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Knowledge and capacity development in public water management in Indonesia and the Netherlands

Knowledge and capacity development in public water management in Indonesia and the Netherlands
Judith Machteld Kaspersma


UNESCO‐IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft University of Technology, 2628 CD Delft, THE NETHERLANDS.


International cooperation for reaching development goals has expanded gradually since the 1950s. The effectiveness of the Overseas Development Aid (ODA) has become a topic of great public interest and the sixty years of work can be viewed as a long‐term societal learning process about what development really is (Zevenbergen and Boer, 2002). Much of the public debate amongst non‐economists takes for granted that, if the funds were made available, poverty would be eliminated, and at least some economists, notably Sachs (2005) agree (Deaton, 2010). Others, most notably Easterly (2009) believe that a bottom‐up approach, not necessarily involving large funds, but giving a voice to local communities to indicate their needs themselves would be much more successful. A growing body of experience exists to demonstrate that finance alone cannot do it, and capacity and knowledge are increasingly seen as the constraints to appropriate decision making, absorption of funds, and effective results on the ground. According to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (OECD, 2005), development efforts in many of the poorest countries will fail, even if they are supported with substantially increased funding, if the development of sustainable capacity is not given greater and more careful attention.

Because of its complexity, and because of its common‐property and distributed nature with many stakeholders, the water sector is particularly dependent on effective institutions and, therefore, on strong capacities and a solid knowledge base at the individual and institutional levels (Cosgrove and Rijsberman, 2000). It is therefore not surprising that the water sector was one of the first sectors to introduce knowledge and capacity development (KCD) initiatives (Alaerts et al., 1991; Hamdy et al., 1998; Appelgren and Klohn, 1999; Downs, 2001; Bogardi and Hartvelt, 2002; FAO, 2004; Alaerts, 2009b; Whyte, 2004). However, despite the attention for KCD, managing water systems and providing water services to citizens remain daunting challenges.

The aim of this thesis is to deepen understanding of the dynamic process of knowledge and capacity development and the numerous contextual factors that influence capacity from the individual to the system level, so as to improve the effectiveness of KCD programs and interventions.

The reviewed literature reveals that a tension exists between models of KCD that are usable and work in practice, and models that are more complex and reflect reality more fully, but are difficult to apply in practice. The adapted KCD conceptual model that I adopt (Alaerts and Kaspersma, 2009) is comprehensive in the sense that it views KCD at the individual, organisational and institutional levels simultaneously and acknowledges the interaction between these levels. Other models take into account the influence of levels other than the primary level of analysis, but do not assess the existing knowledge and capacity at those levels as well. They focus on the capacity at one level only. The adapted KCD conceptual model serves as a basis, and ordering framework, in the investigation of KCD in the water sector. In addition I draw upon theory from the fields of human resource development, learning, organisation and management sciences and policy analysis to explain the relations between different components of the KCD system (Chapter 2). At the individual level I adopt theory on professional competence (Cheetham and Chivers, 2005; Sultana, 2009; Oskam, 2009) to explain the composition of knowledge and capacity at the individual level and the combination of different competences required by water professionals (Chapter 6). At the level of the organisation, I use Burns and Stalker’s classification of mechanistic and organic organisational structures (1961) and Mintzberg’s structure in fives theory (1980) to explain how formal organisational structure influences KCD (Chapter 5). At the level of the institutions I draw upon theory on advocacy coalitions (Sabatier and Jenkins‐Smith, 1993) and the multiple streams framework developed by Kingdon (1995) to explain how coalitions continuously need to promote their agendas, which embody new knowledge and capacities, in order to influence existing policy regimes supported by the establishment. A window of opportunity (Kingdon, 1995), often brought about by external events that trigger a political reaction, is required to create a transition point to a new paradigm, which allows the inclusion of new knowledge and capacities (Chapter 4).

I apply the adapted framework and additional supportive theory to study KCD in two public sector organisations, considered representative of the water sector, over a longer period of time, within their institutional contexts. The first case is the Directorate General of Water Resources (DGWR) of the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) of Indonesia. In this case I choose to assess KCD by studying local and international post‐graduate education (IPE). I hypothesise that IPE is relatively important in a society where few other KCD mechanisms are assumed to be available. In many developing countries and countries in transition, IPE is an important means for accessing knowledge that is not available locally. The second case is the executive arm of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, the Rijkswaterstaat. This case was chosen, because I wanted to investigate how knowledge and capacity develop and influence decision making in an organisational unit similar to the DGWR, but located in a relatively well developed economy where I hypothesise that a wide array of KCD mechanisms is available to generate and exchange new knowledge.

A mixed method approach is adopted using surveys and semi‐structured interviews in both cases to analyse how water professionals acquire knowledge and develop capacities, and I undertake a historical analysis of both the Indonesian water sector and the Dutch water sector to study how the cultural and environmental features and priorities in society at distinct junctures in time have influenced the use of certain KCD mechanisms. In the historical analysis, I identify three distinct phases in each case, as illustrated in Table 1.1, which are characterised by coherent paradigms. The phases cover about 40 years. The introduction of these phases is necessary to allow analysis of the same system under different circumstances, and with different institutional and contextual parameters. The methodological differentiation of respondents in the Indonesian case as function of their local post‐graduate education (LPE) or international post‐graduate education (IPE) experience, and for both cases the differentiation of the administrative and political context in the country and sector per phase, proved useful in generating more detailed insights in the development of the competences in the Indonesian and Dutch water sector, over half a century, within the evolving economic, administrative and political contexts. In both cases I search for systemic parallels and differences in order to infer potentially general rules for KCD processes.

