Recent developments in the policy sciences emphasize the social environment in which decisions are made. The ‘network metaphor’ is often used to describe the key role of interactions between interdependent actors involved in decision making. These interactions take place in a policy arena drawn up by actors with an interest in and control over decisions on the issues addressed. Interdependencies, caused by the need for actors to increase their means of realizing objectives, are the driving force behind these interactions. Dependency relations are of special interest to water management and river basin management because of the fundamental asymmetrical interdependencies that exist in river basins between upstream and downstream stakeholders. Coleman’s linear system of action models decision making process involving dependencies between multiple stakeholders as exchange of control over issues, while interactions are required to negotiate exchanges of control. We developed an interactive method for actor analysis based on Coleman’s linear system of action and applied it to the national rural water management policy domain in The Netherlands. The method is firmly rooted in mathematical sociology and defies the criticism that methods for actor and stakeholder analysis do not specify a theoretical basis explaining the causal relations between the variables analyzed and policy change. With the application to the rural water management policy arena we intended to increase our insight into the practical applicability of this analyticmethod in an interactive workshop, the acceptability of the approach for the participating actors, its contribution to the process of decision making and our understanding of the rural water management policy arena in The Netherlands. We found that the Association of Water Authorities, the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Agriculture are the most powerful actor in the policy domain, while governance and cost and benefits of rural water management are the most salient issues. Progress in policy development for rural water management is probably most promising for the issues governance, costs and benefits, safety and rural living conditions through improved interaction between the Association of Water Authorities, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Rural Credit Bank. Besides these analytic results the interactive approach implemented increased the participants understanding of their dependency on other actors in the rural water management policy domain and supported them in developing a sound perspective on their dependency position. We concluded that the method developed is acceptable to real-world policy decision makers, can successfully be applied in an interactive setting, potentially contributes to the process of decision making by increasing the participants understanding of their dependency position, has the potential to delivers valuable advice for future decision-making and increases our understanding of policy development for rural water management in general.

Actor analysis, Coleman’s social theory, Negotiation support, Policy making, River basin management, Stakeholder analysis, Transactional approach, complexity, sustainable development, transitions
dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11269-008-9323-z, hdl.handle.net/1765/13174
Water Resources Management
Department of Public Administration

Timmermans, J.S. (2009). Interactive Actor Analysis for Rural Water Management in The Netherlands. Water Resources Management, 23(6), 1211–1236. doi:10.1007/s11269-008-9323-z