Table 2. Adaptive comanagement, learning, and connections between the two in the Venice system

ACM prescriptions Learning Connections between ACM and learning
Polycentricity (-)
  • Highly hierarchical and mono-centric governmental system
  • National agenda and limited local power: leadership and authority claimed
  • Little incentive to public actor interaction
  • Official institutions meet and cooperate only when there is dependency (especially resource dependency)
  • Interinstitutional agreements are venues for interaction but used only in situations of dependency
Participation (-)
  • No tradition of participation, and decision making culture is not favorable to it, although EU regulations changed this somewhat
  • Participation as tokenism (Arnstein 1969): public is informed and consulted but there is no follow-up, no mechanism to integrate public knowledge
  • Limited venue for participation generates frustration that turns into court cases
  • Public is not organized: environmental groups and other groups often act individually
Experimentation (+/-)
  • Experimentation as research methodology has led to improvements in water and environmental management(e.g., morphological restoration, mobile barriers)
  • Policies are not considered as experiments
  • Interpretation and use of scientific knowledge and experiments is often politicized; validity and objectivity are questioned; knowledge is distrusted by actors
Bioregional approach (+/-)
  • Water management at bioregional scale existed in the past through the Venice Water Authority; in the 1970s regions took over responsibilities; EU laws re-establish river basin approach
  • Issues of leadership and authority (region vs. Venice Water Authority) hamper the transition to river basin management
Cognitive learning (+/-)
  • Established in the scientific community within a normative paradigm of essentially building infrastructure: well-developed scientific and technical knowledge
  • Not well established in the policy making and social community because:
    • No complete free flow of information in the system
    • Knowledge is not always trusted
    • Cases brought to court to stop policy effects or works, not for learning
Normative learning (-)
  • Not well established in the scientific, policy making, and social community because:
    • No complete free flow of information in the system
    • Knowledge is not always trusted
    • Disputes brought to court
  • Institutional memory may be an obstacle to change
  • Shift in policy agenda from physical and environmental protection to economic development is opportunistic because it does not bring new ideas and values but reuses old ideas to keep the system working
Relational learning (+/-)
  • Not well established in the scientific, policy making, and social community until recent times because of stable governmental system, stable coalitions, and networks that are not open to other actors
  • In the last few years change of a number of leaders in public organizations opened windows of opportunity for new coalitions; too soon to tell if it will lead to relational learning
  • No complete renovation, some instances of change of position, and no arrival of new people
  • Loss of institutional memory with people left
Polycentricity and learning
  • Hierarchical mono-centric structure leads to overlooking of interdependency; opportunities for interaction and cooperation are limited. This leads to limited relational learning
  • Existence of coalitions that are more influential than others, a national agenda with a narrow mandate, closed networks hamper relational learning because there is no interest in meeting among actors
  • Lack of polycentricity leads to no reflection and no change of perspectives therefore no normative learning
Participation and learning
  • The frustration generated by the low level of participation does not incentivize relational and normative learning
  • Going to court to suspend policy effects or works is a sign of unwillingness to all forms of learning
  • Because of limited flow of information in the system, cognitive learning of societal actors is low
Experimentation and learning
  • Experimentation taking place within normative paradigm allows cognitive learning but not normative and relational learning
  • Experiments do not serve as boundary objects to draw multiple stakeholders to the debate about the lagoon; there are no mechanisms to challenge values and allow new ideas and people to enter the discussion
  • The way experiments are designed and conducted affects how much they are trusted and therefore policy change
Bioregional approach and learning
  • Past experience in river basin management led to building of institutional memory as well as cognitive and relational learning to some extent because actors have worked together and created relations and knowledge
  • Institutional memory about past experience of bioregional management limits normative learning because actors tend to act according to the memory they have about the system; agencies that used to rule the system and had knowledge and control of it still tend to act according to those values and beliefs
  • Collaboration and learning at the bioregional scale occur if people expect it; if there is memory of one agency having control and knowledge, relational and normative learning cannot improve
  • Dealing with existing coalitions and institutions become problematic when new institutions are created over a bioregion
Evaluation scale:
(-) limited; (+/-) to some extent; (+) present