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Report on the role of IC-tools in River Basin Management and Planning (RBMP), including a template to analyse systematically the use and impact of IC-tools

This document is the report of the HarmoniCOP project Work Package 3 (WP3) dedicated to Information and Communication tools (IC-tools) in river basin management (RBM).

The HarmoniCOP project has been set up in the framework of the 5th European Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (Contract nr EVK1-CT-2002-00120). It aims to increase the understanding of participatory river basin management against the background of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Considering the interest as well as the limits of traditional PP, HarmoniCOP investigates a new form of PP which promotes the social process aspects and which is called Social Learning. SL refers here to the growing capacity of a multiple actors network (those concerned by the RB) to develop and perform collective actions related to RBM. RBM is considered as a social-relational activity (interests, water practices, information, knowledge, funds are spread over many actors) and a complex technical task, both cannot be separated. In this context, information and communication can play a crucial role to support the SL dimension of PP through two-ways communication processes.

This report aims to complement the abundant literature on Information and Communication Technology and on PP methods by focusing more on the role of IC-tools as a facilitating mechanism to support the SL dimension of PP in relation to the WFD.

Within HarmoniCOP, an IC-tool is defined as a material artefact, device or software, that can be seen and/or touched, and which facilitates interaction between stakeholders through two-way communication processes. An IC-tool can be computer-based or not.
About twenty IC-tools have been identified based on a literature review and on our own experience.

To categorize them, four main criteria have been identified as useful for those who will have to organize in practice the WFD PP process: communication direction (top-down, bottom-up, bi-directional), public size (small working group, general public), usage purpose (management of information and knowledge, elicitation of perspectives, interaction support and simulation) and phases in the PP process. A preliminary qualitative classification of the tools based on these 4 criteria is proposed as well as a synthetic index card for 13 of them.

Three types of IC-tools are described in more detail through a short literature review and examples of application: maps and other spatial representations, simulations models (Decision Support Systems, Integrated Assessment Models, Qualitative Models and Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping) and Role Playing Games.

The report also includes a framework of analysis to assess IC-tools from three perspectives (with a serie of criteria for each perspective) : the technical characteristics of the tools themselves and the usage situation, their relational and substantive impacts on PP and SL, their usability as perceived by the users (based on a tool acceptance model).

This framework will be used in a number of empirical investigations to evaluate the tools used in historical and real-time case studies (WP5).

It is embedded in a more general instrument co-developed with WP2 (Work-Package in charge of the SL concept) and called "Pool of Questions" presented in a separate document. The prime aim of this instrument is to provide the teams of HarmoniCOP WP5 with a serie of questions concerning Social Learning and IC-tools, as a common base upon which they can build their case studies, but it can also be used by other research teams or even practioners willing to assess the impact of IC-tools on RBM.
This report presents the general structure of the Pool of Questions and a subset is given in Annex: the guidance for a charting procedure, the guidance to fill in the tool index card and a checklist of questions.

The findings from the national studies and the historical or real-time case studies will allow to test and to validate the ideas and the hypothesis developed in the current report. These results will be integrated in a handbook on PP methodologies to promote SL in RBM (WP7). Concerning IC-tools, it will help the WFD practitioners to answer concrete questions such as: What are the relational and substantive functions of a tool? How should it be used? Which resources and skills are required? What is its applicability in the different phases of the PP process? When was it used and who might be contacted for additional information?
This report on IC-tools is available for all at the HarmoniCOP website.

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