Get an overview about the project outputs and related knowledge

E2) Cross-sector collaboration

Start: 05/2017
End: 12/2021
Status: Active

Contact details

Emma Avoyan

Radboud University


This project provides a better understanding of cross-sector collaboration during the exploration phases of dike reinforcement projects. Despite the growing interdependences, existing power relations between the sectors are characterised by the dominance of the water sector. Cross-sector collaboration can develop as long as it does not compromise flood safety. This configuration mostly resulted in the good performance of collaborative projects characterised by integrative plans and innovative solutions. A number of factors are identified to be important for good performance: the role of connective project managers, the willingness of collaborating parties to contribute financially along with a good engagement process, high motivation, innovation enabling institutional design and the necessary expertise and knowledge.

Top: Grebbedijk's development area; Middle: 'Dijkdenkers' discussing ambitions for the dike reinforcement; Bottom: Grebbedijk's section that allows for recreational and economic activities (Photos by Grebbedijk project and Waterschap Vallei en Veluwe).

Motivation and practical challenge

In the Netherlands and abroad, large-scale infrastructure projects, such as dike reinforcement projects, often trigger complex interactions between diverse actors and organisations working together. These actors bring to the process their interests and solutions to the problem. They may collaborate intensively during the exploratory project phases to explore and identify opportunities for linking flood safety with spatial and environmental solutions on and around dikes. The time and resources invested in these exploratory phases imply that the chosen collaborative approach is likely to make a difference. Still, there are concerns about the efficiency and effectiveness of the intensive collaborative processes organised during these projects. Yet, this knowledge would allow management organisations to prioritise cross-sector collaboration when and if needed. This is the reason why as a researcher and a former environmental planner, I am intrigued by the phenomenon of collaboration.

Research challenge

To understand the challenges and benefits of cross-sector collaboration, I investigate how and to what extent different collaborative process factors lead to integrative and, innovative solutions for realizing integrative flood protection projects.

Innovative components

My research mixes different research methods to better understand the effectiveness and efficiency of cross-sector collaboration. I have first synthesised the literature on Dutch flood risk governance to look closely at cross-sector collaboration efforts since the flooding disaster of 1953 until the recent developments. Then, I examined qualitatively key factors and mechanisms of collaborative processes based on an in-depth case study of the dike reinforcement project: the Grebbedijk project. Finally, I compared multiple projects, including from abroad, to identify different combinations of factors within successful largescale infrastructure projects: pathways to success. For this, I used the method of qualitative configurational analysis (QCA), which is a promising approach in examining the complex phenomena of cross-sector collaboration.

Overview of the innovative components of the research.

Relevant for whom and where?

Policymakers, advisory organisations and scholars interested in project performance assessments, cross-sector collaboration and collaborative governance of large-scale infrastructure projects involving multiple functions and private and public organisations.

On the map, Grebbedijk project in Wageningen that is one of the ongoing projects of the Flood Protection program studied within this project.

Progress and practical application

Collaboration between organisations creates opportunities for developing integrative, innovative and legitimate solutions (click related outputs below). However, as power relations and political/administrative circumstances are generally decisive, the quality of these solutions varies depending on how cross-sector collaboration evolves throughout exploratory phases. There may be different pathways to success with different combinations of factors. Although there is no single recipe for success, the factors identified in this research (good engagement process, shared motivation, connective manager, resource contribution willingness, knowledge and expertise, and institutional design for innovation) can be used as an evaluation framework. Regular reflection on the presence or absence of success factors may help project managers to learn more about factors that would need to be improved. For details about findings, see the related outputs.

Recommendations for practice

  • Use the success factors as an evaluation framework of collaborative processes within dike reinforcement among other area development projects.
  • Recruit project managers with connective capacity and experience in designing and implementing integrated multidisciplinary and complex infrastructure projects.
  • Engage and collaborate with area partners as early as possible in the exploration phase.
  • Co-develop innovative solutions via specific procedural arrangements (e.g. design approach)

Last modified: 23/12/2021

Contributing researchers

Emma Avoyan

Radboud University

Co-authors team

Prof. Sander Meijerink

Radboud University

Prof. Peter Ache

Radboud University

Contributing partners

What makes collaboration a success?

To ensure integrated solutions, responsible actors should turn success factors of dike reinforcement projects into an established practice.

Emma Avoyan

Radboud University

View storyline

View storyline

Project outputs

Inside the black box of collaboration: a process-tracing study of collaborative flood risk governance in the Netherlands

This study suggests that well-organised processes of principled engagement facilitated by adaptive and connective leaders may compensate for lack of shared motivation among collaborating parties and succeed in delivering desired collaborative outputs without investing much in building trust and shared motivation.


View publication

Bevat: Publication open access journal

The architecture of collaborative governance regimes in Dutch flood risk management: The Grebbedijk case

Supported by an extensive document analysis, observations made during project meetings as well as a series of in depth interviews, we assessed the overall performance of the collaborative governance regime.

06/11/2019 by Emma Avoyan et al.

View details

Bevat: Conference proceedings

Cross-sector collaboration within Dutch flood risk governance: historical analysis of external triggers

Literature synthesis to track how the policy and legal frameworks, socio-economic circumstances, political realities, power relations and conflict situations influenced the attempts at collaboration since the flooding disaster of 1953.

21/05/2019 by Emma Avoyan et al.

View publication

Bevat: Publication open access journal


What is the legal transition about?

18/06/2020 by Monica Lanz

Following the blog about the risk-based approach, here we provide insights into the coming 'Omgevingswet' or Environment and Planning Act. This new framework makes...

View blog

All blogs



Reflection: Looking beyond reinforcement

Implementing large-scale infrastructure projects for flood risk management requires good collaboration between water authorities, municipalities, landowners and societal organisations.

View event

All events


The day of the dike worker Emma Avoyan

31/08/2020 by Emma Avoyan

The All-Risk research is particularly useful to the Dutch Protection Program (HWBP). Such is the case of Emma Avoyan researcher at Radboud University into...

View details

Your opinion matters to understand the governance of flood protection projects - Ongoing survey

28/09/2020 by Emma Avoyan

Are you currently involved you in or have knowledge about one the projects of Dutch Flood Protection Program (HWBP in Dutch)? Then, you can...

View details

All news


Digital magazine of the Flood Protection Program

29/09/2020 by Matthijs Kok

The Flood Protection Program (also known in Dutch as HWBP), an alliance of the 21 water regional authorities and the Dutch Ministry of Water...

View newsletter

All newsletters