FreiraumpolitikMSA (Open Space Policy - MSA)

Open space, politics, planning, chance.

Towards a better understanding of active regional open space policy by applying the Multiple Streams Framework

In view of the ongoing consumption of land in Germany and many other countries, regional and long-term initiatives are urgently needed to help protect and develop open spaces, especially in metropolitan areas. While there have been some positive examples of such initiatives, little research has been conducted into the question of how and why open space protection and development can succeed against often strong opposition. In particular, the political dimension of the decision-making process is poorly understood in comparison to the planning dimension. And although the term “open space policy” has been coined, related investigations have so far merely touched the surface.

Therefore, the aim of this project is to conduct a qualitative case study on regional open space policy using the multiple streams framework (MSF) for the first time. This broad approach, originally introduced by Kingdon (1984), is well established in the field of political science. The Emscher Landscape Park, the RhineMain Regional Park and the Leipzig Green Belt were chosen as study cases for causal-process tracing. The study focuses on the following questions: Can outstanding spatial planning and related budgetary decisions of a long-term active regional open space policy be explained from the integrating perspective of the MSF? And if so, how? The approach postulates the existence of three distinct streams, endowed with their own momentum, which must converge in a policy window for significant policy change to occur. These are: the Problem Stream, dealing with real developments that are interpreted as problems; the Policy Stream, consisting of offered solutions to problems and especially associated with experts and planners; and the Politics Stream, reflecting the struggle to achieve majorities, the influence of interest groups and changes of government.

Primarily, the study offers an in-depth understanding of active regional open space policy and planning while at the same time creating a basis for further spatial science research with the MSF. Furthermore, the research provides starting points for the improvement of open space protection and development while assessing the relevance of results for environmental and spatial planning in general as well as for spatial sustainability transformation. Finally, questions for further research are formulated.

Key references regarding content and methodology
Blatter, J.; Haverland, M. (2014): Designing case studies: explanatory approaches in Small-N research. Basingstoke.

Herweg, N.; Zahariadis, N.; Zohlnhöfer, R. (2018): The Multiple Streams Framework. Foundations, refinements, and empirical applications. In: Weible, Chr. M.; Sabatier, P.A. (eds.): Theories of the policy process. Fourth edition. Boulder/Colorado, 17-54.

Kaiser, R. (2014): Qualitative Experteninterviews. Konzeptionelle Grundlagen und praktische Durchführung. Wiesbaden.

Kingdon, J.W. (1984): Agendas, alternatives, and public policies. Boston.

Lintz, G. (2022): Politik für den Freiraum – wovon hängt sie ab? Die Perspektive des Multiple-Streams-Ansatzes. In: Meinel, G.; Krüger, T.; Behnisch, M.; Ehrhardt, D. (Hrsg.): Flächennutzungsmonitoring XIV. Beiträge zu Flächenmanagement, Daten, Methoden und Analysen. Berlin: Rhombos, IÖR Schriften 80, S. 23-33.

Rautenstrauch, L. (2015): Regionalpark RheinMain – Die Geschichte einer Verführung. Bericht aus einer Werkstatt der Region. Regionalpark Ballungsraum RheinMain GmbH, Flörsheim.


The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.