The Power of Participation: uniting science, citizens and policy at IHE Delft

IHE Delft has a long history of combining engineering and social science to address the complex issues facing water managers across the world, especially in the global south. Our research into citizen and participatory science spans over a decade, much of it focused on understanding the potential and challenges of participation as a fundamental aspect of water management. You can browse our recent publications on these topics in our IHE Collection below, and you can also find a wider selection of relevant IHE publications here.

Contribution and Collaboration: Citizen Science and Citizen Observatories

Assumpcao TH; Popescu I; et al (2018) Citizen observations contributing to flood modelling: opportunities and challenges. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 22:1473-1489

While accurate flood modelling requires more data than is often available, both remote sensing and citizen science have been proposed as means to expand on existing datasets. This literature review, of citizen contributions to monitoring, mapping and modelling in a range of flood scenarios, assesses the opportunities and challenges for citizen science within the flood management ecosystem – including through complementing remote sensing.

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Mazzoleni M; Arevalo VJC; et al (2018) Exploring the influence of citizen involvement on the assimilation of crowdsourced observations: a modelling study based on the 2013 flood event in the Bacchiglione catchment (Italy). Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 22:391-416

As the literature grows on efforts to gather environmental data via citizen scientists, we need to better understand how crowd-sourced data can complement data from physical sensors if we are to include social sensors in improving the accuracy of hydrological and hydraulic models. To this end, this study simulates a May 2013 flood event in the Bacchiglione catchment (Italy), incorporating synthetic crowd-sourced observations. The goal is to assess the potential value of citizen-collected data for accurate flood forecasting across a range of social scenarios.

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Gharesifard M; Wehn U; van der Zaag P (2017) Towards benchmarking citizen observatories: Features and functioning of online amateur weather networks. Journal of Environmental Management 193:381-393

The development and diffusion of new technologies has opened up the potential for the ‘general public’ to collect and share environmental data. In some cases this has led to the formation of online environmental citizen observatory networks such as online amateur weather networks. This paper introduces and tests a conceptual framework for the systematic review of such networks by considering dimensions of geography, participants, network-establishment mechanism, revenue stream/s, communication paradigm, efforts required for data sharing, support offered by platform providers and issues such as data accessibility, availability and quality. Using the framework to perform a critical review of six existing online amateur weather networks reveals important issues about missing stakeholders, revenue streams and communication.

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Participation: Tools, methods and institutional factors - TOOLS

Evers J; Douven W; Van der Stroom J (2019) A framework to assess the performance of participatory planning tools for strategic delta planning. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 62(9):1636-1653

As participatory planning tools become more commonly used, the need to understand the value of different tools in facilitating specific parts of the participatory process also becomes more important. This paper presents an assessment framework for testing the usefulness of such tools in terms of facilitating communication, knowledge sharing and social learning, as well as in overcoming power imbalances, crossing sectoral boundaries and supporting the process of coming to agreements.

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Voinov A; Jenni, K; et al (2018) Tools and methods in participatory modeling: Selecting the right tool for the job. Environmental Modelling and Software 109:232-255

As participatory modelling has become more common, the need to understand the diversity and efficacy of the tools available for this has increased. Combining expert opinion with survey techniques, this systematic review provides practical guidance on method selection at different stages of the participatory modelling process.

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Participation: Tools, methods and institutional factors - METHODS

Gharesifard M; Wehn U; van der Zaag P (2019) What influences the establishment and functioning of community-based monitoring initiatives of water and environment? A conceptual framework. Journal of Hydrology in press

This paper introduces a framework that can be utilized to analyze the dynamics underlying the establishment and functioning of community-based monitoring initiatives of water and environment. The distinction between five different dimensions, consisting of 22 internal and context-related factors, is a unique feature of this framework that broadens its applicability beyond what has so far been published and makes it suitable for context analysis, process evaluation and impact assessment of the initiatives.

