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The Rise of Civil Society in Governing Flood Resilience

Forrest, Steven


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Dr Steven Forrest
Lecturer in Flood Resilience and Sustainable Transformations


Johan Woltjer

Elen Trell-Zuidema


Flooding is an increasingly urgent problem that causes significant damage and disruption that affects people worldwide, including in the Netherlands and United Kingdom. Rainfall flooding is a growing risk for Dutch cities with recent floods in Arnhem, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Maastricht and Zwolle, with predictions of more damage in the future. The United Kingdom is already experiencing more frequent flooding with the February 2020 floods causing an estimated £214m in damages. Civil society and authorities in the Netherlands and United Kingdom are increasingly recognising this greater risk and are questioning how they can become more flood resilient.

Steven Forrest focuses on this issue and explores ‘The Rise of Civil Society in Governing Flood Resilience’. Conducted in the Netherlands and England, this PhD research identifies civil society contributing physical actions and resources, knowledge, and advocacy activities for flood resilience. Civil society can take actions that municipalities and authorities cannot do alone, such as adapting property and being first responders to floods.

The research suggests societal dialogues over ‘shared responsibility’ between citizens and authorities are needed to outline and agree flood-related responsibilities and to ensure that citizen initiatives get enough resources and support. Furthermore, being flood resilient is more than just waiting for floodwaters to drain away and then fixing the damage – it is about being pro-active and ‘building back better’. Steven argues that we need bold leadership to recognise and support citizen initiatives in managing flooding, to challenge flood-based inequalities, and to enable more transformative flood resilience.


Forrest, S. (2020). The Rise of Civil Society in Governing Flood Resilience. (Thesis). University of Groningen. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date May 30, 2022
Public URL
Publisher URL
Award Date Oct 15, 2020