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The role of partnerships in ‘realising’urban sustainability in
Rotterdam’s City Ports Area, The Netherlands
, Julia Wittmayer, Derk Loorbach
DRIFT eDutch Research Institute for Transitions, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3062PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Received 27 December 2012
Received in revised form
4 September 2013
Accepted 17 September 2013
Available online 29 September 2013
Urban waterfront regeneration
Port relocation leaves a mark on the city’s landscape and history. In Rotterdam, a medium-sized urban
delta, the harbour activities are being relocated from close to the city centre to outwards on the sea. This
leaves the city with a regeneration challenge accounting for an area of 1600 ha that it is addressed
through the drawing up of an ambitious vision. We investigate the partnerships that emerged and
contributed by taking up the realisation of the vision. The partnerships further develop and bring to the
ground the vision while remaining inspired and driven by sustainability as a guiding and practicing
principle. A mapping framework is developed to examine the governance imprint of partnerships along
two axes: their impact in terms of synergies and the governance role they adopt. Success factors
pertinent to the case include: the sustainability vision created a momentum for action, enjoyed political
attention and commitment and was received as a ﬂagship committing different actors to its imple-
mentation. Additional factors are the quick reﬂexes of different agencies to take up action at the after-
math of the vision creation, the local government was open to experiment with new and old
arrangements and in this way, it reinvented its role without losing its governing responsibility. In this
context, partnerships take up meta-governance roles and coordinate self-organised collaborative
governance processes while ensuring synergies and delivering on sustainability ambitions.
Ó2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Urban areas transform via adapting to pressures such as climate
change, globalization, social ﬂuidity or relocating of activities. Ur-
ban transformations require orchestrated efforts of actors from the
public, private and social sphere to effectively regenerate and
redevelop urban areas. Urban regeneration is a process of (re)
establishing social, economic, and environmental values of an area
via recreating its identity and function in the urban context (Davies,
2002, p.307). Urban regeneration illustrates characteristics of a
wicked problem (Rittel and Webber, 1973; Loorbach and Rotmans,
2010). Meaning that the problem’s boundaries are ill-deﬁned, it
concerns multiple actors with conﬂicting and overlapping interests
every attempt to tackle the problem deconstructs and reconstructs
problems dimensions (Giddens, 1984, p.164) and these kinds of
problems are uniquely formed by their (in this case, urban) context.
Urban regeneration as a complex wicked problem thus requires
joint efforts from multiple actors that consider context and
problem complexity simultaneously. In urban areas, different
(collaborative) institutional arrangements emerge that undertake
activities to respond to urban problems and demands (Khan, 2013).
Urban regeneration becomes even more challenging when it con-
cerns urban waterfronts. Urban waterfronts have signiﬁcant cul-
tural (historic and symbolic), ecological and economic values for
the cities and their transformations bring about opportunities and
problems. Their regeneration as a process of transformation re-
quires consideration of multiple ends and means. Waterfronts’
regeneration projects and programmes are often confronted with
institutional complexity such as conﬂicting regulations, non-
existing planning laws, required planning and land-use policy
changes, environmental restoration complexities (restoring previ-
ously industrial-used sites into housing sites with green space
demands), and conﬂicting visions of the restored area between
local authorities, citizens and businesses (Moulaert et al., 2003).
Urban waterfront regenerations are processes (and projects/pro-
grammes) that often succeed in opening debates about urban needs
(such as sustainability, liveability, or growth) and mobilising com-
munities and the innovative potential of citizens, businesses and
government (Bassett et al., 2002). Sustainability as a driver and
quality signiﬁer of urban waterfront regeneration and development
also asks for collaborative and holistic planning and governance
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Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Journal of Cleaner Production
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jclepro
0959-6526/$ esee front matter Ó2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Journal of Cleaner Production 65 (2014) 406e417
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approaches (Kenny and Meadowcroft, 1999; Healey, 2006). One of
the cities facing a sustainable redevelopment of its urban water-
front is Rotterdam, the case of focus in this article.
1.1. Rotterdam’s regeneration challenge
Rotterdam is located in the south-western part of the
Netherlands and hosts one of the larger ports in Europe, an
important economic area in the Netherlands. Being located below
sea level, climate change is expected to challenge this deltaic city in
a number of ways due to larger inﬂux of water from the rivers,
salinization of the underground water, increasing rainfall, and
longer dry periods. Rotterdam also faces a number of challenges in
its social fabric. Its population of 650.0 00 is generally low educated,
relatively young and ethnically diverse.
The start of the 21st century is not the ﬁrst time the city sees
itself confronted with redevelopment planning and projects (Van
der Schoor, 1999; Premius, 2004; Hooimeijer and Geldof, 2008,
p.50e55; Van der Brugge and Van Eijndoven, 2009). The con-
struction of the City Ports at the end of the nineteenth and the
beginning of the twentieth century can be seen as the beginning of
the westward movement of the harbour of Rotterdam. This spatial
relocation was realized when later the oil harbour, the Eerste
Maasvlakte, and now the Tweede Maasvlakte were developed. The
relocation and transfer of the harbour activities (including support
businesses) outside the city’s matrix over the next 25 years create a
need to redevelop the City Ports area while aiming for
Covering an area of about 1600 ha located on both banks of the
river Meuse and within the city limits, City Ports is the largest urban
(re)development area within the urbanized western part of the
Netherlands and deﬁned as a project of national importance (Fig. 1).
To facilitate the transition process the Rotterdam Municipality and
the Port Authorities started a joint program in 2006 for the rede-
velopment of the City Ports area. Different types of partnerships
were established after the vision creation phase that marked a new
governance landscape with interesting successes.
