Future-proofing the Sponge City Programme. Improving governance capacity through leadership

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Sufficient governance capacity is required to be able to alleviate urban flood risk. The Chinese Sponge City Programme (SCP) experiences governance issues that threaten its longevity. In this research, governance efforts in the SCP are assessed through the lens of the Governance Capacity Framework (GCF) and the Leadership Functions Framework (LFF). Capacity was found to perform well with topics concerning strong-willed and decisive control through authority, while topics about decentralization and participation were found to be relatively limiting. The most urgent matter to improve is the attraction of currently underdeveloped private-public partnerships (PPPs). Within the top-down Chinese planning context, making changes needs to come from the highest government levels: actors who are best suited to improve governance capacity in the SCP are at the ministerial level. Still, the municipal level deserves special attention: it is the level at which the SCP is implemented. When municipalities are enabled by higher levels of government to hold a larger extent of discretionary power, they can make better use of their leadership functions. This would be beneficial to the SCP, as the municipal level has the ability to increase local engagement.
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