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O'Keeffe J; Graas S; et al (2018) Stakeholder-enhanced environmental flow assessment: The Rufiji Basin case study in Tanzania. River Research and Applications 35(5):520-528

While environmental flows have become a standard part of sustainable water management, insufficient engagement of stakeholders can be one of several possible factors limiting their successful implementation. This exploration, of different stakeholders’ use and perception of river-dependent ecosystem services, used enhanced engagement with direct users to inform expert recommendation of both flow indicators and measurable environmental objectives. While greater engagement did increase cross-sector understanding, it remains to be seen whether enhanced stakeholder engagement will increase support for the implementation of the recommended flows.

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Tran DD; Van Halsema G; et al (2018) Stakeholders' assessment of dike-protected and flood-based alternatives from a sustainable livelihood perspective in An Giang Province, Mekong Delta, Vietnam. Agricultural Water Management 206:187-199

Extensive dike-building and associated land-use intensification in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta have led to floodplain contraction and reduced fertile sedimentation that pose a threat to the sustainability of farmers’ livelihoods. However, changing the new status quo to lower dike building and adopting livelihoods based on ‘living with floods’ requires a radical shift in current agricultural practices. This study examines how these contrasting farming and livelihood systems are perceived by different stakeholders, as well as the extent to which alternatives to flood-based agricultural systems are viewed as feasible and attractive. Our findings indicate a clear preference among both farmers and experts for flood-based farming systems with low dikes.

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Henriksen HJ; Roberts MJ; et al (2018) Participatory early warning and monitoring systems: A Nordic framework for web-based flood risk management. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 31:1295-1306

This paper reviews examples from selected Nordic/European hydrological risk assessment, communication and early warning systems, to propose a framework for developing participatory Early Warning and Monitoring Systems for flood risk. The study explores the potential of social media, digitalisation, web-based access to historical data, real-time forecasts and climate projections in providing a coherent and integrated platform for stakeholder interaction and collaborative decision-making, that has the potential to increase societal resilience to flooding.

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Alves A; Gomez JP; et al (2018) Combining Co-Benefits and Stakeholders Perceptions into Green Infrastructure Selection for Flood Risk Reduction. Environments 5(2):29

One response to the anticipated increases in future flood risk has been the rise of green infrastructures which can offer a combination of municipal, social and environmental benefits. This paper proposes a framework for selecting green infrastructures based on co-benefits analysis, and presents a case study, (Ayutthaya, Thailand) indicating the importance of including different stakeholder perceptions, particularly on what locally-perceived co-benefits there might be

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Susnik J; Chew C; et al (2018) Multi-Stakeholder Development of a Serious Game to Explore the Water-Energy-Food-Land-Climate Nexus: The SIM4NEXUS Approach. Water 10(2):139

Exploring the cross-sectoral implications of complex policy decisions at the nexus between water, energy, food, land and climate, can benefit from employing serious games, since these can provide a safe environment for testing the long-term impacts of different potential policies. This paper describes how the H2020-funded SIM4NEXUS is developing serious games for investigating the implications and synergies of policy interventions for 12 multi-scale case studies, and specifically how stakeholders and partners are involved in all aspects of the modelling definition and process. Learning from playing a serious game is justified by adopting a proof-of-concept for a specific regional case study in Sardinia (Italy), the value of multi-stakeholder involvement is demonstrated, and critical lessons learned for serious game development in general are presented.

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Ferrero G; Bichai F; Rusca M (2018) Experiential Learning through Role-Playing: Enhancing Stakeholder Collaboration in Water Safety Plans. Water 10(2):227

While the World Health Organisation’s guidance on Water Safety Planning can contribute to improved water safety management, securing the necessary collaboration among relevant stakeholders remains a common challenge. This paper presents a role-playing game in which participants take on different stakeholders’ roles during a collective (team-based) decision-making process to improve water supply safety in a fictitious town. The game aims at integrating technical and governance knowledge from water sector actors from diverse backgrounds, and exposes participants to the four phases of Kolb’s experiential learning cycle: concrete experience, reflective observation, conceptualization and active experimentation. This paper discusses the skills and knowledge development among participants, and their potential for supporting cross-sectoral integration, and dealing with complexity, in decision-making.

