Embedded Reflection on Public Policy Innovation examines the impacts of reflection on the practice of conceiving of and organizing public policy innovation and knowledge transfer for water management. Reflection is provided for a specific community of practitioners: the professionals who work in an innovation program that must find and promote durable and novel solutions for the challenges in water management.
The objective of the innovation program is inspired by the anticipated consequences of climate change for Dutch water management. Instead of blocking water through solutions grounded in civic and hydraulic engineering, the spatial accommodation of water must become the basic principle. This conversion in water management is commonly referred to as a shift in policy paradigm that must be translated into a new policy regime. Public policy innovation must contribute to this new policy regime.
The innovation professionals have anticipated that achieving the program’s objective would not be an easy task: network dynamics in the domain of water management as well as its transitory institutional requirements may put much strain on their efforts. Reflection should enable them to learn from their experiences in practicing water management innovation and to keep their efforts of knowledge transfer in touch with the dynamic requirements.
Through an action science approach, the embedded researcher together with the professionals, formed a community of inquiry to identify the needs for reflection and translating them into a learning approach. Reflection was provided through a series of master classes and reflective sessions, such as intervision and case consultation.
The impacts of the learning course were evaluated through in-depth interviews with the participating professionals. The findings of these evaluations were used to adjust the learning course to the evolving needs for reflection.
Embedded Reflection on Public Policy Innovation shows that embedded research is well suitable for developing reflective practice for complex innovation programs because it supports policy professionals to keep their program in tune with its institutional context.
Embedded Reflection on Public Policy Innovation reveals the competences that are needed for dealing with the problems of context that constitute water management innovation. These competences represent the capacity of connecting and balancing interests, knowledge and resources, to ever-evolving requirements.
Michael Duijn is senior consultant/researcher at the business unit Innovation and Environment at the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).