Policy Experiments for Climate Adaptation

11 September 2017

To explore climate adaptation options, water managers conduct policy experiments. Political researchers Belinda McFadgen and Dr Dave Huitema (both VU-IVM) study the role of 'learning' in such experiments. Their findings show a trade-off between experimental design and different types of learning.

In response to the acceleration of climate change, state and non-state actors in the Netherlands have conducted policy experiments to learn about the effects of new adaptation solutions, all of which revolve around the threat and management of water. 'Building with nature', climate buffers, multi-land use, and dynamic water management are all examples of novel policy concepts applied in-situ to generate evidence for public policy decision making. However, although learning is considered a key outcome of experimentation, it is unclear how much participants are learning and what they're learning. 

Experiments and learning

To better understand the relationship between experiments and learning, political researchers Belinda McFadgen and Dr Dave Huitema (both from the Institute of Environment Studies at Vrije Universiteit) performed a multi-case, quantitative analysis of 18 policy experiments, which were conducted between 1997-2016. Evidence of different learning effects was revealed, particularly cognitive and relational forms of learning.

Experiment design was also found to influence the extent of learning, indicating potential trade-offs experiment designers need to make between designing scientifically driven experiments that produce significant gains in knowledge, or more inclusive and civic-driven experiments that enable better understanding of divergent perspectives and the development of common goals.

Publication details

Belnda McFadgen and Dave Huitema. 'Stimulating Learning through Policy Experimentation: A Multi-Case Analysis of How Design Influences Policy Learning Outcomes in Experiments for Climate Adaptation.' (30 August 2017 in Water).

Published by  IBED Water