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Van Cauwenbergh N; Ciuro AB; Ahlers R (2018) Participatory processes and support tools for planning in complex dynamic environments: a case study on web-GIS based participatory water resources planning in Almeria, Spain. Ecology and Society 23(2):2

Democratising water resources management through involving stakeholders has been both widely advocated and strongly criticised over the past two decades. With a view to improving relevant processes and tools, and in response to new European legal requirements, this paper discusses the results of action research on an innovative participatory planning process, which was initiated to facilitate productive dialog among stakeholders developing a shared river basin management plan in a semi-arid river basin in Spain. Results confirm the potential for increased participation assisted by web and GIS tools, but finds that such processes are sensitive to changing contexts as well as the mandate and continuity in support from management authorities, particularly where fragmentation and poor coordination can be a challenge. Improved methodologies to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of participation are required, and tools need to be flexible in design and used in a facilitated participatory process, adaptable to changing contextual dynamics.

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Wehn U; Collins K; et al (2018) Stakeholder engagement in water governance as social learning: lessons from practice. Water International 43(1):34-59

In light of the OECD’s requirements for stakeholder engagement in its Principles on Water Governance, this study looks at how we define and enact stakeholder engagement and explores its practice in three cases. Results suggest that one key issue lies in the purpose of stakeholder engagement, requiring consideration of its ethics, process, roles and expected outcomes. While facilitators cannot be held accountable if stakeholder engagement ‘fails’ in terms of social learning, they are responsible for ensuring that the enabling conditions for social learning are met.

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Conallin J; McLoughlin CA; et al (2018) Stakeholder Participation in Freshwater Monitoring and Evaluation Programs: Applying Thresholds of Potential Concern within Environmental Flows. Environmental Management 61(3):408-420

The complexity of freshwater systems can provide challenges to adopting evidence-based management techniques, which might be addressed through basing decisions on different “knowledge” sources within adaptive management programmes. This study, based in Australia’s Murray-Darling River Basin, explores the potential for applying Thresholds of Potential Concern to improve collaborative decision-making in the Edward-Wakool “Fish and Flows” Strategic Adaptive Management project. Despite challenges linked to perceived reduction in scientific rigour, this process complemented ongoing monitoring activities and provided a mechanism for linking formal and informal knowledge to form explicit, measurable endpoints and objectives for environmental flow management activities. Once accepted by stakeholders, over time TPCs should be reviewed and refined in order to increase their scientific rigor, as new information is generated.

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Basco-Carrera L; Meijers E; et al (2018) An adapted companion modelling approach for enhancing multi-stakeholder cooperation in complex river basins. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology 25(8):747-764

Given the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships, data availability and modelling tools in underpinning the delivery of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, we explore the potential for participatory modelling in decision-making in complex river basins. This paper presents data on the co-development of empirical models, and use of role-playing games, in supporting collective action by reducing disputes and enhancing collaboration among stakeholders. Results show the suitability of this approach for managing water quality in complex river basins in an inclusive manner and its substantial benefits in developing stakeholders’ capacities and creating a cooperative environment.

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Yekti MI; Schultz B; et al (2017) Learning from Experiences of Ancient Subak Schemes for Participatory Irrigation System Management in Bali. Irrigation and Drainage 66(4):567-576

As the concept of participatory resource management expands, some traditional co-operative practices may provide insight into future ways of working. Known since the ninth century, Subak associations, formed among Balinese Hindus, operate irrigation systems which are naturally adapted to participatory irrigation management. This paper presents a literature study encompassing centuries of experience with ancient Subak irrigation system operation and maintenance.