The case of the regeneration of the City Ports Area in Rotterdam
gets our attention because it presents a number of successes in
realising an innovative vision for a sustainable urban transition. In
the urban context, a sustainability transition is conceptualised as a
long-term process of fundamental change of systems of provision
coupled with radical shifts in ways of organising (structures) and
operating (practices) (in) a city as well as altering assumptions and
perceptions (cultures) towards more sustainable trajectories
(Frantzeskaki and de Haan, 2009; Coenen and Truffer, 2012; Nevens
et al., 2013). The City Ports case is an example where action follows
up a sustainability vision and different partnerships account for
bringing sustainability aspirations into life in an innovative and
collaborative way. Unlike other cases where a well formulated
ambitious sustainability vision remains as a symbol with no action
relating to it, the City Ports sustainability vision receives political
Fig. 1. Rotterdam’s City Ports Area. (edited by authors, original pictures from www.stadshavensrotterdam.nl)
N. Frantzeskaki et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 65 (2014) 406e417 407
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and policy attention and commitment. Its realisation is taken up by
a diversity of emerging partnerships. The partnerships further
develop and bring to the ground the vision while remaining
inspired and driven by sustainability as a guiding and practicing
principle. The case focuses on how such sustainability can be
realised pursuing and innovating with clean-tech solutions in order
to regenerate the city port of Rotterdam. The relocation of the port
activities created an opportunity for rethinking urban sustainability
and for creating or restoring new sense of place (Tidball and
Stedman, 2012, p.297) with sustainable processes and clean-tech
By zooming in, this paper provides lessons about the different
roles that partnerships can play when they are given space for
active learning and experimentation. In this way it connects with
the readership of the Journal of Cleaner Production by casting light
on the process of enabling different parties to collaboratively
implement cleaner and (more) sustainable production policies or
simply, in order to bring sustainability to the ground including but
not limiting it to adoption and diffusion of clean technologies.
1.2. Mapping framework for collaborative urban transformations
Partnerships between different actors are collaborative ar-
rangements and can be established either via the local
administration and its programmes (e.g. market cooperatives like
Coop in Italy) or in a community-based way where citizens self-
organise to service their needs and respond to community de-
mands with institutionalised practices (e.g. cooperatives, share-
holding) (Walker at al, 2008, 2010). In this context, the role of local
government swings between governing and governance of these
collaborative arrangements (Davies, 2002); governing includes
activities directed and managed by local government; where local
government has the sole responsibility on delivery and governance
is the process of steering multiple actors including but not limited
to the local government towards framing an agenda of targets
(vision) and of action. Partnerships for urban and infrastructure
governance are not new in Europe. In the UK a vast number of
partnerships for urban governance and urban regeneration pro-
vides evidence ground for the strengths and the weaknesses of
partnerships (Coaffee and Deas, 2008; Davies, 2002, 2009). A
partnership is a mode of collaborative governance in urban areas
that is also experienced largely in the Netherlands due to its neo-
corporatist tradition (Kickert, 1997). Partnerships are a way of in-
frastructures’governance (Koppenjan, 2005; Koppenjan and Klijn,
2011) and renewing the urban fabric (Kokx, 2011). In this setting,
partnerships between public and corporate actors are common
and their operation is well researched (Flyvbjerg et al., 2003;
Koppenjan and Enserink, 2009).
Strengths and weaknesses of partnerships for service delivery.
Strengths Partnerships create synergies between partners such as:
- create trust between different actors (especially when engaging citizens) and develop social capital (Deakin and Allwinkle, 2007, p.86)
- create a channel to express ideas, concerns and problems outside ofﬁcial routes (Coaffee and Healey, 2003, p. 1993)
- create a space to express concerns about area-speciﬁc issues (Steward, 2005)
Governance and Institutional synergy:
- create and enable integration between departments and between different policies (Coaffee and Deas, 2008, p.182; Pollitt, 2003, p.35)
-“institutionalize cross-sector cooperation while recognizing the ‘jurisdictional integrity’or constituent bodies’’ (Davies, 2009, p.82 citing)
- create policy synergy by “combining the different perspectives of each partner”resulting in innovative solutions and arrangements
(Hastings, 1996, p.260; Pollitt, 2003)
- challenge and innovate ways of working (Hastings, 1996, p.262): “Partnerships are vehicles through which the private sector can ‘shake up’
the public sector, thus bringing about more streamlined decision-making or a more entrepreneurial way of working, and simultaneously
mechanisms whereby the public and voluntary sectors can challenge the private sector to adopt more ‘social’objectives, less driven by
Resource synergy (including knowledge resources):
- pool resources together (expertise, funds, skills) and maintain social and economic proﬁtability (Newman and Jennings, 2008, p.171;
Pollit, 2003, p.35; Deakin and Allwinkle, 2007, p.86; Koppenjan, 2005; Wright, 1996; Flyvbjerg et al., 2003; Mackintosh, 1992, p.213;
Hastings, 1996, p.260)
- manage and maintain infrastructures on the long-term in a resource efﬁcient and effective manner (explicitly argued as public-private-
partnership premises, Flyvbjerg et al., 2003)
- (research partnerships in particular) offer to innovation via research dialogues that connect “professional silos”(Newman and Jennings, 2008,
Weaknesses Partnerships (may) suffer from weaknesses inherent to their organisation and joint-up nature such as:
Uncertainty of delivery:
- present a difﬁculty in delivering upon speciﬁed outcomes (Coaffee and Deas, 2008, p.173)
- focus on short-term outcomes hence short-lived (Kokx, 2011)
- tolerate or nurture strategic behaviour of partners that may diminish social values and beneﬁts (Flyvbjerg et al., 2003)
- resist or hesitate to involve external stakeholders (Coaffee and Deas, 2008, p.173)
- present a difﬁculty in communicating and channelling common social messages and demands (Davies, 2009)
Contributing to fragmentation:
- contribute to policy fragmentation in liberal institutional contexts (Kokx, 2011)
Risk of inception of bad-practices:
- bring public sector practices into the partnership making it ineffective (Coaffee and Healey, 2003, p.1992)
N. Frantzeskaki et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 65 (2014) 406e417408
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Partnerships are collaborative arrangements important for
implementing sustainability agendas due to two distinct and
(a) Partnerships create and catalyse synergies between partners
(social synergies, governance and institutional synergies and
resource synergies) and,
(b) Partnerships are ﬂexible and versatile in the role they take up
despite the problem context.
We use these two characteristics to map different types of
partnerships and to understand the impact (in terms of synergies)
and the role of partnerships in ‘realising’sustainability agendas.
