain extent is always imagined but can nevertheless transform and be transformed by governance. Climate change policy can address an imagined world community, attempt to both create and change that community by strategy which aims to coordinate states and many policy domains within them. Locally, a comprehensive plan can aim to guide the development of a city, an pursue policy coordination through a spatial frame.

In this issue, we intend to bring together an interdisciplinary group of authors to investigate the relations between long term perspectives and strategies in governance. We would like to invite contributions from diverse disciplines, including but not limited to policy studies, environmental studies, public administration, planning, sociology, geography, cultural studies, political science, management studies. We are open to studies of all domains of governance, each marked by their own temporalities, forms of looking forward, remembering and coordinating, each with their own relations to other policy domains.

We argue that a more thorough understanding of the linkages between long term perspective, strategies and particular policy domains [and their values, narratives, strategies] in governance helps to grasp anew the possibilities and limitations of strategy in governance. One can speak of a reassessment of the possibilities of steering, of pursuing public goods at larger scales. Another contribution of this collection can be new insight in the possibilities and mechanics of so-called place based development, here not restricted to local, participatory, ‘community based’ development, but understood as development articulated in and pursued by governance in a particular spatial frame, either inside or beyond the sphere of local/regional/national government.

More information:

Coral reefs and the slow emergence of institutional structures for a glocal land- and sea-based collective dilemma

Coral reefs are subject to multiple stressors. Global stressors include climate change and ocean acidification, while local stressors include overfishing and eutrophication. Some stressors stem from land-based activities, like intensive agriculture or sewage production, while others are sea-based, like fishing or diving. Processes that aim to tackle coral degradation are transpiring on different levels. These include the UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goal 14, and the Coral Triangle Initiative, which foresees the installation of marine protected areas and conservation planning. This paper uses Evolutionary Governance Theory (EGT) to understand the current processes of changes in governance influencing coral reef health. EGT sees the change of governance as an evolutionary process. It emphasises that discourses play a crucial role in understanding governance evolution. Power, in particular power-knowledge in the Foucaultian sense, plays a crucial role as a driving factor. Governance does not change in a vacuum, but according to EGT is shaped by path, inter- and goal dependencies. Of late, the role of materiality – ecological and technological conditions – has been stressed as an important driver of governance change. The paper considers the main threats to corals identified in the literature and analyses how those factors mentioned by EGT help us to understand the observed governance changes. The case of coral reefs was chosen as it represents an example of extremely diverse processes of institutional changes. Therefore, it is well suited to learn if EGT helps in understanding governance changes observed in the marine sector.

Schlüter, A., Vance, C., & Ferse, S. (2019). Coral reefs and the slow emergence of institutional structures for a glocal land-and sea-based collective dilemmaMarine Policy, 103505.

The risky business of planning reform

In many countries throughout the EU recent planning reforms have reduced the possibilities for comprehensive and long-term planning. This paper explores the factors that explain why one of these countries, Poland, lost many of its tools for coordinating the policies and practices affecting spatial organization at the local level. The study, based on the discourses of spatial planners, traces the institutionalisation of local spatial planning in Poland since the 1920s identifying dominant policy paradigms and internal and external determinants leading to the reform in the early 1990s. It shows that the planning reform was driven by attempts to adapt planning institutions to changing political and legal environments after 1989. The new institutional framework that emerged from the reform failed to introduce alternative and effective forms of local spatial planning. Once options for planning were reduced, it became difficult to revive them. The case of Poland shows that a revision of long-term planning institutions might have unexpected outcomes and that it might be difficult to restore particular instruments and planning approaches once they have been removed from the toolbox of the planning system institutionalisation of local spatial planning in Poland since the 1920s identifying dominant policy paradigms and internal and external determinants leading to the reform in the early 1990s. It shows that the planning reform was driven by attempts to adapt planning institutions to changing political and legal environments after 1989. The new institutional framework that emerged from the reform failed to introduce alternative and effective forms of local spatial planning. Once options for planning were reduced, it became difficult to revive them. The case of Poland shows that a revision of long-term planning institutions might have unexpected outcomes and that it might be difficult to restore particular instruments and planning approaches once they have been removed from the toolbox of the planning system.

Niedziałkowski, K., & Beunen, R. (2019). The risky business of planning reform–The evolution of local spatial planning in Poland. Land Use Policy, 85, 11-20.

Governance and the coastal condition: Towards new modes of observation, adaptation and integration

The conceptual framework of evolutionary governance theory (EGT) is deployed and extended to rethink the idea of coastal governance and the possibilities of a coastal governance better adapted to challenges of climate change and intensified use of both land and sea. ‘The coastal condition’ is analyzed as a situation where particular modes of observation and coordination were possible and necessary, and those observations (and derived calculations of risk and opportunity) are valuable for the governance of both land and an argument is constructed for a separate arena for coastal governance, without erasing the internal logic of pre-existing governance for land and sea. This entails that coastal governance is destined to be a place of (productive) conflict, as much as of policy integration. Policy integration will be more difficult and more important in coastal governance, as this is an arena where the effects of many land based activities and activities at sea become visible and entangled. Policy integration in coastal governance does however require deep knowledge of the governance path and existing forms of integration there (e.g. in planning), and it exists in an uneasy tension with the requirements of adaptive governance. This tension further contributes to the complexity and complex-prone character of coastal governance. Neither complexity nor conflict can be avoided, and coastal governance as an image of balanced decision- making is (positively) presented as a productive fiction.