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Fantini E (2017) Picturing waters: a review of Photovoice and similar participatory visual research on water governance.  WIREs Water 4(5):e1226

As participatory governance, management and planning become more prevalent, visual research methods are emerging as increasingly important among the social sciences. This article assesses the use of Photovoice – as a participatory visual method – in the study of water governance. Reviewing 23 articles on water management, assessment is based on the research's purpose, participants, visual outputs, and outcomes in relation to Photovoice’s three key goals: recording and reflecting community strengths and concerns; facilitating critical dialogue; and reaching policymakers. Our findings provide some evidence for the first two, but find that documenting processes to, and success in, reaching wider audiences is generally missing.

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Participation: Tools, methods and institutional factors - INSTITUTIONAL FACTORS

Gharesifard M; Wehn U; van der Zaag P (2019) Context matters: a baseline analysis of contextual realities for two community-based monitoring initiatives of water and environment in Europe and Africa. Journal of Hydrology in press

The objective of this paper is to demonstrate the importance of an early stage research about such contextual realities. In order to do so, we employed the CPI Framework (Gharesifard et al., 2019) for conducting a systematic analysis of the baseline situation of two newly established community-based monitoring initiatives, one in the Netherlands and one in Kenya. The results show that there are distinct differences between the two cases in terms of access to technology, availability and accessibility of data, the institutional arrangements for public participation in decision making processes, and the level of citizen trust in the authorities in charge of managing the respective water-related and environmental issues.

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Rap E; Molle F; et al (2019) The limits to participation: branch-canal water user associations in the Egyptian Delta. Water International 44(1):31-50

This assessment, of water management practices in Egypt’s Central Delta, draws on the country’s valuable experience with water user associations. We conclude that the roles and powers of these participatory organisations require significant strengthening if they are to fulfil their perceived potential.

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Nastar M; Abbas S; et al (2018) The emancipatory promise of participatory water governance for the urban poor: Reflections on the transition management approach in the cities of Dodowa, Ghana and Arusha, Tanzania. African Studies 77(4):504-525

Despite enthusiasm for participatory governance approaches to urban development in the Global South, in some cases such initiatives have helped political and economic elites more than they have improved livelihoods in non-serviced urban peripheries. This study explores the potential of transition management (TM) in improving water access for disadvantaged groups, highlighting lessons learned, while using open-ended interviews to collect empirical data from low-income urban areas in Ghana and Tanzania, to assess issues around community power dynamics, reflexive governance processes, and capacity-building in transition teams.

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Conallin J; Wilson E; Campbell J 92018) Implementation of Environmental Flows for Intermittent River Systems: Adaptive Management and Stakeholder Participation Facilitate Implementation. Environmental Management 61(3):497-505

While adaptive management approaches have the potential to improve the management of intermittent river systems under anthropogenic pressure, success to date has been variable. This study focuses on stakeholder involvement, participatory decision-making, and simple monitoring as the basis of an adaptive management pilot within an environmental flows program in the Tuppal Creek of Australia’s Murray Darling Basin. Our findings demonstrate that by building trust and ownership through concentrating on inclusiveness and transparency, partnerships that develop between government agencies and landholders can facilitate a willingness to accept greater risks and unintended consequences allowing implementation to occur.

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Etiegni CA; Irvine K; Kooy M (2017) Playing by whose rules? Community norms and fisheries rules in selected beaches within Lake Victoria (Kenya) co-management. Environment, Development and Sustainability 19(4):1557-1575

Developed under the premise that sustainable management of natural resources is more likely achieved through participatory governance, co-management around Lake Victoria (Kenya) was introduced coincident with declines in fish stocks that were apparently linked to increases in unsustainable fishing practices. This article explores the institutions that influence community level practices and how these shape the interpretation and implementation of policy. It demonstrates that local fishing practices often contravene government regulations as fishing practices regulated by Beach Management Units are often influenced more by kinship ties and corruption than national laws. We suggest the need for a perhaps radical rethink of the design of participatory fisheries within Lake Victoria if sustainable management goals are to be realized.

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