Urban water governance and learning-Time for more systemic approaches?

Åse Johannessen*, Erik Mostert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Social learning, especially triple-loop social learning involving institutional and governance changes, has great potential to address urban water issues such as flooding, drought, and pollution. It facilitates urban transition and the adoption of more systemic approaches and innovations. Social learning in water governance is a growing field, but the triple-loop learning concept remains vague and underexplored. Additionally, the focus is often on how social learning can contribute to progress with little attention being paid to barriers to learning. The aim of this paper is to increase understanding of triple-loop social learning to improve the "learning infrastructure". It investigates key learning barriers for realizing green (livable) and adaptive cities in Malmö and Gothenburg, Sweden. Integration of nature-based solutions in spatial planning and development of these cities has been slow. The results found three types of barriers contributing to this: systemic (disconnecting parts with the whole); opacity (reducing communication between error detection and correction); and process-related (reducing the adoption of innovations). The paper contributes to understanding the social learning barriers for implementing planning. These insights could help overcome "adaptation inertia" and speed up policy learning towards sustainability and resilience.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6916
Number of pages28
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Climate adaptation
  • Social learning
  • Urban water governance


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