Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

Guidelines for stakeholder involvement in development of land use change scenarios

Over the past decades an increasing awareness has developed of the interrelatedness of our society and of the relationships that exist that govern our existence on this planet. Furthermore humans now have more power and control over things and are more closely connected with one another than ever before. Given this, it is not surprising that planning processes have begun to incorporate dialogue directly from people who are being affected by or have an interest with the issues discussed - individuals more commonly referred to as stakeholders. Stakeholders are generally accepted as being the greatest experts on their own situation and are thus crucial in feeding into planning and decision-making processes.

Furthermore stakeholder participation is seen as crucial for enabling democracy. Therefore participatory methods are increasingly being valued as a useful and necessary tool to enable this. Many diverse and exploratory participatory techniques have thus become commonly used tools to facilitate this process of stakeholder involvement in many communities, institutions and organisations.

Participatory techniques are valued as a useful and necessary tool for drawing stakeholders into the decision-making process. They facilitate a flow of information within and between the public and experts, and through their more qualitative nature, serve as grounds for communicating the deeper meaning of the information collected. Additionally, rather than polarizing different actors (citizens, experts and so on), with an interest in the particular area or issue of concern, it offers an open forum in which they are invited to participate in dialogue exchanging thoughts, ideas and opinions with one another through a variety forms.

Although the research team were responsible for the production of European and Mediterranean level scenarios, it was decided to have workshops in each of the MedAction target regions to involve local stakeholders in the production of local level scenarios.

In three of the four target areas a series of workshops have been implemented, and were designed to address a number of topics. The overall objectives of the MedAction stakeholder workshops are the following:
- Enhance the local public perception of driving forces and effects of land degradation and desertification, in order to develop a set of common indicators and integrated scenarios;

- Enable wider implementation and dissemination of project research results and presentation of the Desertification Policy Support Framework;

- Provide a basis for long-term involvement of stakeholders in the decision-making process.

To facilitate involvement and enhance feedback of the stakeholders in the target areas of the MedAction project, Stakeholder Groups have been formed in each target areas. Each Stakeholder Group is made up of 15-20 persons including representatives of the main actors related to land management and desertification issues, as well as other principal groups of interest.

The main groups invited to both series of workshops included:
- Members of national institutions;
- Members of regional institutions;
- Members of local communities;
- Representatives of non-governmental organisations;
- Farmers;
- Journalists;
- Students;
- Free-thinkers/artists.

To build upon the output developed from the first series of workshops, it was decided to run a second series of workshops that used the material produced from the first in a process more commonly referred to in the research community as backcasting.

The backcasting process asks participants to identify incremental steps in the form of policy solutions, projecting them in a chronological order over the time-period, gradually leading them to the end scenario. So whereas in the first workshops much of the focus was upon creation of the scenarios with reference to dominant trends, little time was allocated to detailing or explaining the storyline. In contrast the second workshop devoted attention to the development of the scenario over a period of time in a more structured manner. Theoretically the task involves a process of working from the future back to the present.

The main outcomes can be distinguished as follows:
- A two part participatory scenario construction and development workshop. This included the development of firstly a participatory scenario development process, and secondly, a participatory backcasting process.

- Local area networks have been developed incorporating stakeholders not just from
the local level but from the regional and national level also.

- Increased awareness and understanding of the issues and perceptions of all involved.

- Key faciliation and organisation skills for the development of participatory processes of those in the research and local organisation teams.

- Improved understanding and appreciation of the opportunities and benefits of participatory planning processes.

Reported by

ICIS, Maastricht University
Kapoenstr. 23
6211 KV Maastricht
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