UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Ariel Shepherd

Dynamics of inter-organizational decision making in storm water management

The UK has seen significant shifts in the last decade both in the techniques used to manage storm water run-off, as well as the governance of such techniques. A technical shift from displacement to absorption approaches to manage stormwater such as SUDS, has been paralleled by a socio-institutional shift from a monocentric and hierarchical governance structure to more nuanced local authority driven, multi-stakeholder arrangement including greater participation of community groups. As Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) moves to more towards paradigms of adaptive governance and co-management, such network-based and cooperative forms of governance are favoured but still not often realised in practice. 

Barriers to IUWM mostly point to social-institutional challenges; while governance of transformation is covered widely in the literature under transition theory, transformation of governance (Klijn and Koppenjan, 2006) is much less understood. Using a definition of Governance as Imperial does, as more than simply the configuration of governmental and non-governmental entities, but encompassing formal and informal rules and structures that govern organizational relationships, interactions, and decision making, understanding how and why, by who and for who these rules and structures are being remade is very important. Given successful transitions to new paradigms are far from inevitable, recognizing indirect influences due to local level processes of decision making used in implementation and maintenance but would be useful, in addition to direct influences to the rules and structure at the borough level by formal processes of participatory planning. Ideally forms of co-management are mutually influenced by all, as these stakeholders get more diverse it is critical to understand if and how different forms of decision making and management at different levels are influencing upwards "soft governance" such as procedures for stakeholder interaction, decision making and larger institutional arrangements. In particular identifying structural mechanisms that enable or constrain necessary interactions of capital exchange and resource distribution.

Building on the theory of institutional analysis, my PhD research will firstly build Fuzzy cognitive maps to compare the evolution of storm water governance structures across three boroughs in London, and identify the main interaction spaces (IS) of institutional arrangements in each borough. Second, organizational risk analysis (ORA) will be used in order to better understand how different factors (different resources, values, information and interests) effect decision making by different stakeholders at different levels in the IS. Finally, ambiguity analysis will be used to assess how well diverse interaction frames are sufficiently aligned, identifying opportunities to enable better alignment.