International Institute for Innovation in Governance

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:



A coevolutionary perspective on the adoption of sustainable land use practices

Cotton export substantially contributes to Uzbekistan’s economy. To produce cotton, the state imposes output targets on farmers which results in intensified cotton production practices, and consequently in land degradation. Improving degraded croplands via afforestation is an option explored through research experiments in the region, yet is currently not practiced by farmers. Using the example of the Amu Darya River lowlands of Uzbekistan, we analyze afforestation and its implementation constraints, by developing a coevolutionary socio-ecological systems framework that leans on evolutionary economics and evolutionary governance theories. Our study shows that farmers’ perceptions and rationalities, in close association with governance configurations of actors, institutions and knowledges, make them unreceptive towards afforestation. Altering relations between agricultural institutions and actors that are currently present in the cotton-centric configuration is difficult given the path-, inter- and goal dependencies. To change rural sustainable development paths, we conclude that the adoption of innovations requires a tailoring of knowledge and technology fitting local situation, as well as the reassembling of relations between actors, institutions and knowledge.

Djanibekov, U. , Van Assche, K., Boezeman, D., Villamor, G.B. & Djanibekov, N. (2018) A coevolutionary perspective on the adoption of sustainable land use practices: The case of afforestation on degraded croplands in Uzbekistan. Journal of Rural Studies 59: 1-9

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

Informal institutional change in De Achterhoek region


As in other European countries, the formal planning task of Dutch governments is subjected to devolution and austerity measures. Not only did these developments lead to outsourcing planning tasks to lower-level governments, also citizens are increasingly ‘invited’ to take responsibility for providing public facilities and services. In De Achterhoek, a Dutch region, these shifts are amplified due to population change and traditional active citizenship, and led to institutional change. Since a decade local governments stimulate citizen initiatives, under the umbrella of participatory governance. This process of institutional change did not alter formal institutions, but was the result of an informal and dialectic process between local governments and citizen organizations. In this paper, we will demonstrate the process of change and how it affected planning practices in De Achterhoek, building on theories of informal institutional change and its driving forces. The empirical part of this paper draws on the results of three focus group meetings, in which a diverse set of local stakeholders discussed the effects of change they observed and how it shaped planning practices. In the final section, we reflect on the degree of institutionalization, by examining the robustness and resilience of the observed change.

Meijer, M., & van der Krabben, E. (2018). Informal institutional change in De Achterhoek region: from citizen initiatives to participatory governance. European Planning Studies, 1-23.

Politics of policy learning

In Dutch healthcare, new market mechanisms have been introduced on an experimental basis in an attempt to contain costs and improve quality. Informed by a constructivist approach, we demonstrate that such experiments are not neutral testing grounds. Drawing from semi-structured interviews and policy texts, we reconstruct an experiment on free pricing in dental care that turned into a critical example of market failure, influencing developments in other sectors. Our analysis, however, shows that (1) different market logics and (2) different experimental logics were reproduced simultaneously during the course of the experiment. We furthermore reveal how (3) evaluation and political life influenced which logics were reproduced and became taken as thelessons learned. We use these insights to discuss the role of evaluation in learning from policy experimentation and close with four questions that evaluators could ask to better understand what is learned from policy experiments, how, and why.

Felder, M., van de Bovenkamp, H., & de Bont, A. (2018). Politics of policy learning: Evaluating an experiment on free pricing arrangements in Dutch dental careEvaluation24(1), 6-25.

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.

Institutions and Urban Space

This paper develops an historical institutionalist approach to municipal governance, infrastructure, and property institutions, suggesting that the dense matrices of institutions in cities are co-evolutionary and path dependent. Property, infrastructure, and governance institutions play a central role in regulating capital investment in cities, structure urban change, protect and structure property’s meaning and value, and demonstrate enduringly different approaches between jurisdictions. The institutions in place when land is urbanized have profound impacts on the institutionalization and forms of urban property and the accompanying infrastructure created. The primary positive feedback that contributes to path dependence in cities flows from existing sets of property in any given jurisdiction. Cities from this perspective are path dependent landscapes of property that are differentiated primarily by the enduring imprint of the institutions that produce them.

Sorensen, A. (2017). Institutions and Urban Space: Land, Infrastructure, and Governance in the Production of Urban PropertyPlanning Theory & Practice, 1-18.

Community power and institutional dependence in the renewable energy sector

The speed and progress of transitions towards renewable energy systems varies greatly between European member states. Among others, these differences have been attributed to the emergence of grassroots initiatives (GIs) that develop radical ideas and sustainable practices. The goal of this paper is to understand the differences in the emergence of GIs for renewable energy in relation to the institutional characteristics of Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. We analyze the possibilities of GIs to emerge and act within three dimensions: the material-economic, the actor-institutional and discursive dimension. We conclude that conditional factors lie within the material-economic dimension in terms of the biophysical conditions, the structure of the economy, energy dependency and the energy market. Within the actor-institutional dimension, we conclude that the presence or absence of fossil fuel incumbents, such as regional utilities, strongly influence the possibilities of GIs. Within the discursive dimension, openness for alternative discourses proved to be enabling for GI-activities, as well as democratized knowledge production. In addition to these conditions of possibility, GIs can also act despite dominant institutions, albeit limited. Finally, GIs need a strong network with knowledge institutes, technology developers and political parties in order to achieve institutional change that enables GIs to flourish. Without institutional space, GIs remain subjected to the dominant power-relations, and cannot exert much influence upon the energy system.

Henk-Jan Kooij, Marieke Oteman, Sietske Veenman, Karl Sperling, Dick Magnusson, Jenny Palm, Frede Hvelplund (2017) Between grassroots and treetops: Community power and institutional dependence in the renewable energy sector in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. Energy Research & Social Science, 37: 52–64

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