How to improve the adaptive capacity of Dutch Planning

10 proposals for change that, once implemented, will make the planning system less rigid and more adaptive.


> New book. Free download @ InPlanning.

> More information about Evolutionary Governance  @

Spatial planning is facing a paradox. The last decades have witnessed a growing number of scholars and professionals that criticize the possibilities of planning and who repeatedly show that planning fails to live up to its promises. Planning, some argue, is an ideal of the past that got dashed in the complex reality of contemporary society. Others take a more positive stance and believe spatial planning is indispensable if we want to tackle environmental and social issues, like climate change, rapid urban development, the increasing economic & social inequality in cities, food security, the decline of biodiversity and so on. Dealing with these opposite views on the possibilities and limits of planning requires us to develop novel perspectives on what planning is and how it works in different contexts, as well as new approaches that can help in realizing desired futures.

The book Spatial Planning in a Complex and Unpredictable World of Change, edited by Luuk Boelens and Gert de Roo, explores such novel perspective on spatial planning, taking into account the dynamic, non-linear, and often unpredictable nature of planning practices. It seeks innovation in planning theory and planning practices. For that reason it brings together theoretical and empirical reflections that seek to unravel and explain the processes of co-evolution that mark governance and planning. In the chapter Evolutionary Governance Theory and the Adaptive Capacity of the Dutch Planning System  by Raoul Beunen, Martijn Duineveld and Kristof Van Assche, Evolutionary Governance Theory is explained and developed to reflect on the success and failures of the Dutch planning system and its possibilities to adapt to ever changing circumstances.

Evolutionary Governance Theory is a novel framework for understanding the changing roles and forms of planning in a society. It is a theory of planning, steering and management that takes non-linearity and unpredictability into account. Therewith it offers a more refined understanding of how planning really works. Using the concepts of path, inter and goal dependency, we explore the possible pathways of planning in the Netherland. We conclude that the acceptance of complexity and non-linearity demand the planning system to embrace and enhance reflexivity and flexibility as important prerequisites for adaptation and innovation.

We end our chapter with a list of ten changes that, once implemented, will make the planning system less rigid and more adaptive.

The complete book can be downloaded from the website of InPlanning. Our chapter Evolutionary Governance Theory and the Adaptive Capacity of the Dutch Planning System can also be downloaded from Researchgate. More information about Evolutionary Governance Theory and innovation in governance can be found at the website

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Local Cosmopolitanism. Imagining and (Re-)Making Privileged Places


This book offers a unique perspective on cosmopolitanism, examining  the ways it is constructed and reconstructed on the small scale in an ongoing process of matching the local with the global, a process entailing mutual transformation. Based on a wide range of literatures and a series of case studies, it analyzes the different versions and functions of cosmopolitanism and points to the need to critically re-examine current conceptions of globalization.

The book first illustrates the interplay between networks and narratives in the construction of cosmopolitan communities in three specific cities: Trieste, Odessa and Tbilisi. Each has a past more cosmopolitan than the present and each uses that cosmopolitan past to guide them towards the future.

Next, the book focuses on narrative dynamics by isolating several discourses on the cosmopolitan place and figure in European cultural history. It then goes on to detail the internal representations and local functions of larger wholes in smaller communities, shedding a new light on issues of inter- disciplinary interest: self- governance, participation, local knowledge, social memory, scale, planning and development.

Of interest to political scientists, anthropologists, economists, geographers and philosophers, this book offers an insightful contribution to theories of globalization and global/ local interaction, bringing the local discursive mechanics into sharper focus and also emphasizing the semi- autonomous character of narrative constructions of self and community in a larger world.

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Understanding social ecological change through palm use and management

Wednesday 11th of Continue reading

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Rural development, knowledge and expertise in governance

ruraldevelopmentThe topic of rural development has received attention from a wide range of disciplines and professions. Many books and articles have been written, presenting success stories, critical reflections, and very detailed guidelines on how to realize development.

In a new book on rural development Kristof Van Assche and Anna-Katharina Hornidge bring together these different insights and discuss the most influential perspectives and renders their risks and benefits visible. They put forward a novel integrative perspective on rural development drawing on Evolutionary Governance Theory. Paying particular attention to the various roles of knowledge, Van Assche and Hornidge offer useful insights in the multiple discourses on development and the changing ways in which these are embedded in governance. Drawing on the experiences in five different continents they show that discourses, institutions, actors, are constantly co-evolving and they offer the reader the conceptual tools to understand how things are organized now, which development path has already been taken, and how things could possibly move in a different direction.

