Governance experimentation: A descriptive analysis of translating sustainable urban water management in practice

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    The necessity of a shift towards more sustainable urban water management is widely advocated. However, how to generate such a fundamental change in practice is poorly understood. There is a growing body of literature claiming that social learning is of high importance in overcoming system lock-in and enabling restructuring of social-technical systems. In particular, governance experimentation which explicitly aims to develop and/or strengthen informal societal networks is seen to enable translation of sustainability ideas into practice. However, this type of experimentation requires a very different dynamic within societal relations when compared to traditional experimentation. Hence, it necessitates a different role for professionals engaged in such a process. This empirical study provides new perspectives on the process of governance experimentation and its outcomes in terms of enabling social learning and structural changes in urban water management at the catchment scale. This experiment, which has taken place in Sydney, offers valuable insight into how to overcome the challenge of traditional technocratic processes that reinforce traditional practices. Analysis of the experience also revealed challenges with participating in the new governance process which has been drawn upon to identify the key factors that may foster and/or hamper the success of governance experiments.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 7th International Conference on Water Sensitive Urban Design
    EditorsTony Wong, Dave McCarthy
    Place of PublicationBarton ACT Australia
    PublisherEngineers Australia
    Pages1 - 8
    Number of pages8
    ISBN (Print)9780858258952
    Publication statusPublished - 2012
    EventInternational Conference on Water Sensitive Urban Design 2012: Building the Water Sensitive Community - Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia
    Duration: 21 Feb 201223 Feb 2012
    Conference number: 7th


    ConferenceInternational Conference on Water Sensitive Urban Design 2012
    Abbreviated titleWSUD Conference 2012
    Internet address


    • Cooks river sustainability initiative
    • Governance experimentation
    • Social learning

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