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Project // MAGIC Moving Towards Adaptive Governance in Complexity: Informing Nexus Security

The project “Moving Towards Adaptive Governance in Complexity: Informing Nexus Security” (MAGIC) is a four-year project funded under the H2020-WATER-2015-two-stage programme; topic “Integrated approaches to food security, low-carbon energy, sustainable water management and climate change mitigation” (WATER-2b-2015). In the third millennium, the shift from an “empty world” to a “full and globalized world” is reaching its maximum speed and this generates new challenges for the governance of sustainability.

Logo magic nexus project
Conventional solutions such as re-adjusting the mix of production factors – substituting a less limited resource to compensate for a shortage of another, or externalization of the problem to someone else by taking full advantage of presently favourable terms of trade, may become unsustainable in the long run. Implementing policies involving the Nexus between water, food, energy and land use calls for an urgent overhaul of the existing theoretic and analytic tool-kits. The goal of MAGIC is to transform Nexus from a shorthand to signify the complexity of the relationship between water, soils energy and climate into a set of relationship over identified factors which can be systematically used to explore this complexity. This implies integrating into the analysis social challenges and stakeholders perceptions related to the climate-water-food-energy nexus. Dialogue spaces will be opened, dissemination strategies enacted and mixed qualitative-quantitative tools developed in the context of a community building exercise transcending mechanistic scientist-policy maker separation but taking full advantage of the rich spectrum of actors and institutions active in the Nexus. Under the coordination of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the MAGIC project will pursue the above-mentioned strategy with the following concrete objectives:
  1. Structuring the perception (qualitative) and representation (quantitative) of the nexus using an approach called Quantitative Story-Telling, i.e. the construction and the verification of the narratives used to study and assess the nexus.
  2. Carrying-out in the context of EU policies relevant to the Nexus: (i) a diagnosis of the state-of-the play – where are we now? ; (ii) a simulation of the options space – where could we go from here?
  3. To create and maintain a Nexus Dialogue Space considered as an essential infrastructure for the definition, operationalization and governance of the Nexus. A good example of what can be achieved by open consultation concerns the case of GMO.
  4. To create a Nexus Information Space (NIS). The NIS is a geo-referenced visualization tool embedding the complex information related to the Nexus. It makes it possible to establish a connection between the different metrics used to storage data about water, food, agriculture, energy or climate, among others.
  5. To carry out a quality check on policy narratives referring to the nexus. Quantitative Story-Telling uses the results expected by the chosen policy to check whether these results are feasible, viable and desirable in relation to the nexus.
  6. To carry out a quality check on the process of assessment of innovations referring to the nexus. Also in this case, the QST will be applied to check the feasibility, viability and desirability in relation to the nexus of a large scale application of innovations. Here different case studies will be used in relation to five innovations relevant for the nexus: (i) biofuel production, (ii) fracking, (iii) GMOs, (iv) tradable permits, and (v) desalination.
  7. To create a Nexus Knowledge Hub for enhancing the dissemination of the results and guaranteeing a long lasting legacy to the results of the project.
MAGIC is intended to contribute to a successful implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Europe 2020 is challenged by the present context, characterized by economic recession accompa­ nied by worrying signals of disaffection toward the European project and by a crisis of trust in expertise. MAGIC's innovative approach to address complex policy issues is focused on the generation and testing of narratives about the current Nexus situation in Europe. It involves the identification of the crucial factors that have to be specified in order to check the feasibility, viability and desirability of policies at multiple levels of aggregation and spatial scales (EU and individual States) using the metabolic pattern of socio-ecological systems as underlying theoretical concept. MAGIC focuses on key components of the sustainability strategy - water, food, energy and land use - stressing how they are essentially interconnected in a Nexus. Food security, energy security and water security compete for the usage of the same set of resources. MAGIC's rationale challenges the ongoing established practice of developing quantitative analyses of the dynamic balance between demand and supply of energy, food and water that consider these resource flows one at the time.

