Sociotechnical Framework for Participatory Flood Risk Management via Collaborative Modeling

Sociotechnical Framework for Participatory Flood Risk Management via Collaborative Modeling

Andreja Jonoski (Department of Integrated Water Systems and Governance, UNESCO – IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands) and Mariele Evers (Geography Department, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/jissc.2013040101


This article introduces a sociotechnical framework for conceptualization, design and development of participatory Flood Risk Management (FRM) processes. The framework enables a collaborative modeling approach, in which FRM activities are jointly carried out by authorities responsible for FRM, key stakeholders and the potentially affected citizens. Given the technical and social complexity of FRM, the article argues for adoption of the proposed framework as a means for realizing individual and social learning among all involved actors, which leads to shared understanding of the identified flood risks and potentially to commonly agreed FRM alternatives and strategies. Implementation of the framework critically depends on a web-based collaborative platform – a tool that supports all collaborative modeling activities. The framework is presented from within European context of FRM, but its relevance is broader and it can potentially be adopted in other social and geographical areas.
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1. Introduction

During the last decades flood events and related flood damages have increased all over the world. This situation is conditioned by various factors, such as increased population density and socio-economic developments in vulnerable urban areas, aging flood defense infrastructure and poor maintenance, as well as changes in the natural system due to possible climate change (e.g. rainfall patterns with more frequent and higher intensity storms). This situation has led to the introduction of new, more integrated Flood Risk Management (FRM) approach, which is not limited only to structural flood defense measures. Non-structural measures such as increased flood risk awareness, flood forecasting and warning systems, improved flood emergency management plans and incorporation of FRM aspects in spatial planning are some common elements of this new approach. Realization of this approach in practice depends not only on conceptual integration of such elements, but it relies critically on joint, collaborative development of FRM strategies that involves flood management authorities, key stakeholders such as local, regional and national governments, water utilities, emergency agencies and affected citizens and citizens groups.

In Europe the new integrated FRM approach has been introduced via legal frameworks such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD) (European Union, 2000) and more specifically via the Flood Directive (FD) (European Union, 2007). These legal frameworks require development of River Basin Management Plans and Flood Risk Management Plans which need to be based on active stakeholder and public participation. While recognizing the importance of such legal frameworks, FRM practice is still confronted with difficulties in understanding what such integrated approach encompasses and how it can be achieved. Firstly, complex technical issues such as monitoring, data acquisition and processing, spatial information management, modeling, real time forecasting and early warning, flood defense systems construction, maintenance and control need to be combined with socio-economic and governance measures into the portfolio of integrated flood risk management. This requires development of new horizontal interactions of various professionals that can lead to proper multidisciplinary cross-fertilization. Secondly, participatory FRM requires new vertical interactions between the governmental and regional institutions, local professional bodies and local communities, which need to be supported by new modes of information and knowledge exchange.

This article proposes to integrate these FRM aspects into one conceptual sociotechnical framework, which can serve as a foundation for design, development and implementation of FRM strategies via collaborative participation of FRM authorities, key stakeholders and local communities. The participatory process supported by the proposed framework is named collaborative modeling and it enables the processes of individual and particularly social learning of all involved actors, regarding managing flood risks. It involves active engagement of these actors in development of shared understanding of existing flood risks and identification of FRM objectives and alternatives for improved FRM. The process continues with individual and group evaluation and ranking of FRM alternatives, which serve to externalize the beliefs, attitudes and positions of all actors towards the flood risk problems in question. It is this externalization of individual and group beliefs, attitudes and positions that provides the basis for collaboration and negotiation towards commonly acceptable FRM alternatives and strategies. The whole process is supported by a web-based collaborative platform, which provides fully transparent presentation of both the technical and the social aspects of the FRM process.

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