The organisation of complexity: A set of five components to organise the social interface of rural policy making

Elke Rogge, Joost Dessein, Anna Verhoeve

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    tDuring the last decades the European countryside has witnessed some major changes. This ‘rural restruc-turing’ implies a shift from an agricultural and manufacturing-based economy towards a service-centredeconomy in which the countryside is considered to be a place of consumption instead of a place of produc-tion. These major changes are accompanied by a shift in policy towards more engagement of stakeholdersfor the development and implementation of government objectives. However, making this shift from asteering government to a more enabling one does not come about naturally and authorities often lackadequate recourses, professional skills and equipment to take on this enabling role. In their search for thedevelopment of sound policy, policy makers are often confronted with a social interface to overcome. Inline with Long (2003), we defined this social interface as “a critical point of intersection between differentlife worlds, social fields or levels of social organisation, where social discontinuities based upon discrep-ancies in values, interests, knowledge and power, are most likely to be located”. Making an (analytical)distinction between three main dimensions of the interface of policy making, namely the presence of amultitude of actors, the difficulty of integrating different knowledge systems and the need to reconciledifferent policy levels, enabled us to deal with the complexity of policy making processes. The objectiveof this paper is to investigate how this interface can be organised in such a way that a constructive collab-oration allows a sound and widely accepted rural policy to develop. We describe three cases in Flanders(Belgium) for which new rural policy needed to be developed: agrarian architecture, the developmentof a landscape vision and the development of a policy strategy for castles, manors and their parks. Basedon the comparative analysis of these cases, we were able to define five components that allow the orga-nisation of the social interface: define common goals; identify the actors; integrate different knowledgesystems; design the process; and guard transparency, fairness and procedural justice of the process.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalLand Use Policy
    Pages (from-to)329-340
    Number of pages12
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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