In the Eye of the Beholder: Network location and sustainability perception in flood prevention

Balsiger, Jörg; Ingold, Karin (2016). In the Eye of the Beholder: Network location and sustainability perception in flood prevention. Environmental Policy and Governance, 26(4), pp. 242-256. Wiley 10.1002/eet.1715

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The aim of this paper is to investigate how sustainability perceptions are emergent properties of collaborative networks in flood governance in Switzerland. In recent decades, the impact of global warming and multiple stresses on water regimes has influenced the design of new approaches to flood risk management, especially in Western Europe. The use of non-structural measures such as planning tools and watershed campaigns indicates a change from technocratic to more integrated flood governance perspectives. Flood governance is increasingly influenced by the principle of sustainability, understood as stronger horizontal integration of its social, economic and environmental dimensions. The paper examines the integration of sustainability in the design of flood prevention and policies, suggesting that integration relates to participating actors’ perceptions of sustainability and that these perceptions are reflected in network structures. Focusing on four regional case studies, we use survey data and social network analysis to investigate how actors relate to each other and how they rank sustainability indicators. Results show that sustainability perceptions differ strongly across cases, and tend to be more balanced (assigning equal importance to environmental, economic and social indicators) within and sometimes even across actor types and sectors. We find that while actors in central network positions tend to have more balanced sustainability perceptions, context- and project-specific factors impact sustainability perceptions even more.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Political Science
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

UniBE Contributor:

Ingold, Karin Mirjam


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science








Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

05 Sep 2016 12:52

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:58

Publisher DOI:





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