This conceptual map is developed to examine the governance
imprint of partnerships by addressing what every partnership
serves or delivers on society’s needs and demands (regardless its
organisation in terms of public, private or social partners) as a mode
of collaborative governance (Davies, 2009).
Synergies: Establishing partnerships for co-implementing and
co-managing infrastructures and sharing responsibilities is one of
the ways infrastructure development is realized. Partnerships
create synergies when pooling together resources and skills, social,
knowledge, institutional and governance capacities. Partners match
and complement competencies and capacities to undertake a task
or aim for a common target when joining a partnership. These
matching competencies and capacities create synergies that are
vital for the endurance and effectiveness of the partnership. Table 1
includes an elaborate presentation for each type of the three
(conceptualised) synergies that partnerships create based on an
extensive literature review: Social synergies, resource synergies
and governance synergies.
In cities, partnerships face the sense of place and city’s place
identity as both a challenge and a risk (especially when bringing to
practice new innovations). As thus, partnerships are employed for
activating the creative potential of society and for enabling co-
creation between public, private and social spheres (including but
not limited to research partners) (Delmas and Young, 2009, p.7e8).
At the same time, partnerships have shortcomings such as failing to
persist in time and uncertainty in delivering the expected outcomes
(Table 1). By emphasizing the collaborative and synergistic effect of
partnerships as a crucial precondition for the implementation of
sustainable policies, this article adds to the current debate about
the governance of sustainable urban transformation in this journal
(see special issue by McCormick et al., 2013). Synergies are there-
fore one denominator for understanding the beneﬁts that part-
nerships as collaborative arrangements can bring forward.
Versatility of Roles: Partnerships can uptake different roles in
urban contexts. Partnerships are versatile since the same types of
partnerships can uptake different roles even in identical contexts
(Davies, 2009). They can take up action-oriented roles with a scope
on delivery (Flyvbjerg et al., 2003; Wright, 1996) or process-
oriented roles with the scope on setting up and organising pro-
cesses (e.g. problem framing, envisioning and scenario building,
agenda setting) (Hastings, 1996; Newman and Jennings, 2008).
Within the action and process roles, partnerships can take up ac-
tivities across different governance levels. As such partnerships are
often hybrids with action or process role orientation across multi-
ple governance levels. The multi-level governance framework
(Loorbach, 2010) is employed as a descriptive map of the different
governance roles of each partnership and includes four governance
levels with distinct functions and activities: (a) strategic level,
including processes and activities of setting long-term goals, policy
development, planning, vision, values, identity, culture of the city;
(b) tactical level including designing steering activities, programs,
funding, establishment of networks and/or partnerships; (c) oper-
ational level including implementing and managing policy action
plans, infrastructure plans and assets and (d) reﬂexive level with
monitoring, assessing and evaluating existing policies and assets
and their interaction with citizens. For diagnosing the type of ac-
tivities (strategic, tactical, operational and reﬂexive) a partnership
undertakes, we need to understand and map the relations between
different agencies (and/or partnerships) within and across the
multiple governance levels.
1.3. Research approach
Research Objective: In our paper we focus on the aftermath of a
vision creation process for the City Ports area and we explore how
the different partnerships are established, how they relate and
what are the activities they undertake for the realization of the
vision. We examine the role of partnerships in urban sustainability
governance in practice and gain new insights on how governance
Fig. 2. Partnerships at the policy and planning landscape concerning the City Ports regeneration process.
N. Frantzeskaki et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 65 (2014) 406e417 409
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arrangements when set in a ﬂexible and open to experimentation
way can succeed in bridging the gap between vision creation and
Field Research: The research ﬁndings are derived from a syn-
thesis of three data harvesting methods: (a) action research. One of
the authors has been involved in facilitating the envisioning pro-
cess that resulted in the overall vision for City Ports Rotterdam (Van
Eijndhoven et al., 2013); (b) desk research. Complementary to the
action research input, we performed an extensive press analysis
and a literature review of policy documents and scientiﬁc articles
and (c) three semi-structured (in-person and phone) interviews
with experts involved in each partnership (not researchers) in or-
der to validate research ﬁndings. The interviews were conducted in
October 2011 and May 2012.
Research Analysis: We take two steps for analysing the nature
and operation of partnerships: First, we analyse the different
partnerships that were set-up and emerged after the vision crea-
tion phase. We analyse the different organisational structures of
each partnership (public private partnership, tripartite partnership
and learning alliance) and examine the activities that each part-
nership undertakes. Second, we apply the conceptual framework to
map the role it undertakes in the aftermath of the sustainability
vision and the synergies that emerge in and from every partner-
ship. We also map how the different partnerships are embedded in
the climate policy context (by examining the relations that are
established with (pre)existing organisations).
The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. In Section 2
we present the analysis of the role and synergies of partnerships
that emerged and contributed to the vision realisation in the City
Ports area in Rotterdam. In Section 3we elaborate on the analysis
and the empirical ﬁndings of the City Ports case addressing the
lessons and implications for local government about governance
for urban sustainability. In Section 4we conclude the analysis with
an overview of success factors from the empirical case and with a
reﬂection on these success factors when considering follow-up on
the case, complexity, uncertainty and the urban sustainability
2. City Ports Rotterdam: from envisioning to realising urban
After shortly introducing the context of the vision creation, a
number of partnerships are introduced: the transition arena-
network, the Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce, the Floating Pavilion
Partnership and the Clean Tech Delta Partnership. In this section we
analyse the organisation and type of every partnership zooming in
on the relation between the partnerships in the vision realisation
phase, discerning different foci in their activities. We further
examine the role it undertakes in the aftermath of the sustainability
vision and the synergies that emerge in and from every
2.1. Creating a vision and the partnerships for realization
The Rotterdam Municipality and the Port Authority facilitated a
two-phased transition process by a joint programme that started in
2006. The aim was to create an agenda and a plan for the rede-
velopment of the City Ports area (Fig. 2).
