Social networks and barriers to innovation in urban water infrastructure planning

Lisa Scholten, Gunilla Öberg

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific


Climate change, urbanization, and increased demands on sustainability require rethinking our current urban water systems. Despite promising and innovative water solutions being available, the status quo usually prevails. Socioinstitutional hindrances (“barriers”) in the infrastructure planning process are increasingly put forward as a main reason for this innovation deficit. To overcome these barriers, more structured and dialogue-based multi-stakeholder planning processes are demanded. Such processes do, however, require identification not only of the barriers, their origin and why they remain but also identification of the participants that are needed to overcome those barriers. The aim of this study is to develop an analytic framework for identification of barriers and their connection to the decision-making process, stakeholders, and stakeholder networks. To investigate these relationships, we conduct a longitudinal social network analysis of actor collaboration throughout a planning process. The structural properties of the network are mapped to individual actor attributes such as their objectives and power resources. The power resources considered cover centrality in the collaboration network, position within the institutional hierarchy, expertise, and access to subject-matter information. The results allow identification of barriers and their potential root causes, which are essential to the design of functional multi-stakeholder planning processes and the identification of key stakeholders. We test the framework in three major water-related infrastructure projects at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, Canada. The results will be used to improve the analytic framework for a comparative study of municipal urban water decision-making. In this conference paper, the analytic framework, research design, and preliminary results from the social network analysis at UBC will be presented.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event36th Sunbelt Conference of the International Network for Social Network Analysis - Newport Beach, United States
Duration: 5 Apr 201610 Apr 2016
Conference number: 36


Conference36th Sunbelt Conference of the International Network for Social Network Analysis
Abbreviated titleINSNA2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNewport Beach
Internet address


  • Social network analysis
  • barriers to innovation
  • water infrastructure planning


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