Project Aims

MAGIC explores various ways in which the Nexus is conceptualised and operationalised in different policies and stakeholder narratives. Its goal is to provide an integrative analysis by transforming the Nexus into a family of relationships between numerous clearly identified factors, and then exploring this complex web of relationships in a systematic way which includes societal challenges and stakeholder perceptions. MAGIC acknowledges that a successful imple­ mentation of the Europe 2020 strategy requires cultural, conceptual and behavioural changes. The creation of new analytical tools by itself is insufficient to deliver such changes since, in order to be influential, they must beembedded in socially-defined processes of decision-making. For this reason MAGIC will devote a substantial part of its resources to initiating and undertaking iterati­ ve processes of deliberation and analysis in partnership with key stakeholders, using a Nexus dialogue space supported by a Nexus knowledge hub.

Work Packages

  • Work Package 1 (Management)
    WP1 covers the set of activities for scientific and administrative coordination as well as the communication among the various work packages.
  • Work Package 2 (Nexus Dialogue Space)
    WP2 establishes and manages a Nexus Dialogue Space. This space will be used during the entire duration of the project to involve social actors in the generation and use of quantitative information to be used for governance.
  • Work Package 3 (Nexus Information Space)
    WP3 designs and implements the Nexus Information Space (NIS). The goal is to use the experience matured in MAGIC to develop a tool-kit integrating different quantitative methodologies supported by the required databases. This tool-kit will be used and tested in WP4, WP5 and WP6 to generate the information input required by the Quantitative Story-Telling chosen by the different teams.
  • Work Package 4 (Nexus Structuring Space)
    WP4 defines and develops a Quantitative Story-Telling (QST) about nexus security. This WP will first define the general framework for the analysis of the nexus and the ten topical teams working together will discuss how to define feasibility, viability and desirability in relation to a first state-of-the-play analysis (The deriving common understanding of the implications of the nexus and the possibility use of QST to check the quality of narratives will be used by the different topical teams (policy teams and innovation teams) in WP5 and in WP6.
  • Work Package 5 (Quality Check of Policy Narratives)
    WP5 tests the robustness of narratives about sustainability as reflected by EU directives in relation to different management strategies. This WP studies the degree and nature of change that would be required for the policy narratives to be coherent with EU sustainability goals at the pan-European level. This result will be achieved by integrating analysis of five themes carried out by five different mixed teams: (i) directive on water (WFD); (ii) directive on food (CAP); (iii) directive on energy; (iv) directive on biodiversity protection; (v) the new strategy on circular economy.
  • Work Package 6 (Quality Check of Innovation Narratives)
    WP6 provides a quality check on the process of assessment of technological innovations or specific policy solutions in relation to the issue of the nexus. Also in this case five innovation teams will deal with five innovations very relevant for the nexus – biofuels, GMOs, fracking, tradable permits, and desalination – following the approach of Quantitative-Story Telling.
  • Work Package 7 (Nexus Knowledge Hub)
    WP7 develops and manages a Nexus Knowledge Hub that will be used for Dissemination. It is formed by the activities of outreach, maintenance of the online tool, publications, training series and management of the open access outputs.

Expected Project Results

From an operational and practical perspective, MAGIC will deliver an analytical framework and illustrative applications useful in detecting key characteristics of the sustainability of socio-ecological systems and in checking the coherence of the quantitative information needed to describe them across scales and dimensions. MAGIC uses processes of deliberation as tools to improve the adequacy and robustness of quantitative analyses. The dialogue between technical inputs and qualitative narratives of different storytellers sheds light to tacit assumptions and hidden inconsistencies, thus embracing the complex and open-ended nature of the Nexus. The adoption of MAGIC's approach will improve the quality, flexibility and timeliness of the information available for the understanding and governance of Nexus security. It will help EU policymakers and other stakeholders to assess the feasibility, viability and desirability of multi­ ple interacting policies and to identify where those policies may need adjustment in order to secure the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy.

MAGIC Consortium

  • Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain (coordinator)
  • The James Hutton Institute, Scotland UK
  • Wageningen University, Netherlands
  • Universiteit Twente, Netherlands
  • Universitetet i Bergen, Norway
  • Joint Research Centre (JRC), European Commission
  • Universita degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Italy
  • Climate Analytics GmbH, Germany
  • Instituto Tecnologico de Canarias, S.A., Spain

More information

  • MAGIC website
  • MAGIC project leaflet (PDF, 2.1 Mb)


Mario Giampietro (Project Coordinator)
ICREA Research Professor Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA )
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona Edifici ICTA-ICP (Z), UAB Campus de Bellaterra
08193 Cerdanyola def Valles (Barcelona) - Spain mario.giampietro@uab.cat
+34 93 586 8770

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