The ﬁrst years, the programme was characterised by conﬂicts
about leadership, starting points, strategy and uncertainty in di-
rection. The vision for the area mainly allowed for hosting harbour
activities as long as possible, while starting to accommodate some
15.000 houses and to improve accessibility of the area. Most
stakeholders involved felt that this vision did not render justice to
such a historically unique area.
At this point, a group of over one hundred change agents was
asked to collaborate in a participatory process forming a transition
arena network for the redevelopment of City Ports. The Transition
Arena network is a network of actors that was brought together
using the transition management process methodology for actor
selection and participation that has as the aim to bring together
urban change agents, sustainability thinkers and practitioners for
formulating long-term sustainability aspirations and pathways for
action (Frantzeskaki et al., 2012; Nevens et al., 2013; Van
Eijndhoven et al., 2013).
These representatives were from different departments of the
Municipality (economic, housing, mobility, social), from the Port
Authorities, from local businesses and industry, from research in-
stitutes and from NGO’s. Together, they created a vision, and
developed a shared language and perspective about the sustainable
future of the City Ports area. At the same time, the vision and its
aspirations gained political support in the form of funds mobi-
lisation for experimentation and initiation of experiments that
relate to the vision.
In brief, the vision “Creating on the Edge”(Stadshavens
Rotterdam, 2008a) aims at enforcing the economic structure of
both the harbour and the city and the provision of high-end living-
and working environments. Activities should contribute to social
cohesion, quality of life, economic growth and employment. Five
strategies are deﬁned with milestones and iconic projects to reach
this long term sustainability vision: 1) re-inventing delta-technol-
ogy, 2) volume and value, 3) crossing borders, 4) ﬂoating commu-
nities and 5) sustainable mobility. The vision outlines three time
horizons: 2015 for short-term actions, 2025 for middle-term ac-
tions and the perspective itself stretches until 2040. The vision
emphasizes the need for experimentation and innovation while
incorporating the unique features of this area such as the promi-
nence of water, the availability of space and the urgency to ensure
its sustainability. Based on ten sustainability principles (such as
climate resilience, social viability and economic attractiveness) an
ambition was formulated and through lobbying, resources were
mobilised in the form of ﬁnance and change of regulation.
Next to the Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce a number of different
partnerships emerged and contributed to realizing the vision in the
city ports planning context. Two speciﬁc partnerships work on
realizing distinct strategic pathways of the vision, the Floating
Pavilion Partnership and the Clean Tech Delta Partnership. Both have
established active communication and collaboration relations with
the Rotterdam Climate Initiative (RCI) that is the knowledge-focused
partnership relating to the climate change policy context (Fig. 2).
2.2. Realizing the sustainability vision through partnerships
2.2.1. Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce
The Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce is a public-private partnership of
Rotterdam Municipality and the harbour company, which was set
up in 2004 focussing on the regeneration of the urban waterfront in
Rotterdam. The funding of an independent development company
was inspired by the example of Hamburg and went hand in hand
with the privatisation of the harbour and the establishment of the
harbour company (Daamen, 2005). The Project Ofﬁce is steered by a
director’s consultation (with representatives of both partners)
which itself is guided by a steering group (with high level repre-
sentatives of both the city and the harbour company). Four opera-
tional coordination groups have been built each responsible for one
of the four City Port areas.
Process-oriented tactical role: The activities of the Stadshavens
Project Ofﬁce have a process-orientation (rather than an objectives-
attainment orientation) and as such, the Ofﬁce undertakes a
steering role rather than a management role. Its tasks are deﬁned as
N. Frantzeskaki et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 65 (2014) 406e417410
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“facilitating, accelerating, catalysing and intervening”(Stadshavens
Rotterdam, 2010a, p.31). Speciﬁc activities include the initiation of
the vision process, the publishing of the vision (Stadshavens
Rotterdam, 2008a), thinking through vision-delivery implementa-
tion strategies for the period 2007e2015 (Stadshavens Rotterdam,
2008b), and reporting on the progress through publications
(Stadshavens Rotterdam, 2010a) and through news-items on the
website (Stadshavens Rotterdam, 2010b). The Ofﬁce also links to
regional initiatives (Randstad 2040), to national governmental or-
ganizations as well as to international developments for
exchanging experiences (e.g. in Hamburg, London or New York).
Through creating enabling conditions other agencies and partner-
ships emerged taking up the realization of the vision.
The Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce is working with a number of
agencies and partnerships on the development of the area, amongst
others knowledge institutions, business partners, housing co-
operation’s and civil society organizations. As such the Stadshavens
Project Ofﬁce has a tactical role in realising the vision in designing
steering activities, programs, establishing funding and creating the
conditions for the establishment of networks and partnerships
Synergies: The Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce Partnership operated
at the tactical governance level and undertook activities such as
designing steering activities, programs, funding, and establishment
of networks and/or partnerships. As such it created institutional
synergies between departments, between different institutional
agencies and policies and also enabled resource synergy resulting in
social and economic viability of the vision realisation process.
2.2.2. Floating Pavilion Partnership
The Floating Pavilion Partnership is constituted by social, public
and private partners with distinct roles and resembles structure
and organisation of a tripartite partnership (Coaffee, 2004). The
Floating Pavilion is a 12 m high construction of three half-round
transparent hemispheric constellations that was explicitly framed
as an experiment (Fig. 3). Rotterdam has for long articulated the
ambition to build on water (Van der Brugge and De Graaf, 2010; De
Graaf and Van der Brugge, 2010; Stadshavens Rotterdam, 2009a).
The rationale is that increasing water levels (river, groundwater)
will make innovative resilient living arrangements and settlements
necessary. Floating urbanisation is conceptualised and envisaged as
the adaptation option of Rotterdam as a deltaic city to climate
change pressures and is one strategic transition pathway in the
vision ‘Creating on the Edge’.
