Sustainability Governance and Policy

Environmental and sustainability governance happens in the interaction of state, private and civil society organizations. I investigate the nuts and bolts of it.

I have always been fascinated with the environment and our role as humans in it. This has led me down an interdisciplinary path, combining political science, network science, and environmenmental studies. In my research on environmental governance, I am especially interested in understanding governance as a network of diverse actors. These actors from all societal sectors exchange, collaborate, and sometimes are in conflict with regard to specific environmental challenges. Governance manifests in the interactions and actions within these networks and I find it fascinating to both understand what shapes networks structures, what types of networks structures are associated with successful outcomes and how we might construct interventions to boost the problem-solving capacity of networks based on this evidence.

I have especially focused on water governance networks during my PhD. I am to this day amazed by all the issues that arise in water governance, ranging from biodiversity to water supply management, flood protection, recreation or even the fate of beavers undermining roads close to watercourses. I believe that this should be a cause for humility on part of the governance researcher. Actors are already navigating incredibly complex systems with regard to environmental governance and we can safely assume that our abstract understandings of governance problems as researchers are fundamentally different from their intuitive understanding of their day-to-day business.

Related: Subsystems in complex governance systems

Related: Do actors or laws integrate policy issues?

Studying water governance has led me down a widening path when I started studying broader, but still water-related systems during my first PostDoc. I studied success factors in wetlands governance in Switzerland, a project I am still associated with as an external partner. Studying wetlands governance from a broad perspective made it necessary to involve not directly water-related issues such as regional development or spatial planning.

My PostDoc position at WSL continued along this line in tackling an ever more diverse set of sustainability governance challenges. I currently work on conceptual foundations of a project studying how rural municipalities in Switzerland can re-orient municipal decision-making and policy in order to facilitate resource-saving, sustainable lifestyles.

Researching governance as the networks within which decision-making, implementation or interpretation happens is one side of the coin. The other side relates to specific policies as inputs, throughputs or outputs of this governance process. I am interested in this part of the puzzle as well. I have for example researched policy preferences of actors in renewable energy policy.