Participation under a spell of instrumentalization?

Published on
September 30, 2014


Boezeman, D., Vink, M.J., Leroy, P. & Halffman, W. (2014). Participation under a spell of instrumentalization? Reflections on action research in an entrenched climate adaptation policy process. Critical Policy Studies, 8(4) (ONLINE FIRST).


The article discusses action research in a Dutch intergovernmental project group DV2050. That group was to assess the effects of climate change and soil subsidence on the regional water system and to propose adaptive policies to increase regional water safety. In this study, we draw a parallel between the stakeholder participation trajectory of DV2050 and our collaborative learning trajectory within the DV2050 project. In the academic literature, both participatory policy-making and action research are advocated for instrumental, normative and quality reasons. In our case, both trajectories took place in an entrenched context, i.e. a strongly institutionalized environment in which the involved governments compete for competencies. Despite broader ambitions stated at the beginning of these trajectories, we explain that both became instrumentalized by actors involved, narrowing their scope. Instrumentalization was influenced by powerful interests, a strongly institutionalized science–policy interface and the pressure of imminent decision-making.

Keywords: participation; instrumentalization; science–policy interface; action research; climate adaptation; water management