The book is available from Wageningen Academic Press

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The bio-politics of the Danube Delta

For many years Silk Road Researchbiopolitics has funded scientific research in the Danube Delta. Field work was carried out in both the Romania and the Ukrainian side of the border. This book presents the findings of this work. The Danube Delta is one of the largest and most valuable wetlands in Europe. Throughout history it has been a contested area and subject to conflicting claims and policies from the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Romania, the Soviet Union, and Ukraine. In this volume Constantin Iordachi and Kirstof Van Assche take an interdisciplinary look at the history, policy, and culture of the development and politics of the Danube Delta.


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Evolutionary Governance Theory: Theory and Applications

EGTIIThis new book in the series on Evolutionary Governance Theory (EGT) presents empirical studies and theoretical reflections on the most important concepts and their interrelations. Through this book we learn how communities understand themselves and their environment. Authors from different disciplines develop the EGT framework further and apply it to a wide range of governance issues covering topics such as welfare state governance, networks of power, climate change, water governance, natural resource management etc. The contributors reflect on the possibilities and limitations of steering, intervention, management and development in a world continuously in flux.

The book bridges the gap between more fundamental and philosophical accounts of the social sciences and applied studies, offering theoretical advancement as well as practical recommendations.

Raoul Beunen, Kristof Van Assche & Martijn Duineveld (eds.) (2015) Evolutionary Governance Theory: Theory and Applications. Springer, Heidelberg.

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Trust related dynamics in contested land use


Using insights about in-group and intergroup dynamics from social identity theory and sociology, we studied trust dynamics in intergroup relations in the Baviaanskloof (South Africa) over time. We conclude that in-group interpretations of intergroup interactions contribute to the lack of trust and ongoing reconstruction of distrust towards the other group. Constructions of group identities and group history reinforce differences between groups, shaping expectations about the behaviour of in-group and out-group members. In this process, seemingly unrelated past events and contextual changes were connected as uncontested arguments as to why the other group could not be trusted. The lack of trust and growing distrust stabilised group dynamics and thus distrust towards the other group. These inter- and in-group dynamics explain why adapting to major environmental changes, and future collaboration becomes more difficult in conflict situations.

De Vries, J.R., Aarts, N., Lokhorst, A.M., Beunen, R., Oude Munnink, J. (2014): Trust related dynamics in contested land use: A longitudinal study towards trust and distrust in intergroup conflicts in the Baviaanskloof, South Africa. Online first.

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The evolution of socio-ecological systems

thatch san martin

This article investigates natural resource governance in three indigenous communities in the Colombian Amazon. We base our analysis on an evolutionary governance model in which governance dimensions emerge as relevant through time. The less accessible of the communities represents earlier steps in governance evolution, while the more physically accessible is more integrated into the western scene. We observe how increased physical accessibility in a community brings in western governance models which hybridize with more traditional ones, influencing the couplings between the social and ecological systems. We zoom in on changing management of three commonly used palm species and illustrate how detailed studies of natural resource management contribute to understanding governance evolution. By comparing governance evolutions we were able to gain insights and improve our understanding on how natural resource management changes in communities transiting into western ways of living. In doing so we recognized points of rigidity and flexibility which might influence the social ecological systems capacity to adapt to changing conditions.

Gruezmacher, M. & Van Assche, K. (2014) The evolution of socio-ecological systems: changing palm species management in the Colombian Amazon as an indicator of ecological and institutional change. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.

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Evolutionary Governance Theory

The book Evolutionary Governance Theory: an Introduction is out. This book offers the reader a remarkable new perspective on the way markets, laws and societies evolve together. It can be of use to anyone interested in development, market and public sector reform, public administration, politics & law. Based on a wide variety of case studies on three continents and a variety of conceptual sources, the authors develop a theory that clarifies the nature and functioning of dependencies that mark governance evolutions. This in turn delineates in an entirely new manner the spaces open for policy experiment. As such, it offers a new mapping of the middle ground between libertarianism and social engineering. Theoretically, the approach draws on a wide array of sources: institutional & development economics, systems theories, post-structuralism, actor- network theories, planning theory and legal studies.

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Contested delineations: planning, law, and the governance of protected areas

Raoul Beunen, Kristof Van Assche

In this paper we reflect on the relationship between planning and law. We analyse the Dutch interpretation and implementation of the European Union Habitats and Birds Directives by investigating the practices of delineation of protected areas. These directives provide a legislative framework for the designation of protected sites as well as for decision making about social and economic activities that might have negative effects on the conservation objectives. The formal boundaries of the protected area can have legal, political, and economic consequences and are therefore the subject of much debate. Using Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory, we analyse the debates concerning delineation and the potential for planning to reduce tensions and balance interests. It is argued that the irreducible differences between the economic, political, and legal perspectives, in combination with the Dutch path of a legalistic interpretation of EU directives, have produced a situation in which the role of planning is reduced and new forms of planning are hard to implement.

Keywords: planning, law, natural resource management, Natura 2000, autopoiesis

Environment and Planning A

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