Next to the Municipality of Rotterdam and the Port Authorities
in their Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce, there were business partners
and societal groups involved. Deltasync (a company of award-
winning engineering graduates) and Public Domain Architects
(design & implementation) were involved in listing the speciﬁca-
tions for the tender for construction companies, which was awar-
ded to Dura Vermeer. Another partner was FlexBase that was
responsible for the ﬂoating base. In order to accelerate the one year
design and building phase, the design partners physically took of-
ﬁce in the RDM campus of Hogeschool Rotterdam and Albeda
College in City Ports. The latter two were research partners: stu-
dents of both institutes were involved in design, construction and
dealing with sustainability criteria for the Floating Pavilion. The
investment for the Floating Pavilion amounted to V5.5 million that
was covered by the Municipality of Rotterdam, via its Rotterdam
Climate Proof programme (as part of the Rotterdam Climate
Initiative) (V5 million), as well as by additional (excessive)funds by
the European Regional Development Fund (V0.8 million) and
Senter Novem (V0.4 million) (Gemeente Rotterdam, 2011b).
Action-orientation operational role: The Floating Pavilion was
built from November 2009 to June 2010 and is now located in the
Maashaven on the City Ports area. In order to cope with the chal-
lenges from budget and time limits and to fulﬁl the high climate
ambition of the Municipality of Rotterdam, the designers, builders,
students and advisors worked closely together in a highly inter-
active way (avoiding hierarchical arrangements). The cooperation
between team players was built on a shared ambition: to use this
chance to prove that ﬂoating constructions offer opportunities for a
sustainable future. The learning goal from this ‘experiment’relates
to different aspects of building on water, not only technologically
(how sustainable can it be?), but also socially (do people want to
live on the water like this?), economically (how to ﬁnance it?) and
institutionally (can we regulate it?). This socio-technical pilot is the
ﬁrst step in constructing 13.000 apartments, 1200 of which on
water, a goal outlined in the ‘Creating on the Edge’vision. In a
presentation on the Floating Pavilion in the beginning of 2009, Mar
Kwakkelstein (2009), the appointed project manager at the public
works department of the Municipality, identiﬁed bottlenecks on
three areas for ﬂoating constructions: the surrounding (e.g. city
planning preconditions, architectural coherence), technology (e.g.
sustainable development, safety what concerns collisions and ﬁre)
and judicial aspects (e.g. permits, tender procedures, property
questions). In the everyday work of building the Floating Pavilion,
Kwakkelstein experienced city planning aspects, tender aspects
(regulations and legislation), ambitions and costs of realization as
well as technological aspects such as provision of services, acces-
sibility, parking, cables, pipelines and emergency exits as
Fig. 3. The Floating Pavilion by night, City Ports, Rotterdam. (Source and copyright: Ó
Ossip van Duivenbode/ Rotterdam Image Bank).
N. Frantzeskaki et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 65 (2014) 406e417 411
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problematic. The Floating Pavilion Partnership has an action-
orientation and implementation focus in their activities. It has an
operational role undertaking the task to design and implement the
Floating Pavilion pilot.
Synergies: The Floating Pavilion Partnership was a partnership
that created knowledge synergies via experimenting. It took the
initiative to exploit recent research ﬁndings of sustainable urban
technology in order to set up an urban pilot or to ‘plant a seed’for
ﬂoating urbanisation in Rotterdam (Newman and Jennings, 2008;
see also Table 1).
2.2.3. Clean Tech Delta Partnership
The Clean Tech Delta Partnership was set up in 2010 as a direct
follow-up of the Rotterdam Climate Campus along a second stra-
tegic transition pathway of the vision, ‘re-inventing delta-tech-
nology’. The latter was a learning alliance (Van Herk et al., 2011)
between science, business, public sector, and civil society
established through a declaration of intent in 2008 (Ministerie
VROM et al., 2008), with the ambition to develop into an interna-
tional cluster for delta-technology. With booming numbers of
interested parties also outside Rotterdam, the Climate Campus
became Clean Tech Delta.
The Clean Tech Delta Partnership is a learning alliancewith eleven
founding fathers coming from the public sector (Delft Municipality,
Rotterdam Municipality, Hoogheemraadschap van Delﬂand), the
private sector (Vestia, AVR-van Gansewinkel Groep, Eneco, Arcadis)
and from scientiﬁc institutes (Delft University of Technology, Eras-
mus University Rotterdam, Hogeschool Rotterdam, TNO) (Clean Tech
Delta, 2011). The founding members invested manpower and a total
of V1 million in 2010 (Gemeente Rotterdam, 2010) and established
their businesses in the Clean Tech Delta area, extending from the
(former) docks of Rotterdam to the City Ports district, and all the way
up to Delft, a neighbouring city. In 2011, the partnership has grown to
encompass a network of 40 parties (Clean Tech Delta, 2011).
culture of the city
plans and assets
and assets and
Stadshavens Project Office
Municipality Port Authorities
Rotterdam Climate Initiative
Floating City Partnership
Clean Tech Delta
Fig. 4. Mapping the roles and synergies of the City Ports’partnerships.
N. Frantzeskaki et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 65 (2014) 406e417412
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The Clean Tech Delta started as network organization without
judicial identity. At present, the Clean Tech Delta has a formalised
organizational structure. The participant assembly includes repre-
sentatives of all partners and meets twice a year in a network
meeting, the board including representatives of the founding fa-
thers, meets four times a year as central decision-making body
(Gemeente Rotterdam, 2010).
Action-orientation operational role: In the Clean Tech Delta
Partnership different parties work together to generate new
knowledge in four sectors, namely the bio-based economy & sus-
tainable energy (e.g. thermal storage, tidal power), water- & delta-
technology (e.g. innovative dikes, unembanked constructions), in-
frastructures & mobility and sustainable buildings & regional
development. The Clean Tech Delta Partnership took over the
Climate Campus mission to streamline scientiﬁc research to inno-
vative solutions on the ﬁeld or simply, ideas developed in labora-
tories were to be put immediately into practice (Stadshavens
Rotterdam, 2009b). The action focus of the Clean Tech Delta part-
nership is thus on bringing innovative ideas and knowledge into
action and practice, examples include ﬂagship project such as
‘ﬂoating constructions’or a ‘business platform biomass’(Clean Tech
Delta, 2012). According to the Lord Mayor of Rotterdam, Clean Tech
Delta also aims at information transfer, joined lobbying, customized
marketing and acquisition giving rise to innovation in the form of
initiatives and pilots as well as projects and business cases
(Gemeente Rotterdam, 2010). The development of sustainable
technologies is not only seen as adaptation necessity but as an
economic-driven opportunity to enter new markets worldwide.
