Inter-organizational collaboration in the governance of subsurface infrastructure networks


Urban areas are complex constitutions of social, natural and technological worlds in which critical infrastructures are crucial for the wellbeing of modern citizens. Our study focuses on the interaction of the underground and the governance of critical infrastructures. Special attention to the underground is needed due to competition over space, to it’s unpredictable and untamed nature and to the significant threat of construction work to the quality and society’s use of public space. In this study a socio-technical approach is used to include the subsurface in the inter-organizational decision-making over infrastructure networks. Inter-organizational collaboration is highly promising as this supports synergy between infrastructures and allows for responsiveness and flexibility. At the same time inter-organizational collaboration has serious institutional, legal and behavioural challenges for decision-makers and asset managers.

The aim of the study is to explore examples of successful inter-organizational collaboration and institutional arrangements for the governance of subsurface networks. We combine standard ANT methods with multi-sited ethnography to study inter-organizational collaboration in three cases. This allows for developing deep knowledge on governance of networks, for involvement of non-humans in the accomplishment of infrastructure networks and for interventions in the joint decision making process.

By analyzing the dynamics of the socio-technical networks and the inter-organizational collaboration we can identify the possibilities of a more adaptive decision making process, to be implemented in governance procedures of network operators. Our study helps NGInfra partners to materialise the full potential of synergy by facilitating a transformation towards more effective, joint decision-making.


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. ing. A.H. van Marrewijk

Affiliated with

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen, Organisatiewetenschappen

Team members

E. Biersteker, Prof. dr. ing. A.H. van Marrewijk, R.E. Martinius


01/03/2018 to 31/10/2021