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E&S Home > Vol. 18, Iss. 4 > Art. 58 > Abstract Open Access Publishing 
How Multilevel Societal Learning Processes Facilitate Transformative Change: A Comparative Case Study Analysis on Flood Management

Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Institute of Environmental Systems Research, University of Osnabrück
Gert Becker, Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam
Christian Knieper, Institute of Environmental Systems Research, University of Osnabrück
Jan Sendzimir, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis


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Sustainable resources management requires a major transformation of existing resource governance and management systems. These have evolved over a long time under an unsustainable management paradigm, e.g., the transformation from the traditionally prevailing technocratic flood protection toward the holistic integrated flood management approach. We analyzed such transformative changes using three case studies in Europe with a long history of severe flooding: the Hungarian Tisza and the German and Dutch Rhine. A framework based on societal learning and on an evolutionary understanding of societal change was applied to identify drivers and barriers for change. Results confirmed the importance of informal learning and actor networks and their connection to formal policy processes. Enhancing a society’s capacity to adapt is a long-term process that evolves over decades, and in this case, was punctuated by disastrous flood events that promoted windows of opportunity for change.

Key words

adaptive management; comparative analysis; integrated flood protection; Rhine; societal learning; Tisza; transformative change; water governance

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087