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Efficient collaboration in complex area planning processes

Stakeholder involvement & governance

Stakeholder engagement is an effective means of connecting technical and social-governance issues. KWR has a great deal of knowledge and experience to share with the water sector in these areas. In various national and international projects, we study how governments, knowledge institutions, market players, community organisations and citizens shape the provision of drinking water and integrated water management. Our expertise resides in research methods that are both quantitative and qualitative using for example interviews, focus groups, surveys and network analysis.

Determining a strategic role

Stakeholder engagement strengthens the effectiveness of organisations and makes it possible to solve complex planning challenges. Moreover, a changing environment calls for a collaborative approach, rather than the tackling of complex challenges on one’s own. This is the view of a growing number of national and international organisations. The choice of the right form of collaboration requires a good appraisal of the options. This takes into account the trends occurring in the external environment. We map out the interconnected issues, the players involved and their different interests. This enables water utilities and Water Authorities to systematically examine their possible courses of action (proactive vs reactive; sectoral vs integrated), giving them a basis to decide how they want to participate in spatial planning processes. For this purpose, three focus areas are identified: diagnosing capacity-development options, comprehending spatial processes, and multi-value creation.

Diagnosing capacity-development options

How can we help cities provide equitable, safe and reliable water resources, and ensure protection rather than water-related shock and stress? Integrated resilience thinking uses science, planning and stakeholder participation to diagnose and discover adaptive measures that increase the health and well-being of communities. It is the central theme of the KWR-developed City Blueprint Framework, an integrated assessment of the urban water cycle. At present, 75 cities in nearly 40 countries have been assessed and the results published in about 20 scientific, peer-reviewed papers. Stakeholder collaboration and knowledge coproduction are key for the data collection of the diagnosis of urban or regional water management performance.

The first copy of the Urban Water Atlas for Europe, with 45 City Blueprints of European Cities, was presented to EU Commissioner Vella of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (in the centre).

Climate change and urban growth are making the question of how stakeholders can jointly address water challenges increasingly important. Despite the numerous solutions available, many organisations have yet to find a good answer to the question. The application of the available technologies and knowledge is inhibited by a variety of barriers. The governance capacity to collaborate effectively and overcome these barriers is essential. The Governance Capacity Analysis framework bundles existing scientific knowledge into a practical assessment. We measure ‘governance capacity’ by analysing how well stakeholders collaborate in solving a specific water challenge. The framework provides a structured and reproducible diagnosis through a literature study, interviews and a feedback process with local stakeholders. The method is widely accredited, having been published in nine peer-reviewed papers and applied in 15 different contexts in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, North America and Latin America.

Results of the Governance Capacity Analysis of the city of Amsterdam for 27 indicators. The scores are ranked clockwise from low to high. Scores range from very encouraging (++) to very limiting (–), with regard to the governance capacity required to find dynamic solutions to address the identified governance challenges.

Comprehending spatial planning processes

KWR offers expertise beyond the diagnosis of capacity-development priorities. In particular, this includes the key area of comprehensive spatial planning, which aims at enhancing effective cross-stakeholder collaboration and improving water management capacity. Although spatial planning processes are becoming more and more important in the water sector, there are still very few guidelines available to help organisations to structure their actions. The objectives, roles, ambitions and visions of different stakeholders have to be taken into consideration. The same applies to decisions on whether to broaden or perhaps narrow a collaboration. The question is how to bring about effective collaborations in planning processes. For their strategic positioning, KWR helps water-related organisations select effective forms of collaboration, including their own role. A framework developed by KWR offers a solution. It presents several possible courses of action for various aspects of stakeholder management, allowing different stakeholders to reflect on the implications of the options for their organisations. This helps them give shape to their activities in this field.

Water in the circular economy: multiple-value creation

In order to effectively address the challenges of water and resource scarcity under climate change, the principles underlying the circular economy and multiple-value creation across different sectors and services are becoming essential. Multiple-value creation is a new way of working. It is a new collaborative ability, strategy, philosophy and another way of dealing with value creation. In order to capture circular value, it is important to consider the entire value chain. Over the last two decades, business and government have focused increasingly on economic growth, shareholder value and profit maximization. In public organisations we have seen a tendency to specialize and narrow the focus to a specific set of (measurable) tasks, while concentrating on cost efficiency. This is challenging as these entities are often dealing with complex issues, such as climate change, the energy transition and environmental degradation. These require a coordinated approach to explore win-win’s at local or regional level. Often, the main obstacles are the governance gaps as described by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (see below). These gaps may have an impact on the cooperation between stakeholders with diverging needs, when it comes to achieving flexible and adaptive future planning. The research into multiple-value creation aims to provide knowledge on different value systems, how to measure, assess and report value creation, and how to exchange value within a network of cooperation.

Governance gaps identified by the OECD.