First, at the institutional level, the differences between the cases lie in the political leverage and in the way the advocacy coalitions managed to argue their agendas. In the Indonesian case knowledge brought in, among others, by the donor community, international consultants and reform‐minded officials, was perceived as threatening the status quo in the DGWR, just like the Rijkswaterstaat felt challenged at some point in the 1970s by the new concepts embodied in the positions of the environmental lobby. In the Indonesian case however, the coalition did not manage to shift the traditional technocratic water policies to a more integrated management of water resources (IWRM) during Phases I and II (roughly from 1970 to 1998), because there was no leverage for IWRM and IWRM would require DGWR to delegate powers. The transition from Phase II to III provided the window of opportunity to shift to a new paradigm, featuring more decentralised decision‐making, more accountability and introduction of IWRM principles in sectoral policies and practice. Similarly, I observe in the Dutch case, in the same transition period, the increased attention for accountability and transparency, and the struggle to manage the outsourcing process that was introduced partly as a policy to slim down government and partly to compensate the lack of technical competence in the organisation.

Table S.1. General description of transitions and institutional paradigmatic phases in the Indonesian and Dutch cases
Indonesia case The Netherlands case
Phase I (1970 ‐ 1987)
Development of infrastructure
Little space for other professions than
engineering in water management
Organisation based on seniority
Phase I (1950 – 1970)
Development of infrastructure Technocratic
Little space for other professions than engineering in water management
Phase II (1987 ‐ 1998)
Increasingly authoritarian state – loyalty to regime increasingly important
Failing effort to implement IWRM
Phase II (1970 ‐ 2002)
Environmental values incorporated by left‐wing government
Increasing role of civil society and stakeholder participation
IWRM becomes policy
Phase III (1998 ‐ )
Reformation leading to decentralisation
Increased transparency and accountability
Law 7 on IWRM
Increasing interest in governance competence
Phase III ( 2002 ‐ )
Privatisation for increased transparency and efficiency of government.
Organisation becomes more hierarchic

Secondly, at the organisational level, the organisational structure of the Rijkswaterstaat was due to become more organic (in the sense of Burns and Stalker) as it evolved from Phase I to Phase II to become able to deal with a wider array of disciplines, professions and knowledge within its walls. This was a direct result of the changes in the institutional environment. In the Indonesian case the organisational structure was found to remain largely unchanged because at the institutional level the leverage was limited for change to an IWRM and governance oriented paradigm. In Phase III (from 1998 onwards), the organisation continues to be marked by a high degree of formalisation and centralisation of responsibilities, expressed in a strong hierarchy and division of labour and routines, even though the water management challenges increasingly demand interdisciplinary knowledge and capacities that are to be found outside the organisation. A more organic structure would facilitate the exchange of knowledge with actors possessing other knowledge, but also requires an acknowledgement that such knowledge cannot be found solely at the top or even within the hierarchy. Interestingly, in the Dutch case in Phase III, the global tendency to seek more transparency and (budget) accountability led to an increasingly mechanistic model of organisational structure, with more central control over budgets, work plans and Human Resource Management (HRM), rather than more decentralised decision‐making. This shift may have worked well for accountability and transparency, but it did create an atmosphere in the organisation that was less conducive to creating and exchanging knowledge among staff; staff grew reluctant to take initiative.

Third, at the individual level, it became clear that in Phase I and for a large part in Phase II as well, both cases showed a firmly ‘technical’ default orientation, that in the Indonesian case also transpired in the choices for training and post‐graduate education. During Phase II and Phase III, in both cases the line civil servants have developed strong preferences for administrative skills causing the substantive technical knowledge to become weaker, or at least less prominent, in the skills mix. Governance competence in the Dutch case in Phase II increased, as the water professionals needed to acquire the knowledge and skills to work with multiple stakeholders. In the Indonesian case during the same Phase and time period this could not yet happen as the political and institutional regime became more authoritarian, rewarding loyalty at the cost of competence.

Both cases underline the importance yet the low valuation placed on tacit knowledge. In both cases tacit knowledge is lost through outsourcing and lack of succession planning, whereas individual respondents and interviewees systematically highlight the importance of tacit knowledge to do their work. The Indonesian case study suggests strongly that tacit knowledge is the most important result gained from IPE, and, by extension, other international long‐term exposure. This study reveals that tacit knowledge needs to be addressed explicitly in organisations, in formal KCD mechanisms such as education and training, by arranging succession planning, by providing the opportunity to enter mentor-coach relations, but also by creating more informal opportunities, incentives and an atmosphere for knowledge exchange.

Finally, the study confirmed that a conceptual model of KCD should accommodate the existence of three nested levels, namely the individual, organisational and institutional levels, and be able to clarify the inter‐relations between these three different levels. In this thesis I revised and expanded an existing model to obtain an adapted KCD conceptual model and subsequently complemented this by an analysis of the dynamic nature of the interactions between the different levels, facilitated by supportive theories. The adapted KCD conceptual model can be applied together with the supporting theories as an ordering and explanatory framework. Further research is suggested in other sectors and case studies for validation and completing the KCD conceptual model and its new arrangement. Research could, for example, focus on the effect of personality and attitude on individual capacity development, and leadership as a personal competence and as a specific component of organisational capacity.