Why I have been so quiet lately…

Robin Hoods' Bay, UK
Robin Hoods’ Bay, UK

I have been awfully quiet over the last two months on this blog. That’s not because nothing has happened, but more because almost too much has happened. On 31 August I started a big trip to and through Europe to give a number of lectures and attend a number of workshops, and spend some time visiting the London School of Economics (LSE Cities) and the University if East Anglia (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research). I am now on the road for about nine weeks straight and have another two to go. So what has kept me away from blogging?

Of course, there is the book with Edward Elgar: Governance for Urban Sustainability and Resilience: Responding to Climate Change and the Relevance of the Built Environment.

Cities, and the built environment more broadly, are key in the global response to climate change. This groundbreaking book seeks to understand what governance tools are best suited for achieving cities that are less harmful to the natural environment, are less dependent on finite resources, and can better withstand human-made hazards and climate risks.

The book is now available and together with the publisher I am working on marketing the book. Part of that is a series of blog entries, which I will republish on this blog once they have appeared.

Today (5 November 2014) the Australian Research Council (ARC) announced that I have been awarded a DECRA grant (Discovery Early Career Researchers Award; A$350,000). The DECRA is the most prestigious Australian early career grant and will fund my research from 2015 to 2018. The DECRA will build on the research that I have carried out under my VENI grant funded research (the VENI is the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research DECRA equivalent. With the DECRA I will study:

Collaborative governance for urban sustainability and resilience

There is a pressing need to improve the resource sustainability of cities and their resilience to hazards. Increasingly, governments seek to achieve such improvement by engaging directly with businesses and citizens. Whilst this collaborative city governance holds a promise for transforming resource use and resilience of cities, little is known about its performance benefits and effectiveness. The project addresses this knowledge gap through a systematic empirical analysis of a series of collaborations in four global cities. Results will help to refine theories of collaborative governance, and will provide policymakers and practitioners with lessons on how to improve sustainability and resilience of cities in Australia and elsewhere.

On top of that I have achieved one of my self-set publication milestones during this trip. Over the last three months three articles have been accepted by peer reviewed journals, which brings the total number my peer-reviewed articles well over 30 (30 has been a looming number for a while – not sure why). The articles are:

  • The role of government in voluntary environmental programs: A fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis, to be published by Public Administration:

Voluntary Environmental Programs (VEPs) have become increasingly popular in addressing environmental risks. Whilst VEPs have attracted much scholarly attention, little is known about how they cause their outcomes. This article seeks to better understand whether and how the roles of governments in VEPs affect their outcomes in terms of (i) attracting participants, and (ii) their contribution to a desired collective end. Using fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) this article addresses a series of 31 VEPs in the building sectors of Australia, the Netherlands, and the United States. It is particularly interested to better understand what configurations of five specific governmental roles in VEPs are sufficient to attract participants and contribute to a desired collective end. It uncovers three ideal type roles for governments in VEPs that are positively related to the two outcomes under scrutiny, and concludes with lessons on governments may be best involved in VEPs.

  • On the potential of voluntary environmental programmes for the built environment: A critical analysis of LEED, to be published by the Journal of Housing & the Built Environment

Voluntary environmental programmes (VEPs) are increasingly gaining traction as a means of improving the environmental performance of buildings and their occupants. These programmes are of interest because they incentivise developers, property owners and occupants to improve such performance voluntarily beyond what is required by governmental construction regulation. This article questions whether such programmes have the potential to affect the environmental and resource sustainability of the built environment to a significant extent. It first briefly reviews the extant literature on voluntary programmes as developed in policy sciences and governance studies. It then studies the performance of a leading, often lauded, VEP in the built environment: LEED. In spite of LEED’s impressive performance in absolute terms, this article concludes that LEED is a relatively poor performing VEP. This raises considerable questions about the potential of VEPs to improve sustainability in the built environment more generally.

  • Voluntary programmes for building retrofits: opportunities, performance and challenges, to be published by Building Research & Information

Around the globe governments, businesses and citizens are actively involved in voluntary programmes that seek an improved uptake of retrofits of the existing building stock. Using fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) this article seeks to understand the opportunities, performance and constraints of such programmes. Building on a series of 20  voluntary programmes in Australia, the Netherlands and the United States (including a series of 101 original interviews) it finds that the majority of these have not succeeded in incentivising their participants to take meaningful action. The article provides insight into why the majority of these programmes have underperformed, and what binds together the small number of programmes that have achieved positive results.

As per earlier published work, I will write blogs summarising these articles soon.

Finally, my first PhD student completed her thesis and successfully defended it in an official ceremony at the University of Amsterdam on 30 October: congratulations Dr Huiqi Yan for an excellent work on pesticide compliance in China!

All in all, it have been a couple of busy but energizing months. I hope to find some more time again in November to write blogs on urban sustainability and resilience, and share some more experiences on writing books.

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