Impact of institutions on flood policy learning

J. J. Rouillard*, K. V. Heal, A. D. Reeves, T. Ball

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Improving flood management is of fundamental importance to reduce human vulnerability to natural hazards, yet, policy reforms have been slow in many countries. To overcome inertia in our societies, the adaptive governance literature prescribes learning and collaboration. In this article, we examine how national institutions have influenced initiatives to improve flood policies in Scotland between the 1950s and 2000s. We use thematic analysis and historical process tracing to explore these relationships in parliamentary debates, policy documents and 16 interviews with national policy actors. Results suggest that the creation of an inclusive and deliberative national policy venue supported policy learning. The locus, nature and success of policy learning were highly dependent on rules regarding the allocation of resources within and between policy venues and political venues. Rules governing political venues have a significant influence on policy learning by allocating resources for policy learning and by opening or closing access to powerful decision-making processes such as the development of statutes. Therefore, improving policy learning and the adaptability of flood policies, requires attention to be given to the characteristics of policy venues, but also of political venues and to the relationship between policy and political venues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-249
Number of pages18
JournalWater policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Adaptive governance
  • Flood management
  • Institutions
  • Policy learning
  • Scotland

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