Governance aspects

Pilot projects are expected to contribute to policy change, but there are doubts about their efficacy. They are developed in a complex policy community and their realization and effects are not completely understood. The first objective of the governance research was to deepen the understanding about the development of pilot projects and their impact on policy by focusing on the experiences of people involved. The second objective was to understand the integration of mega-nourishment schemes into the Dutch coastal management solutions repertoire and how framing affects successful realization of large-scale projects using sand.

Narrative perspectives on coastal pilot projects

by Lotte Bontje

Narrativizing or story-creation is an unique human way of making sense of experiences. Two narrative methods were developed to utilize the individual experiences of people involved in the development of pilot projects. The analysis leads towards sets of narratives that reflect the different (partly shared) ideas of the (coastal) policy community about the pilot project. These methods are applied to analyse the development of the Sand Motor project within the Dutch coastal community and the development of Ystad’s beach nourishment project within the Swedish/Scanian coastal community. The sets of narratives that are distinguished in these case studies are interpreted to learn more about, among others, the effects of these pilot projects in their coastal policy communities.

This research deepened the understanding of the development of pilot projects in their policy community. Awareness of and knowledge about these processes between projects and community – for example the awareness of the uniqueness of the Dutch coastal policy community – can be utilized by people involved in the realization of pilot projects. Awareness of underlying perceptions and values in a policy community can be used within the designs phases (for example the design of intervention itself or the design of the communication strategy) within pilot project development. The developed narrative methods can also be applied to learn from actor experiences in other types of projects and/or in other policy sectors.

Graphical representation of three narratives as distinguished using one of the two narrative methods.

Hondsbossche Duinen: a “real-life” Sand Motor?

by Ewert Aukes

Project Hondsbossche Dunes was realized two years after the Sand Motor. At first sight, both projects are similar: both are mega-nourishments, constructed for the protection of the Dutch North Sea coast, and involved a very similar set of actors (Provincial government, Rijkswaterstaat, water boards etc.). A closer look at the two projects, however, reveals more differences than similarities. Some of these differences are fundamental design differences. Other differences relate less to design differences, but more to the coming about of both projects. Specifically, both projects had different framing histories. The constellations of frames among involved actors, how they communicated these frames toward others and who was active in framing help to understand the development of the projects.

Based on changing project management, the Hondsbossche Dunes project can be segmented into three phases. In the first phase, with the provincial government of North Holland leading the project, actors tended to emphasize the differences between their frames. At the same time, they ignored the ways in which their frames coincided. This combined with more conflict- than consensus-generating communication. From this perspective, the ministerial disapproval of the dike-heightening in 2006 was to be expected. From 2006 on, the water board was project leader. Now, communication was more and more geared towards consensus. Gradually, the differences between frames became less relevant. On the other hand, similarities became more emphasized. This continues through the project and even led some actors’ frames to converge. Although there was also some communication in the Sand Motor project which can be seen as conflict-inducing, overall actors tried to come to terms with each other. The provincial government of South Holland played a very important role in consensual communication and in convincing other actors of the usefulness of the Sand Motor project.

The temporal sequence does not make the Hondsbossche Dunes project the first “real-life” Sand Motor. However, chances are that it would not have been possible for actors in North Holland to realize the first non-experimental mega-nourishment, if the groundwork had not been done at the Sand Motor. First, the framing activities in that project convinced a broader range of Dutch governmental actors of the potential of mega-nourishments. Second, the interconnections between the regional coastal management arenas ensured the spill-over of the mega-nourishment enthusiasm to other projects. From a framing perspective, the experimental setting of the Sand Motor has shown what can be possible with regard to natural materials and processes for coastal protection and with regard to design principles it increased the chances for its more moderate variant at the Hondsbossche Dunes.

While the study of framing in these projects was retrospective in nature, the results of this research can also support actor interactions and decision-making in ongoing projects by highlighting the value of actors’ reflecting on their own perspectives, others’ perspectives and how they bring across their ideas in policy interactions.

Illustration of “hard” versus “soft” engineering. The photo on the left shows the original “Hondsbossche en Pettemer Zeewering”, a large dike in North Holland, whereas the photo on the right shows the same construction fortified by sand nourishment rather than additional hard structures. (Photo credit: Boskalis.)

More information on these topics can be found in this book.