Controversies in water management - frames and mental models


Rien Kolkman

Anne Van der Veen


University of Twente


University of Twente


1999 – 2005

Background and objectives

Controversies in decision and policy making processes can be analysed using frame reflection and mental model mapping techniques. The purpose of the present research is to improve the quality of the information and interpretations available to decision makers, by surfacing and juxtaposing the differing frames of decision makers, experts, and special interests groups.

The research provides a new method to analyse frames. It defines a frame to consist of perspective types and a mental model that are in close interaction (through second order learning processes). The mental model acts like a “filter” through which the problem situation is observed. Perspective types guide the construction of meaning out of the information delivered by the mental model, and determine what a stakeholder sees as his interests (see figure). The perspective types are related to an actor’s institutional and personal position in the decision making process. The method was applied to a case that concerns the decision making process and environmental impact assessment procedure for the improvement of dike ring 53, which was initiated by the Dutch “Flood defences Act 1996”.


Kolkman, M. J., Veen, A. van der, & Kok, M. (forthcoming). Mental model mapping – a method to link knowledge and practice. Proceedings of the Third International Symposium on Flood Defence (ISFD3) 25 - 27 May 2005 Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Kolkman, M. J., Geurts, P. A. T. M., & Veen, A. van der (forthcoming). What's on a decision makers mind? - Identifying barriers in information flows between actors in integrated water management using mental model mapping. In (Ed.), NCR-day 2004. Research for managing rivers; present and future issues Wageningen.

Kolkman, M. J. (2005). “Controversies in Water management: frames and mental models”. PhD thesis University of Twente, Enschede, 17 juni 2005, ISBN 90-365-2214-5.

Kolkman, M. J., Kok, M., & Veen, A. van der (2005). Mental model mapping as a new tool to analyse the use of information in decision-making in integrated water management. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth Special issue: Dealing with Floods within Constraints - Edited by N. Douben and H.H.G. Savenije. Vol 30/4-5 pp 317-332.