Analyzing Collaborative Governance Through Social Network Analysis: A Case Study of River Management Along the Waal River in The Netherlands


Until recently, governmental organizations played a dominant and decisive role in natural resource management. However, an increasing number of studies indicate that this dominant role is developing towards a more facilitating role as equal partner to improve efficiency and create a leaner state. This approach is characterized by complex collaborative relationships between various actors and sectors on multiple levels. To understand this complexity in the field of environmental management, we conducted a social network analysis of floodplain management in the Dutch Rhine delta. We charted the current interorganizational relationships between 43 organizations involved in flood protection (blue network) and nature management (green network) and explored the consequences of abolishing the central actor in these networks. The discontinuation of this actor will decrease the connectedness of actors within the blue and green network and may therefore have a large impact on the exchange of ideas and decision-making processes. Furthermore, our research shows the dependence of non-governmental actors on the main governmental organizations. It seems that the Dutch governmental organizations still have a dominant and controlling role in floodplain management. This challenges the alleged shift from a dominant government towards collaborative governance and calls for detailed analysis of actual governance.

Distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).


Social networks based on the monthly and weekly reciprocal ties concerning flood protection objectives (a) and nature objectives (b). Bold lines indicate the weekly ties. A gray node indicates a governmental organization and a black node a non-governmental organization. Numbers indicate the task or function of the six groups: 1 flood protection; 2 research institutes; 3 special interest groups; 4 nature; 5 agriculture; and 6 coordination or spatial planning. Source: Figure 3 from Fliervoet et al (2015;



Journal publication

Fliervoet, J.M., Geerling, G.W., Mostert, E. et al. Environmental Management (2016) 57: 355. Including link to supplementary material.

Ask questions and/or explore related research

Further explore this publication in   to ask questions and to identify related research. Send otherwise a message to the authors via this knowledge-base.


Replication dataset

This replication dataset contains the survey data of the 43 actors that were analyzed regarding collaborative ties. Access is available upon request.

Search categories

Related outputs

A stakeholder’s evaluation of collaborative processes for maintaining multi-functional floodplains: a Dutch case study

30/01/2017 by Jan Fliervoet et al.

Contains: Journal publication

View output

From implementation towards maintenance: sustaining collaborative initiatives for integrated floodplain management in the Netherlands

06/07/2016 by Jan Fliervoet et al.

Contains: Journal publication

View output

Management phase: Intervention Planning |

Management goals: Coordination & cooperation | Stakeholder participation |

Data-collection methods: Questionnaires/ surveys |

Study areas: Waal river (NL) |

Contributing Organisations

Radboud University Nijmegen


Delft University of Technology

Last modified: 24/06/2018


View publication

Contact details

Jan Fliervoet

Send a message

Table of contents