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									            Institutional design principles for climate change adaptation

 Patrick Huntjens, Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Roland Schulze, Nicole Franz, Jeff Camkin, Louis

This paper provides an evidence-based and policy relevant contribution to understanding
processes of climate change adaptation in the Netherlands, Australia and South Africa. It
builds upon the work of Elinor Ostrom on institutional design principles for local
common pool resources systems. We argue that for dealing with uncertainties like climate
change impacts (e.g. floods or droughts) additional or adjusted institutional design
principles are necessary that facilitate learning processes. Especially since these
governance systems are usually dealing with complex, open access and cross-boundary
resource systems, such as river basins and delta areas in the Netherlands and South Africa
or groundwater systems in Western Australia. In our case studies the jurisdictional and
geographical scale but also the complexity and uncertainty related to the policy problem is
larger. In this paper we proposed and found empirical support for a set of nine
institutional design principles for climate change adaptation in complex governance
systems: 1) A robust and flexible process, based on transparency, transdisciplinarity and
flexibility (e.g. organizational redundancy); 2) Equal and fair (re-) distribution of risks,
benefits and costs; requiring engagement with, and strong representation of, groups likely
to be highly affected or especially vulnerable; 3) Collective choice arrangements, to
enhance the participation of those involved in making key decisions about the system, in
particular on how to adapt; 4) Monitoring and evaluation of the process, providing a basis
for reflexive social learning and supporting accountability; 5) Conflict prevention and
resolution mechanisms; 6) Nested enterprises as functional units to overcome the
weakness of relying on either just large-scale or only small-scale units to govern complex
resources systems; 7) Policy experimentation in a polycentric system with purposeful and
coordinated activities (e.g. pilot projects) geared towards producing novel policy
options; 8) An integrated approach/strategy tailor-made to local circumstances taking
into account multi-levels, multi-issues, multi-perspectives and multi-resources; 9) Policy
learning, through exploring uncertainties, deliberating alternatives and reframing
problems and solutions. These institutional design principles provide useful support for a
“management as learning”-approach when dealing with complexities and uncertainties.
This approach does not foster a narrow blue-print style but rather the opposite locally-
appropriate institutions treated as experiments. This paper concludes by providing several
potential uses in practice for the proposed design principles, for example as diagnostic
tools, and/or for exploring new, and refining existing adaptation strategies and for
planning agencies, community-based organizations and the private sector interested in
working with other stakeholders in pro-active approaches to adaptation.

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