Grey infrastructures in cities are increasingly considered inadequate for coping with the impacts of climate change. Blue-green infrastructures (i.e. permeable paving) are proposed in order to make cities more resilient. Whereas grey infrastructures typically have a mono-functional aim (i.e. ensuring water discharge), blue-green infrastructures are multifunctional and can serve a wide range of additional purposes, related to for example ecology and recreation. This multi-functionality calls for innovative forms of governance, in which citizens, companies and public governments co-produce. These new governance forms can be considered examples of “social innovations”, with new relationships and responsibilities between state and non-state actors. Public governments play a crucial role in fostering social innovations, as they have to be able to reframe their governance modes in order to become more resilient. However, to date, public governments struggle with this, which hinders the delivery of these much-needed infrastructures. Consequently, we postulate that urban resilience highly depends on the governance capacity of public governments to develop a governance system that fosters social innovation.
This paper presents a framework for analysing how social innovations come about in the context of delivering urban blue-green infrastructures: how do public governments organise and facilitate new forms of governance for co-producing blue-green infrastructures? We analyse this in ten case studies from six different European countries, combining questionnaires, in-depth interviews and field visits. Our preliminary findings demonstrate an “implementation gap” between what is being said on paper and what can be seen in practice. Although public officials indicated to be welcoming to allocating responsibilities to citizens, in practice public governments remain risk-averse and want to remain in charge. We conclude that the resilience of urban systems is hindered by public governments, because they adhere to more traditional styles of public management.