3.4 How to change flood risk governance in a specific area?

The presented information on flood risk management strategies (Chapter 2), governance arrangements and factors that promote stability and change (this chapter), can be used to analyse and improve flood risk management and governance in a specific country, region or city. In this section we present generic steps that can be used to analyse and influence flood risk management.

We recommend analyse of the current situation, its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Next, we recommend that the desired state is determined, including what changes would be required to arrive there. Then it is time to consider what has priority and what can be changed and by whom. Finally, and the biggest challenge, is to take action in order to establish the desired changes. And then, with monitoring the results of undertaken actions, the cycle will start again.

Final presentation

Step 1. Analyse the current situation

The first step is to analyse the type and severity of flood risks in a specific area; which strategies are in place; who is involved; what are their perspectives; what legislation and unwritten rules guide their behaviour and what financial resources, power and knowledge do they use? We advise that focusing on the strategies and governance arrangements in one’s own geographic area and field of work.

We then advise performing a SWOT analysis: mapping the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of current strategies and governance arrangements. Are the right measures in place to reduce flood risk to an acceptable level, what bottlenecks exist in their implementation, and what future threats and opportunities for improvement can be identified?

Step 2. Define the desired situation

With the SWOT analysis as a starting point, one can develop ideas about an ideal flood risk management situation. What future situation is desired, for instance 50 years from now? This kind of thinking may help to focus on what one really wants, instead of on current limitations. Collaborative workshops, scenario and visioning workshops for example may help to develop a joint vision with other stakeholders (see Sheppard et al., 2011; Mostert et al 2007)[1].

The evaluation criteria presented in section 2.3 (resilience, efficiency and legitimacy), and the good practices presented in Chapters 4-7 of this Guidebook, may also provide inspiring directions for improvement.

Step 3. Define and prioritise the actions

What steps are needed to achieve the desired situation? Which are most important? And which are most feasible? Organisational changes often require a lot of time, effort and cooperation of multiple actors. One could sketch a development path in time that shows the required changes between the current situation and the desired future. Techniques like backcasting and adaptive pathways may be useful for this. The good practices in Chapters 4-7 may suggest specific activities that can be employed to achieve specific desired changes.

As nobody wants to waste their time and energy, we advise focussing on what is most important and to focus on the change that one can really influence. Table 3.2 in section 3.3 can help to make a distinction between the factors that promote change that one can and can’t influence. We advise starting with the ‘low hanging fruit’ in order to motivate the actors involved in the improvement process, and to build further on achieved successes. Another suggestion is to analyse which processes of change are already present in the relevant area and if these processes can be influenced in such a way that new ideas can be realised.

Step 4. Start change

After determining what to do, there is no time to waste! We advise setting up joint actions in order to bundle resources and keep each other motivated.

This step-wise approach may appear simpler than it is. In reality improving flood risk management is a complex challenge. It includes many actors in multiple interconnected and non-linear processes, which can be only partly influenced by individual persons or organisations. It will require ongoing effort, many iterations and sustained networking and capacity building.

[1] See also: http://participedia.net/en/methods/scenario-workshop