Four physical sites have been assigned as development locations,
one of which is the MerweeVierhavens, part of City Ports
(Stadshavens Rotterdam, 2010a). The investment was earmarked
for the stimulation of projects and business cases.
The initial idea of the Climate Campus has gained momentum
and grew into the innovation network Clean Tech Delta whose
geographical spread stretches beyond the area of City Ports or even
Rotterdam. This change in the form of the partnership and its
associated scope is a potential source of confusion as the partners
might have different perceptions with regard to their role, as well
as the form and scope of the evolving Clean Tech Delta Partnership
(Rotmans, 2012, p.117). Like the Floating Pavilion Partnership, the
Clean Tech Delta Partnership has an action-orientation and imple-
mentation focus and an operational role and was responsible for the
design and delivery of new knowledge to reinvent delta-technology
(as one of the strategic pathways of the sustainability vision).
Synergies: The Clean Tech Delta was prominently a partnership
that created knowledge synergies via stimulating and facilitating
research dialogues between “professional silos”(Newman and
Jennings, 2008; see also Table 1) and streamlining innovative
ideas into practice. The Clean Tech Delta had the mission to create
interdisciplinary innovation that may lead to the new innovative
character of the area without prescriptive ‘deliveries’.
2.2.4. Rotterdam Climate Initiative
Through collaborative links with the Rotterdam Climate Initia-
tive (RCI), the Floating Pavilion Partnership and the Clean Tech
Delta Partnership are being embedded into the climate change
policy context of Rotterdam while acting upon and realising the
sustainability vision of the City Ports.
The RCI is a learning alliance of the Rotterdam Municipality, the
Port Authorities, Deltalings (an umbrella organisation for com-
panies in the harbour and the surrounding area) and the DCMR
Process-oriented tactical role: The RCI acts as knowledge
liaison and is an intermediary partnership with the objectives to
disseminate knowledge between the partners and to channel
information and ideas between partners with the aim to stimulate
solutions’co-creation that can contribute to achieving the agreed
upon target of 50% reduction in CO
emissions in harbour and city.
As such, the RCI has a process-oriented and tactical role on steering
learning creation and knowledge mediation and exploitation ac-
tivities. The RCI was one of the parties signing the earlier
mentioned declaration of intent to develop the Climate Campus
Rotterdam and also co-ﬁnanced and earmarked the ﬂoating
pavilion as the ﬁrst result of its Rotterdam Climate Proof pro-
gramme to make Rotterdam climate resilient.
Another connection between urban regeneration policy and
climate change policy agenda are the plans for establishing the
National Water Centre that is to be physically located at the Floating
Pavilion and is seen as one of the foundation stones of the Clean
Tech Delta Partnership. The National Water Centre itself is based on
a partnership of businesses (Arcadis, dhv, Dura Vermeer, Evides,
Ahoy), scientiﬁc institutes (Hogeschool Rotterdam, Delft University
of Technology) and the Rotterdam Municipality. The private parties
invested 0,7 million Euro in cash and in kind for the initiating phase
and the Rotterdam Municipality invested 0,2 million Euro from its
Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce’s and RCI budgets. The idea is to attract
more partners to the National Water Centre in the coming year
(Gemeente Rotterdam, 2011a).
Synergies: The RCI created knowledge synergies via stimulating
knowledge creation processes and via facilitating knowledge
sharing and channelling (Newman and Jennings, 2008; see also
Table 1). The active collaboration and embedding facilitated by all
partnerships ensures integration and harmonisation of actions in a
Fig. 4 summarizes the analysis of Section 2.2.Themappingof
each partnership across the multi-level governance landscape
shows (and tags) the different governance roles that each part-
nership fulﬁls and in this way, they create a diverse governance
landscape where challenges and solutions are coupled. Fig. 4 il-
lustrates the versatility of roles that partnerships can take as well
as the diverse landscape of urban regeneration governance
after the emergence of the partnerships. It also maps what
synergies each partnership created irrespectively of their
3.1. Partnerships shape a new governance landscape for urban
regeneration and sustainability
In City Ports, different partnerships undertook different gover-
nance activities: vision creation, agenda setting, resources mobili-
zation, networks valorization and implementation. The different
partnerships operated in synergy and synchronously with each
other and had different governance roles.
The transition arena-network that was the ad-hoc partnership
at the vision creation phase (Fig. 2) operated at a strategic gover-
nance level and had a strategic role (Fig. 4). The transition arena-
network initiated social synergies via fostering trust between
different participants and established a channel to voice ideas and
concerns about the area and its future (Table 1). It created a the-
matic vision with ambitious aspirations. The vision ‘Creating on the
Edge’and the sustainability agenda created a common thread that
connected all the regeneration developments and their associated
partnerships. This provides a good starting point for effective suc-
cessful and sustainable urban regeneration (Coaffee, 2004, p.445).
The favouring political climate was an enabling factor at the stra-
tegic level. The political agendas at local and regional level
converged to a shared priority that every development in the City
Ports area should comply with sustainability values; meaning that
N. Frantzeskaki et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 65 (2014) 406e417 413
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future developments have to be sustainable in ecological, social and
At the strategic level, the sustainability vision and sustainability
agenda created a symbolic leadership context that is a success
factor for partnerships to thrive (Mitchell, 2005, p.126). The vision
acted as a ﬂagship inspiring and committing the different actors to
its implementation. The long-term focus of the vision also revealed
the opportunities that lie ahead for shared prosperity between
businesses, communities and scientists. Growth is still seen as the
underlying focus; however sustainability is seen as the paradigm
that can stimulate innovative and robust future developments. The
coupling of sustainability and innovation made the agenda for
regeneration attractive and inspiring for community groups (such
as NGOs, social entrepreneurs and scientists) and for corporate
actors (businesses, construction actors, SMEs). This appears as a
critical success requirement for urban regeneration (Coaffee and
Deas, 2008,p.174;Shipley, 2000; Shipley and Newkirk, 1999). At
the same time, the development of the vision in a participatory way
revealed opportunities for public, private and community actors.
