Robust and time-sensitive governance

We aim to advance the academic thinking on robust and time-sensitive governance and to explore how this thinking can contribute to governmental policy and decision-making about grand challenges such as the energy transition, the circular economy, and climate change adaptation. Sub-objectives of this colloquium consist of:

  1. Further developing academic thinking and theory on: anticipatory governance, policy robustness, time-sensitive-governance, temporality, scenario thinking, policy myopia
  2. To discuss applications of these concepts to empirical contexts of, amongst others, water management, climate change adaptation, energy transition, circularity
  3. To improve the design of policy making and decision-making processes and arrangements by developing and sharing concrete recommendations for practice

Grand sustainability challenges like the energy transition, climate change adaptation (e.g. in response to accelerated sea level rise and more frequent and intense extreme weather events), and the circular economy require governments to think ahead and develop policies and other steering devices that make sure that cities, regions, countries can remain livable for a long period of time. But democratically-elected governments do not always have the mandate or resources to make decisions that impact subsequent choices for a long period of time or to make transformative decisions, that change the way in which citizens can or need to behave. Scientific knowledge on climate change is convincing and most governments have committed themselves to long-term objectives and goals such as the SDGs and the UNFCC treaties. How to reach such long-term objectives with present-day action is less clear and often controversial. There is a growing body of knowledge in the fields of robust governance, transition management, adaptive pathways, and strategic planning that tries to analyze but also design the institutions, capacities, conditions, mechanisms, strategies, and tactics that can contribute to more long-term thinking and more robust policy making. Robustness then refers to the capacity of policies to deal with unexpected disturbances and the capacity of the system to keep delivering crucial system functions while being faced with these disturbances.

In this colloquium we will deal with scientific questions such as:

  1. What are the characteristics of robust policies?
  2. To what extent does policy myopia exist and how can we countervail it
  3. What (long-term designed) institutions can enable more forward-looking policy and decision making?
  4. How can forecasting and backcasting activities be designed to contribute to governmental policy making
  5. How can bottom up governance strategies contribute to more future-proof urban contexts?
  6. How can governments collaborate and align policies and investment decisions to facilitate sustainability transitions?
  7. How can different temporal strategies enable policy actors to incorporate proactive thinking and acting?
  8. How can governments work with alternative pathway thinking?

The duration of the proposed colloquium will be 2 years (Mar. 2022-Feb. 2024)

We will organize online bi-monthly lunch seminars with a presentation of one or two of the participants, following a discussion (12 lunch seminars in total). In these seminars we will focus on work in progress and the seminars therefore facilitate more junior members to advance their ideas and research papers by receiving feedback. This will also help us to keep up to date with state-of-the-art science (objective 1). Furthermore, we will organize one face to face symposium at Utrecht University to meet each other, that will include parallel sessions to further engage on sub-themes and activities.

We will also use the colloquium to establish new interdisciplinary connections between research groups that work on futuring, resilience, robust and anticipatory governance, and transition management at different Dutch (and Belgium) universities, by inviting researchers to specific seminars or conference sessions.

Scientific conferences (NIG, IPPA) will be used to apply theories to empirical settings (objective 2), while webinars will be used to discuss and refine recommendations for practice together with practitioners (objective 3). In the autumn of 2021 (8 December), we already organized one webinar based on the special issue we coordinated in the journal of Bestuurskunde entitled ‘Buy now, pay later? Tijdsensitief besturen tijdens crises’. Over 50 people attended, with backgrounds in both academia and practice (regional water authorities, municipalities, environmental assessment agency, etc.). The colloquium can help us to further strengthen this network, our thinking, and knowledge sharing.

Panel session at NIG conference autumn 2022

Panel session at IPPA/ICPP conference summer 2023

Two webinars for scientists and practitioners autumn 2022 and autumn 2023

Book chapter or two articles with diverse participants from colloquium, one more science- oriented in, for example, Futures or Environmental Policy and Governance and one more practitioner-oriented in, for example, Bestuurskunde or Water Governance.

Dr. Wieke Pot (WUR)

Dr. Jorren Scherpenisse (UU and NSOB)

Prof. dr. Paul ’t Hart (UU)