Policy often has to perform amidst uncertain and rapidly changing conditions. Robustness is the ability to perform and achieve intended effects under unknown conditions. Robust design can benefit from the capacity to anticipate developments early. A system of early warning is a method to anticipate change early and help policy design to be more robust. Early warning can enable moment of ‘consecration’, moments where reflection on assumptions and biased of policy design can be challenged and changed; this can be an important addition to the robustness of policy design. However, early warning is not unproblematic; it is an organizational practice that inherently invokes issues of habituation, organizational bias, as it challenges the status quo. In this paper, we study how policy makers who ‘do’ early warning in the context of robust policy engage with these issues and how they managed to improve the robustness of policy design. We do so by studying an empirical case of an early warning system in The Netherlands. We analyze how the system was build, how it worked, how it was further professionalized, and what the system did to the capacity of the organization to design and deliver robust policy.

Additional Metadata
Keywords early warning, habituation, innovation, policy design, Policy robustness
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1080/14494035.2018.1520780, hdl.handle.net/1765/113220
Journal Policy and Society
Citation
van der Steen, M.A, Scherpenisse, J, & van Twist, M. (2018). Anticipating surprise: the case of the early warning system of Rijkswaterstaat in the Netherlands. Policy and Society, 37(4), 473–490. doi:10.1080/14494035.2018.1520780