Governance in transition

Meeting the challenges of climate change, disasters, and competition for energy and resources requires transitions in the way we govern. In 2015 the focus of the Risk, Policy and Vulnerability (RPV) Program’s work on governance was on open government, stakeholder perceptions, and the involvement of multiple stakeholder perspectives in participatory settings.

© Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime

© Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime

Transparency, trust, and respect of competing worldviews, are vital in reaching stakeholder agreement on an acceptable policy solution, numerous case studies have shown. This message underlies RPV’s pursuit of “clumsy” solutions for highly contentious policy debates—solutions that involve and respect all voices in reaching a negotiated compromise.

Trust and transparency

RPV research [1], documented and analyzed the policy processes for implementing five electricity transmission projects in Belgium, Germany, and the UK. Trust in information sources—transmission system operators, government, civil society organizations, or academia—emerged as a key factor in public acceptance of the projects, pointing to the need for “clumsier” processes.

Hearing all the voices

An RPV special issue of Natural Hazards documents a three-year participatory process in Italy that engaged citizens and experts in the co-production of landslide risk mitigation options [6]. The main difference in this RPV-led process, compared with other analytic-deliberative processes, was its explicit elicitation and structuring of multiple stakeholder worldviews (or perspectives) on the nature of the problem and its solution, building on the theory of plural rationality. The role of experts also departed from conventional practice since expert support, which included quantitative risk analysis and cost-benefit analysis, took account of plural stakeholder perspectives in the design of policy options [7]. A final feature was the process itself; instead of working towards a consensus, it was designed to forge a compromise, recognizing that there are multiple problem frames and “best” solutions [8].

Clumsy policy solutions

RPV research [9] outlines how to achieve clumsiness by design in relation to governance for re-engineering city infrastructures. This entails the mapping of the "contested terrain" so as to enable the constructive engagement of the various "voices" that define it: compromise not consensus, being the sought-for (clumsy) outcome.

Democratic governance

Open government aims to go beyond e-government by granting citizens the right to access public documents and proceedings that then allow for effective public oversight, transparency, participation, and collaboration. Drawing on the framework developed for the analysis of open government as a tool to promote democracy, an RPV study showed that in marked contrast to the program’s research on plural perspectives and clumsy solutions, the public is typically considered as a homogenous “one-voice” entity rather than a diverse group with different interests, preferences and abilities [12].


[1] Komendantova N, Voccciante M & Battaglini A (2015). Can the BestGrid Process Improve Stakeholder Involvement in Electricity Transmission Projects? Energies 8: 9407-9433. 

[2] Karimi F & Komendantova N (2015). Understanding risk perceptions and experts views on carbon capture and storage in three European countries. GeoJournal

[3] Nel D & Komendantova N (2015). Risks and barriers in renewable energy development in South Africa through Independent Power Production. African Journal of Public Affairs 8(1). 

[4] Yazdanpanah M, Komendantova N, Linnerooth-Bayer J & Shirazi Z (2015). Green or In Between? Examining Young Adults’ Perceptions of Renewable Energy in Iran. Energy Research and Social Science 8: 78-85.  

[5] Mihai AM & Ekenberg L (2015). A MCDM Analysis of the Roşia Montană Gold Mining Project. Sustainability. 7: 7261–7288. 

[6] Scolobig A & Pelling M (2015). The co-production of risk from a natural hazards perspective: science and policy interaction for landslide risk management in Italy. Natural Hazards.  

[7] Linnerooth-Bayer J, Scolobig A, Ferlisi S, Cascini L & Thompson M (2015). Expert engagement in participatory processes: translating stakeholder discourses into policy options. Natural Hazards

[8] Scolobig A, Thompson M & Linnerooth-Bayer J (2015). Compromise not consensus: designing a participatory process for landslide risk mitigation. Natural Hazards

[9] Thompson M & Beck MB (2015). Coping with change: urban resilience, sustainability, adaptability and path dependence. Future of cities: working paper, Foresight, Government Office for Science, London, UK. 

[10] Umejesi I & Thompson M (2015). Fighting elephants, suffering grass: oil exploitation in Nigeria. Journal of Organizational Change Management 5(5): 791-811.  

[11] Kivunike F, Ekenberg L, Danielson M & Tusubira F (2015) Using a Structured Approach to Evaluate ICT4D: Healthcare Delivery in Uganda. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries. 66(8):1–16. 

[12] Hansson K, Ekenberg L & Belkacem K (2015). Open Government and Democracy: A Research Review. Social Science Computer Review. 33(5): 540-555. 

[13] Danielson M & Ekenberg L (2015). The Car Method for using Preference Strength in Multi-Criteria Decision Making Group Decision and Negotiation.  

[14] Danielson M & Ekenberg L (2015). Using Surrogate Weights for handling Preference Strength in Multi-Criteria Decisions, Outlooks and Insights on Group Decision and Negotiation, B Kaminski, GE Kersten, and T Szapiro (Eds.), pp.107–118, Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. 

[15] Beckman M, Mochizuki J, Naruchaikusol S (2015). Changing land use, disaster risk and adaptive responses in upland communities in Thailand. IDRiM, 5(1): 1-20. 

[16] Ekenberg L, Forsberg R & Sauter W (2015). Antigone’s diary – A Mobile Urban Drama, a Challenge to Performance Studies, and a Model for Democratic Decision Making. Contemporary Theatre Review

[17] Ekenberg L (2015). Public Participatory Decision Making, in Intelligent Software Methodologies, Tools and Techniques, In: Intelligent Software Methodologies, Tools and Techniques, eds. H Fujita and A Selamat, pp. 3–12, Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. 

[18] Hansson K & Ekenberg L (2015). Embodiment and Gameplay in Networked Publics. International Journal of Public Administration in the Digital Age

[19] Komendantova N, Leroy C & Battaglini A (2015). Protection of Electricity Transmission Infrastructure from Natural Hazards: from Multi-Risk Assessment to Multi-Risk Governance. In: NATO Science for Peace and Security Series – D: Information and Communication Security, ed. Niglia, A. Vol. 43.  

[20] Landauer M, Juhola S & Söderholm M (2015). Inter-relationships between adaptation and mitigation: A systematic literature review. Climatic Change 31(4): 505-517.  

[21] Landauer M, Sievänen T & Neuvonen M (2015). Indicators of climate change vulnerability for winter recreation activities - A case of cross-country skiing in Finland. Leisure/Loisir 39(3-4): 403-440.  

[22] Liu W, Vogt C, Lupi F, He G, Ouyang Z, Liu J (2015). Evolution of tourism in a flagship protected area of China. Journal of Sustainable Tourism. 

[23] Scolobig A, Prior T, Schröter D, Jörin J, Patt A (2015). Towards people-centred approaches for effective disaster risk management: balancing rhetoric with reality. International Journal for Disaster Risk Reduction. 12: 202-212.  

[24] Yazdanpanah M, Komendantova N, Ardestani RS (2015). Governance of energy transition in Iran: Investigating public acceptance and willingness to use renewable energy sources through socio-psychological model. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 45: 565-573.

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Last edited: 10 May 2016


Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer

Distinguished Emeritus Research Scholar Equity and Justice Research Group - Population and Just Societies Program


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