The coupling of sustainability and innovation was realized at stra-
tegic level as the underpinning of the vision ‘Creating at the Edge’
and at operational level concerning potential projects and de-
velopments. The different strategic pathways of ‘Floating commu-
nities’and ‘Re-inventing Delta Technology’show how sustainability
and innovation as value-laden and technology-laden concepts can
stimulate and pave the ground for projects at the local level.
In this landscape of governance diversity, we distinguish two
meta-governance centres: the Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce Partner-
ship as the metagovernance centre on vision realization (related to
urban waterfront regeneration) and the Rotterdam Climate Initia-
tive Partnership as the metagovernance centre on learning for
climate resilience (related to urban climate change policy). These
two partnerships are characterised as meta-governance centers
due to their activities of coordinating different governance pro-
cesses eestablished, emergent or self-organised processes- that
aim to deliver upon strategic goals and services (following the
conceptualisations of meta-governance by Jessop, 1997; Kooiman
and Jentoft, 2009; Meuleman, 2010). Kooiman and Jentoft (2009,
p.824) argue that “meta-order of governance activities is a key to it,
since it formulates not only principles for those activities them-
selves, but also establishes normative links between all kinds of
governance attributes. (.) In the reality of complex, dynamic and
diverse societies, where so many parties at so many levels in so
many roles govern together, governance cannot operate without a
reasoned and coherent set of meta-governance norms and
With its participation in these partnerships, the local govern-
ment (Rotterdam Municipality) actively took a metagovernance
approach in “coordinating different forms of governance”(Jessop,
1997, p.7). The local government also created a productive gover-
nance space for “coordinated governance”(Meuleman, 2010, p.55).
We observe from the mapping illustrated in Fig. 4, that both the
Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce and the Rotterdam Climate Initiative
partnerships have tactical roles and create governance, institutional
and resource synergies.
The Floating Pavilion Partnership and the Clean Tech Delta
Partnership are positioned at the operational governance level and
actively and genuinely contributed to the regeneration of the City
Ports by producing both knowledge and innovation (Coaffee, 2004,
p.449). They had taken up the task to bring the strategic transition
pathways of the sustainability vision to life: First, the Floating
Pavilion Partnership that is a tripartite partnership between public
sector, private sector and community steward the task to experi-
ment with technologies in order to pilot with a ﬂoating construc-
tion aiming at a future ﬂoating neighbourhood. The Floating
Pavilion tripartite partnership dared to go ahead and implement
the Floating Pavilion despite the lack of jurisdiction law and taxa-
tion schemes for ﬂoating settlements. Experimenting and learning
from the pilot was placed as a priority. The beneﬁt of having the
tripartite partnership leading this pilot implementation is that it
made possible its realization despite the existing barriers. If the
ﬂoating pilot would have been under the management of a public
sector actor, it would have been ruled-out or postponed due to its
incompatibility with existing regulations and planning schemes.
Second, the Clean Tech Delta partnership that is a learning alliance
between universities, small-medium enterprises and the public
sector that focuses on innovating and experimenting so as to create
the next generation technology and knowledge. Both partnerships
delivered innovation and knowledge. Partnerships were active and
had the capacity to lead their own projects from planning to de-
livery. This is seen as a success of an open process for different
partnerships to emerge under a common sustainability-led agenda
(Von Malmborg, 2007,p.1730e1731).
At the same time, the fact that in the aftermath of the vision
creation, two partnerships emerged to take up the implementation
of some of its strategic elements is also considered as a critical
success factor. The relatively short time-frame from envisioning to
acting, makes it possible to connect short-term experimentation
and short-term projects such as the Floating Pavilion to long-term
aspirations as framed by the vision. The immediate experimenta-
tion and action shows the momentum the vision created and
combined with the quick action-oriented reﬂexes of different
agents for taking up vision pathways are critical success factors for
realising the sustainability vision.
What is lacking in the City Ports case is a reﬂexive governance
level of activities and processes. At present, there is no organisation
or partnership to undertake the role of monitoring and evaluation
of the progress and operation of the different partnerships and
organisations that work towards realising the sustainability vision.
Monitoring of progress and evaluation of lessons and experiences
contributes to policy and social learning as well as to adapting
practices based on experiences. Lack of monitoring and evaluation
in the case of City Ports may result in losing track of progress and
knowledge towards achieving the sustainability vision.
An implication, or shortcoming at present, of the lack of re-
ﬂexive activities may be the limited critical examination and
evaluation of the inclusion and justice issues that may occur due to
the proposed developments in the City Ports area. Questions like
“who is going to live in the future ﬂoating neighbourhood?”may be
crucial questions to consider in the near future in order to ensure
that the values depicted in the sustainability vision are safeguarded
during the scaling-up of the successfully developed projects at
present. A suite of reﬂexive activities is hence important to un-
dertake monitoring and in-situ evaluation of the motives and
design principles of on-going and future projects (especially (to be)
developed by partnerships with strong private sector involvement)
so as to balance justice and inclusion needs with pressures for
business growth and technology-driven development.
3.2. A new role for local government?
The local authorities remain an important and inﬂuential actor
for leading sustainable urban development and regeneration. This
can be achieved in various ways such as setting an agenda, develop
a vision, create collaborative opportunities and platforms or pro-
vide funding schemes and allow self-organization of different types
With the City Ports case we highlight that the local authority re-
establishes its role in creating enabling conditions for policy inte-
gration and continuity by adopting a meta-governance approach.
N. Frantzeskaki et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 65 (2014) 406e417414
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This contradicts the recent criticism about lacking governance ca-
pacity of local government in urban restructuring (Davies, 2002;
Kokx, 2011, p.1043) and conﬁrms the opportunities that water-
front regeneration processes bring to local governance: “Contem-
porary urban waterfront transformations both reﬂect and
constitute changes in governance, economic regulation, and soci-
etal imaginaries of the non-human environment”(Bunce and
Desfor, 2007, p.251).
