Research Themes

Governing under Complexity

This research theme is led by Prof. Philip Pattberg.

The research topic Governing under Complexity brings together scholars with an interest in studying complex problems and increasingly complex governance approaches to these problems. Rather than conceptualizing governance in terms of discrete instruments (such as certification schemes or public-private partnerships) we start from the assumption that environmental governance (connecting various levels and scales of governing) constitutes a complex system in itself. Consequently, the expected effects of governing can no longer be simply derived from the aggregate effects of each individual governance instrument. Governance outcomes are rather to be understood as emerging properties of complex adaptive systems. Our interest in governing under complexity also includes questions about the adequate type of governance for a range of complex problems.

Governance Innovation and Institutional Change

This research theme is led by Prof.Dave Huitema.

The program focuses on the origin, the diffusion, and the effects of changes in the way human societies govern environmental issues. We are particularly interested in the ideational roots of new ideas on governance, the agency in getting such ideas accepted (e.g. by pilots and experiments), and the (international) processes of policy diffusion. Most critically however, we wish to examine whether novel approaches are necessarily also an improvement, for instance from a sustainability perspective or from the perspective of broadly accepted governance principles such as transparency and accountability. The group is particularly strong in analyzing governance innovations in the domain of water and climate, and empirically the focus is often on government policies and (radical) changes therein. Particularly worth mentioning projects under this research line are the Marie Curie funded global study on institutional change in water management in cities, the Royal Academy of Science sponsored book project on the “Politics of River Basin Organizations”, the Knowledge for Climate funded PhD project on “Experiments in Climate Governance”, the EU funded CAPLO project that studies community resilience to floods, and COST Action INOGOV (“Innovations in Climate Governance), which are all “(co-)led by members of this group (see also Key Research Projects).

Governance Evaluation

This research theme is led by Dr Aysem Mert.

In the research theme Governance Evaluation, we study the effectiveness and broader effects (both intended and unintended and negative externalities) of policies and governance instruments across a wide range of concrete types, including public policies, market-based certification systems, disclosure-based governance, and public-private partnerships at various levels of policymaking. We are pursuing a broad conceptualization of evaluation, addressing both empirical and normative questions.