Learning through collaboration
The case of city deals in the Netherlands

07-05-2020 | Rapport

Based on an earlier evaluation of the city deals in the Netherlands, Marloes Dignum, David Hamers and David Evers have now written a chapter for an international edited volume that addresses strategies for urban network learning.

This chapter in the book Strategies for urban network learning: international practices and theoretical reflections (edited by Leon van den Dool, Erasmus University Rotterdam) explores learning in City Deals, a Dutch policy programme aimed at accelerating transitions (long-term system changes), such as sustainable urban development, climate adaptation, and renewable energy. Within City Deals a diverse network of partners (ministries, local governments, companies and/or social organisations) work together to find innovative solutions for complex issues in a non-hierarchical way and outside existing organisational structures. There is an inherent tension between the short duration of the City Deals individually, and the long-term goals they seek to address. To overcome this, the various learning experiences within the City Deals need to be safeguarded and the generated knowledge, insights, and experiences broadly shared.

This chapter provides insight into the learning experiences encountered within the deals and the anchoring of these learning experiences within the organisations involved to stimulate or accelerate a transition. The chapter concludes that learning experiences within the City Deals were largely social, rather than organisational, learning experiences. Social learning is considered any learning (either solitary or in a network setting) related to a City Deal. Organisational learning regards the embedding of the learning experiences in the organisation involved. This has the advantage of making the development less dependent on the individual. While the City Deals had official organisational support, high-level organisational commitment remained limited. This inhibited institutional penetration and the anchoring of learning experiences of the City Deals deeper in the organisations. We find that improvement of this organisational learning can contribute to long-term systemic changes.