In this new role, the local government adopted a meta-
governance in practice mode by facilitating the search for alternative
ways of organisation (partnerships) and for alternative solution
spaces, allowing space for seeking innovative options, fostering
connections and networks from a strategic and tactical levels and
sharing lessons from experience with long-lasting and pilot pro-
jects when setting projects of experimental nature.
Metagovernance is not about meta-management meaning
management of multiple processes that are also regulated and
managed at lower levels. Metagovernance is about facilitating and
fostering processes of collaborative governance and coordination
while setting the scene for self-organisation and emergence of
solutions and innovations. The City Ports case exempliﬁes that
meta-governance steering when combined with symbolic leader-
ship can create the context for effective and successful collaborative
(polycentric) governance via partnerships.
Metagovernance however is not about an excuse for non-
governance or for non-accountability. Within this new meta-
governance role, the local government remains socially and polit-
ically responsible (Kooiman and Jentoft, 2009, p.827) to ensure that
the self-organised partnerships can bear the task of the imple-
mentation and service delivery of speciﬁc activities and projects.
The dilemma that lies ahead is whether a metagovernance
approach can be successful in projects other than experimental.
Will a metagovernance mode by the local government succeed in
steering and coordinating delivery in large-scale projects that are
critical for social, ecological and economic sustainability?
Urban waterfront regeneration is a complex challenging process.
In the case of City Ports in Rotterdam, the realisation of the sus-
tainability vision as the initiation of urban waterfront regeneration
evinces a number of success factors:
- The sustainability vision created a momentum for action and
encapsulated the very nature of the City Ports area:anareaof
socio-economic and historical signiﬁcance that can yield op-
portunities for the city (communities and businesses) if its
redevelopment addresses sustainability broadly. The sustain-
ability vision enjoyed political and policy attention and
- The sustainability vision and sustainability agenda created a
symbolic leadership context that is a success factor for part-
nerships to thrive. The vision acted as a ﬂagship inspiring and
committing the different actors to its implementation.
- The early failure of the conventional planning in the ﬁrst phase
of the process (Section 2.1) was an early lesson for the Mu-
nicipality of Rotterdam. This early lesson created space for
experimentation with new and old arrangements respec-
tively: a learning alliance and a public-private partnership. The
Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce evinces a metagovernance mode in
practice where experienced policy entrepreneurs from the
Municipality of Rotterdam productively use their connections
and networks with practitioners and scientists to create a
self-organised space for innovation to realise a sustainability
- Rotterdam municipality succeeded in facilitating collaborative
arrangements without losing its government role.Its new dual
role is an example of successful reﬂexive governance: steering
and orienting when partnerships exhibit capacity for delivering
and regulating and directing when strategic planning is
- The quick reﬂexes of different agencies to take up action were
another success factor. In the aftermath of the vision, different
actors acted upon the vision and very quickly formed partner-
ships to realise the vision.
In the City Ports case partnerships created a diverse governance
landscape and succeeded in delivering on speciﬁc strategic objec-
tives and pathways. That is a successful aftermath of a vision cre-
ation process that we may say was realised ‘at the right time at the
right place’. The different partnerships contribute substantially to
the realisation of the vision by experimenting and implementing
small-scale projects such as the Floating Pavilion and new knowl-
edge on ﬂoating infrastructure that are the stepping-stone for
larger projects relating to the vision. In line with this, we can argue
that the complexity of the urban regeneration process in the City
Ports in Rotterdam required new types of arrangements (such as
the metagovernance modes that the Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce and
Rotterdam Climate Initiative partnerships adopted) and new roles
of well-known or old type of arrangements (such as co-existence
of the tactical role of the Stadshavens Project Ofﬁce public-private
partnership and the operational role of the learning alliance of
Climate Tech Delta). At the sametime, the case study explicates that
there are common characteristics between the meta-governance
partnerships: both operate at the tactical level (with a focus on
steering activities) and create governance, institutional and
knowledge synergies (Fig. 4).
Our case provides empirical insight on understanding meta-
governance approach in practice. Meta-governance entails coordi-
nation of different governance processes eestablished, emergent
or self-organised processes- that aim to deliver upon strategic goals
and services (Jessop, 1997; Kooiman and Jentoft, 2009; Meuleman,
2010). In our case study, different partnerships and the local gov-
ernment showed the capacity to take up a meta-governance role.
As such, there is no prescription of ‘who can do it’but rather
recognition of the reﬂexive governance capacity that it is required
in order to establish socially, environmentally and politically
responsible coordination of complex governance processes.
The City Ports to date is a success story due to the fact that
partnerships were not planned but were allowed to emerge. This
however can also be seen as the outcome of organisations having
learnt to work in partnerships in a culture of corporate governance
or (simply) having worked together in the past in other projects.
The degree of success of each partnership in this case also depends
on the familiarity and experience of different organisations to work
in and as partnerships. This remains as a topic for future exami-
nation and research for identifying favourable conditions for part-
nerships emergence and their effective operation.
At present, the follow-up of the Floating Pavilion is in the pro-
cess of planning and designing and there are ﬁrst signs of pathol-
ogies in the Climate Tech Delta (such as miscommunications,
diminishing trust, protectionism of research ﬁndings and lack of
sharing). The partnerships enter a new phase in the City Ports
regeneration where larger projects and larger challenges are to be
tackled. Are the existing partnerships capable in terms of
commitment and capacities to take up the scaling-up of their
successful experimental projects and programmes?
Relying on partnerships implies taking on board not only
complexity in the form of the governance diversity they bring but
also uncertainty in terms of procedural and delivery (outcome)
N. Frantzeskaki et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 65 (2014) 406e417 415
Author's personal copy
uncertainties (experimentation, emergent innovation and hybrid-
ization) and governance uncertainty (meta-steered partnerships
engulf uncertainty). Along with the question of how much
complexity new urban sustainability governance arrangements can
deal with, we need to consider how much uncertainty can be
endured for realising urban regeneration and urban sustainability?
Authors are grateful to the editor and to the reviewers for their
constructive comments that helped us improve the messages of our
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