Governance of multi-functionality: unpacking the design and delivery of blue-green infrastructure

Prescriptions to address water problems have long advocated the need for multi-functional solutions combining (for example) flood alleviation, environmental water quality and water supply in ‘blue-green infrastructure’. Implementing such measures disrupts conventional infrastructure governance, however, as budgets and decision-making cannot be allocated to single knowledge communities.  Taking case studies where overall budgets are assured and projects are underway, this research investigates the detailed processes of project design and development for two blue-green infrastructure projects.   Specifically, it asks ‘what evidence and whose opinions are used to evaluate costs and benefits in different spheres and how are their relative merits evaluated?’

The research will adopt a social practices approach to studying the decision processes in case study utilities.  When used to study institutions, a social practices approach looks at the mechanisms and norms that are used to reach decisions and to determine actions.  Through examining how the normal governance practices are disrupted through blue-green infrastructure cases, the research will seek to inform the future development and selection of multi-functional infrastructure solutions. 


This research will focus on two examples of blue-green infrastructure implementation, comparing and contrasting the governance practices in each case.  Cases will be drawn from a combination of the TWENTY65 activities (Theme 4’s Birmingham Urban Demonstrator case) and the ten infrastructure investments funded within the BEGIN project (an INTEREG project delivering 10 blue-green solutions in North Sea Region cities between 2017 and 2021), hence offering a variety of contexts and contacts from which to select cases.


The central novelty of this research is an empirical focus on the governance of blue-green infrastructure, enabled through the unique opportunity arising from the combination of TWENTY65 and BEGIN. 


Primary supervisor

Dr Liz Sharp, Urban Studies and Plannin,


TWENTY65 Theme Links

Understanding the potential for public engagement to improve water services

The City as a Water Resource