Stories becoming sticky : how civic initiatives strive for connection to governmental spatial planning agendas

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU



This thesis aims to understand the phenomenon of self-organizing civic initiatives, how they engage in and connect to planning practices aimed at the improvement of the quality of places and why these connections lead to alteration or transformation of governmental planning agendas or not. By providing greater understanding about these processes the thesis aims to contribute to debates about how planners can improve connections with civil society initiatives and how a more responsive and adaptive attitude towards a dynamically changing society can be achieved.


Conclusions were drawn from two in-depth case-studies of civic initiatives in two Dutch regions: 1) initiatives of business entrepreneurs and experts to develop New Markets which support the cultural landscape of the region Heuvelland, and 2) initiatives of citizens for the protection and development of landscape values in the urban-rural fringe Gouda-Krimpenerwaard. Building on agenda-setting and framing theory the analysis focused on how initiatives self-organized and connected to other stakeholders and how outcomes of their efforts in terms of their ambitions and government agendas could be understood.


The research results point to the crucial role of storytelling and the day-to-day interactions in which stories emerge and become ‘sticky’. Sticky stories are strong ‘attractors’ that mobilize attention and support. The stickiness of a story was enhanced through discursive processes in which the story was connected to the self-referential frames of targeted supporters. Thus, sticky stories could not emerge without empathic listening, timing and patience. Three interplaying conditions were critical in the process of a story becoming sticky or fading away: 1) formal and informal ‘catalytic’ conversations as the medium of storytelling; 2) storytelling by people who perform as connectors and enable the travelling of stories through a wider network, and 3) signalling and incorporating focusing events into evolving stories in ways considered meaningful and relevant by targeted supporters. This results in a model that offers a way to understand dynamical change of policy and planning agendas by focusing on the interactive construction, connection, and subtle alteration of stories in day-to-day conversations, by the right people, at the right moments.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • van den Brink, Adri, Promotor
  • Aarts, Noelle, Promotor
Award date24 Jan 2014
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789461738295
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • physical planning
  • public participation
  • civil society
  • public administration
  • decision making
  • community involvement
  • regional planning
  • communication
  • relations between people and state
  • citizens
  • participation
  • zuid-holland
  • krimpenerwaard
  • zuid-limburg


Dive into the research topics of 'Stories becoming sticky : how civic initiatives strive for connection to governmental spatial planning agendas'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this