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E3) Understanding knowledge arrangements

Start: 08/2018
End: 08/2022
Status: Active

Contact details

Martijn van Staveren

Wageningen University


This project has yielded insights into why and how combining different kinds of knowledge can be beneficial for designing effective and accepted flood risk management interventions. For example, residents near the Grebbedijk in Wageningen could indicate risk zones for piping based on earlier experiences. This example argues for the involvement of stakeholders in dike improvement projects and for purposefully engaging with knowledge types other than purely scientific. However, reaching out to and appreciating different forms of knowledge on their potential contribution to better flood risk management interventions is sometimes challenging. Working procedures and project management arrangements are biased to particular types of knowledge, which are already operational and standardised. Therefore, a recommendation to project managers and policymakers is to be creative and search for new possibilities and inspiration for collaboration.

Figure 1. Grebbedijk is a project between Rhenen and Wageningen. The Regional Water Authority works with multiple stakeholders to decide the preferred combination of dike reinforcements and spatial planning interventions (Photo by Martijn van Staveren).

Motivation and practical challenge

Dealing with flood risks in densely populated and low-lying deltas is one of the global challenges for a sustainable future. I learned from earlier research projects that various forms of knowledge can contribute to improved flood risk management. These various knowledge forms include government guidelines and norms, engineering applications and local spatial planning ideas. Although sometimes depicted as competitors, various knowledge forms can contribute to better grounded and more accepted flood risk management interventions. However, project managers often struggle to combine knowledge without overstepping efficiency, formality, and ownership boundaries. Engaging actively with stakeholders also creates expectations. In short, it is important to balance formal roles and responsibilities with constructive engagement with stakeholders involved in a dike reinforcement initiative.

Research challenge

The main challenge is to investigate to which extent knowledge arrangements designed to engage different forms of flood risk management are in place and provide recommendations for knowledge integration.

Innovative components

The innovative approach is to look at the existence of knowledge arrangements and assess how this helps to engage with different kinds of knowledge in flood risk management. It is relevant to mention that the project is not set up as an evaluation study. Instead, it aims to identify lessons learned and provide recommendations from other research conducted, case studies, etc. In terms of methodology, the project has enabled us to look at how knowledge arrangements are shaped during a prolonged project development trajectory: from exploratory studies to participatory work, designing options, to a final decision making step.

Overview of the innovative components including (1) policy arrangements such as actors' coalitions, rules and regulations, resources and capacities, and discourses, as well as (2) different kinds of knowledge. Source of the preferred alternative Ga voor de Grebbedijk Nota Voorkeursalternatief (2019).

Relevant for whom and where?

The specific recommendations are useful for project managers, but the general insights are also relevant for the wider stakeholder network involved in, or interesting to engage in, flood risk management initiatives.

The Grebbedijk dike reinforcement in Wageningen is the main location studied on this research.

Progress and practical application

Local knowledge is obtained via participatory processes. A sometimes slightly ‘overlooked’ form of knowledge is spatial planning and visual designing. These disciplines have the challenging task to turn discussions and explorations into practical options and visual presentations of flood risk management interventions.

Recommendations for practice

  • reach out to and appreciate different forms of knowledge on their potential contribution to better flood risk management interventions.
  • be creative and search for new possibilities as well as inspiration for collaboration.

Last modified: 23/12/2021

Contributing researchers

Martijn van Staveren

Wageningen University

Supervisory team Matthijs Kok

Delft University of Technology

Contributing partners

Project outputs

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23/08/2019 by Martijn van Staveren et al.

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Bevat: Publication open access journal


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