Transnational INTERREG projects within the context of climate change adaptation in the water sector: an evaluation on learning-based theories

Sako, W.W.S.M. (2016) Transnational INTERREG projects within the context of climate change adaptation in the water sector: an evaluation on learning-based theories.

Abstract:In recent years, climate change adaptation (CCA) has been recognized as new approach to deal with the changing climate. CCA is especially relevant to the water sector, where the adverse effects of climate change has led to severe impacts like flood hazard and drought. European countries have different levels of knowledge about CCA making European cooperation projects a suitable environment for transnational learning. In this study learning in two similar INTERREG B projects were assessed with the goal of making proposals for improving learning in similar projects. INTERREG B projects are European cooperation projects subsidized by the European Commission and are characterised by their transnational and practice‐orientated nature. We assessed learning in such projects using an existing evaluation framework (Vinke‐de Kruijf and Pahl‐Wostl, 2016). This framework is organized around three learning outcomes and ten conditions that may produce these outcomes. It distinguishes between three learning outcomes: group learning (learning by project participants), organizational learning (learning by partner organizations represented by their project participants) and network/societal learning (learning by external actors in the wider contexts). For the assessment of the learning outcomes and conditions, both were given scores based on studied project documents and interviews with ten project participants. The learning outcome and condition scores were quite similar in both cases. Interviewed project participants in general reported high level of group and network/societal learning and low level of organizational learning. Interviewees in both cases reported that their project was more beneficial in terms of acquiring substantive knowledge on climate change adaptation compared to building relations with other organizations. Also notable is how differently partner organizations used the project knowledge inside their organization. In both cases, authorities used the project knowledge to change practices (e.g. using new CCA measures) and policies (e.g. new flood protection standards). For knowledge institutions, project knowledge was used in scientific work and for changing education programs inside their organization. As for the condition scores, each interviewee scored high to very high for the conditions belonging to group learning. The condition scores belonging to organizational and network/societal learning varied among the ten interviewees. This variation in individual condition scores mirrors the variation in reported outcome scores for organizational and network/societal learning. To make proposals for improving learning in INTERREG projects, the most relevant conditions were determined. The most relevant conditions were found through a combination of comparing the outcome and condition scores and analyzing the observations made in both cases. In addition, the most relevant conditions need to be supported by either the results from the previous case or by literature. For group learning the most relevant conditions were the three conditions ‘consortium’, ‘interaction process’ and ‘participant properties’ adopted from the evaluation framework. For organizational learning the most relevant condition was the need for project participants to spend more time in transferring project knowledge inside their partner organization. Regarding network/societal learning,the most relevant conditions were the involvement of external actors through collaboration structures and making the project results available as wide as possible. After identifying the most relevant conditions, proposals for improving learning in INTERREG projects were determined. For improving group learning we suggest that interpreters should be invited to ease communicating in the project language, project participants given sufficient time to regularly interact with others during the project, a project consortium represented by diverse types of partner organizations who can provide complementary knowledge and a well‐designed interaction process that allow project participants to jointly work on actions. For improving organizational learning we suggest that participants should combine the knowledge transfer activities directed at colleagues and external actors. For instance, by inviting both colleagues and external actors to the same forum in which project results are presented. For improving network/societal learning we suggest that external actors should be invited to participate in the project through collaboration structures, like the Learning and Action Alliance and that project results should be made available as widely as possible through the use of online portals in which project documents could be uploaded. These proposals are made with the aim of supporting future project participants in designing their projects. The monitoring committees of the INTERREG programs, who are tasked with accepting project proposals, can contribute to the improvement of learning in similar projects. This contribution can be in the form of raising awareness among future project participants about the learning opportunities and publishing guides with suggestions for improving learning in these projects.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Subject:56 civil engineering
Programme:Civil Engineering and Management MSc (60026)
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