Urban water systems require significant adaptation in order to support more sustainable practices and this requires experimentation. Programs of innovation and learning related to technological advancements, but also in relation to governance processes, are required. Yet many experiments remain constrained in their influence on practice by emphasizing technological outcomes. On the other hand, if experiments are conceived of as a social learning instrument, then attention can be directed towards learning about values, goals and operational procedures to support change. This paper brings together two significant research projects which have examined technological and governance-based experimentation across the Australian urban water sector. The insights derived from these research projects were collated, synthesised and analysed through the lens of social learning. Overall, the data reveals support for and widespread experimentation in practice, but the breadth of insights to be gained from these projects are rarely captured and leveraged to generate system change. This paper provides a tentative approach for designing experiments as social learning instruments. Such a process will be of use to the private and public sector with regard to ensuring the right structures are in place to generate the broadest impact possible from experimentation.


Note: Journal articles and conference papers (and links where available) are available under open access arrangements where possible. Otherwise please contact your institution’s library, the authors, or publishers to organise full access.

Last updated: 7th Sep 2014