Recently, a new initiative has entered the Dutch policy-arena of spatial planning, water management and nature preservation: the so-called Community of Practice (COP). Within such a COP actors with very different backgrounds (experts, inhabitants, officials, stakeholders) participate and try to find creative solutions for persistent political and societal problems by combining conflicting spatial functions in specific areas. From a complex adaptive systems point of view, we analyze the logic and functioning of such a COP. From the literature on complexity and innovation we can learn that staying at the edge of chaos for COPs mean that they not only have to maintain an internal process of co-evolution between the very different actors involved, but also have to maintain relations of co-evolution with their wider environment. After an in-depth case study ‘Gouwe Wiericke’ we conclude that COPs can produce innovative policy results, but reaching ‘bounded instability’ through sustainable co-evolution requires careful balancing acts between extremes.

, , , , ,
Emergence: Complexity and Organization
Department of Public Administration

Edelenbos, J., & van Buuren, A. (2006). Innovations in the Dutch polder: Communities of practice and the challenge of coevolution. Emergence: Complexity and Organization, 8(1), 42–49. Retrieved from