Institutional innovation in urban governance: The case of climate change adaptation

James J. Patterson*, Dave Huitema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Urban governance systems need to be adaptive to deal with emerging uncertainties and pressures, including those related to climate change. Realising adaptive urban governance systems requires attention to institutions, and in particular, processes of institutional innovation. Interestingly, understanding of how institutional innovation and change occurs remains a key conceptual weakness in urban climate change governance. This paper explores how institutional innovation in urban climate change governance can be conceptualised and analysed. We develop a heuristic involving three levels: (1) “visible” changes in institutional arrangements, (2) changes in underlying “rules-in-use”, and (3) the relationship to broader “governance dilemmas”. We then explore the utility of this heuristic through an exploratory case study of urban water governance in Santiago, Chile. The approach presented opens up novel possibilities for studying institutional innovation and evaluating changes in governance systems. The paper contributes to debates on innovation and its effects in urban governance, particularly under climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-398
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Environmental Planning and Management
Issue number3
Early online date21 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2019


The authors wish to acknowledge funding for the research reported here from the European Union’s Horizon2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement number 659065 (Dr. James Patterson), and from the Research Program on Learning and Innovation in Resilient Systems from the Open University of The Netherlands.

FundersFunder number
European Union’s Horizon2020 research and innovation programme
Open University of the Netherlands
H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions659065


    • cities
    • evaluation
    • Institutional change
    • transformation
    • water


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