Articles | Volume 64, issue 2
30 Jun 2009
 | 30 Jun 2009

Strategic decision making in infrastructure sectors : participatory foresight and strategic planning for sustainable sanitation

E. Störmer and B. Truffer

Abstract. Infrastructure sectors in general, and urban water management in particular, have developed over the past couple of decades within the confines of a rather narrow and stable socio-technical regime. Nowadays, these infrastructures are increasingly confronted with uncertain context conditions, a broadened spectrum of technological alternatives and an increasing heterogeneity of value positions. As a consequence, the longterm sustainability of these sectors has been questioned by many commentators. Of particular importance is the way strategic decisions are made. Current approaches tend to block important opportunities for sustainable transformation. It is argued here that a more reflexive, discursive and participative approach to strategic planning is needed. The paper introduces «Regional Infrastructure Foresight» (RIF) as a method which combines foresight on regional framework conditions with a stakeholder assessment of a broad range of system options. The paper presents the methodology in some detail and discusses the main lessons learned through three empirical applications in the Swiss sanitation sector. Based on these experiences, it is argued that strategic decision making in infrastructures is of high relevance for regional policy and therefore warrants more attention in future research in economic and political geography.