Van Assche, K., Hornidge, A. K., Schlüter, A., & Vaidianu, N. (2019). Governance and the coastal condition: Towards new modes of observation, adaptation and integrationMarine Policy.


Evolutionary Governance Theory enters the Canon of Planning Theory

‘From Habermas and Lefebvre to Rancière and Mouffe this handbook captures the zeitgeist of planning theory with contributions from some of the most innovative thinkers in their fields.’ Professor Phil Allmendinger

In a changing and often unpredictable globalized world, planning theory is core to understanding how planning and its practices both function and evolve. As illustrated in The Routledge Handbook of Planning Theory, planning and its many roles have changed profoundly over the recent decades; so have the theories, both critical and explanatory, about its practices, values and knowledges. The handbook presents key contemporary themes in planning theory through the views of some of the most innovative thinkers in planning.

The Routledge Handbook of Planning Theory includes a chapter on Evolutionary Governance Theory. The chapter analyses the presence, the origins and the potential of co- evolutionary perspectives in planning theory. It pays particular attention to Evolutionary Governance Theory, as a comprehensive perspective on co- evolution in spatial planning and governance. The co- evolutionary approach to planning presents a middle ground between (social) engineering approaches on the one hand and theories completely disqualifying planning and steering on the other. Both ends of the spectrum have often been criticized for respectively overestimating the steering possibilities of governments and the organizing capacities of markets. Planning theory embedded in governance theory can help to analyse and understand a particular governance context, to delineate the possibilities and limits of planning in that context, and to determine which planning efforts are most likely to have a positive impact. In a co-evolutionary perspective, context as such, and governance context in particular, are never fixed, never stable: all elements and structures are continuously influencing each other.

The co-evolutionary perspective as developed in EGT opens up planning theory for a series of relevant concepts from different disciplines, relevant for the analysis of current and potential forms of planning in a community, while conversely giving theories and practices of planning a firm place within governance. The chapter shows how a co-evolutionary perspective is a very useful lens for both analysis and change, for the development of new planning perspectives or for the deliberate circumvention of a current planning system.

Natural capital and the political economy of wetland governance in Alberta

The legitimacy of wetland decisions depends on how science and values are integrated and reflected in wetland management decisions. Natural capital and ecosystem services (ES) have become integral to how we think about ecosystem management however there is no consensus on how these concepts should be applied in management. Through the example of Alberta’s wetland policy, we show how policies designed to mainstream natural capital and ES in decision-making are aligned with liberal governance arrangements that emerged in the nineteenth century. There is a governance gap between individual wetland decisions and collective ecological outcomes. The Alberta wetland policy highlights three challenges to embracing the natural capital metaphor in a liberal government context: lack of consensus on policy objectives; case by case enforcement of policy leading to continued wetland drainage; and minimal consequences for non-compliance. The combination of norms about what is fair in terms of government intervention in land use decisions and scientific uncertainty about wetland ecosystem function makes it difficult to achieve consensus on limits to wetland loss contributing to continued loss of wetland ecological function. The discussion highlights the necessity of renewed political discourse about freedom, power, and justice in relation to collective economic and ecological security.

Weber, M., Krogman, M., Foote, L. & Rooney, R. (2017) Natural capital and the political economy of wetland governance in Alberta. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning. Online first.

Small-scale fisheries within maritime spatial planning

The coasts hold great potential for ‘Blue Growth’, and major industrial and infrastructural developments are already happening there. Such growth, however, comes with risks to marine ecosystems and coastal communities. Competition for space and resources intensifies, turning the coast into an area of social and political conflict, including contestation about knowledge. This paper argues that there is a need for institutional innovation that allows knowledge integration and conflict resolution to be more interactive and synergistic. The paper critically analyses discourses and practices of interactive governance and co-management while visiting Foucault’s power/knowledge concept for investigating the normativity and effects of participation discourses and practices. This is followed by a discussion of multiple governance paths and their different combinations of resources and forms of expert and local social and ecological knowledge so as to see how they can help resolve conflicts, and enhance governability within maritime spatial planning (MSP) in a way that also serves to create a level playing field for all stakeholders. A particular focus will be on the small-scale fisheries sector, which is the lest powerful stakeholder and the most vulnerable to external pressures. Will MSP help to empower or further marginalize small-scale fishers and fisheries communities?

Jentoft, S. (2017). Small-scale fisheries within maritime spatial planning: knowledge integration and power. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 1-13.

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