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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2017

  • Title: Increasing the effectiveness of participatory scenario development through co-design
  • Primary Author: Marissa McBride (Harvard Forest)
  • Additional Authors: Kathy Fallon Lambert (Harvard Forest); Patrick Field (Consensus Building Institute); Emily Huff (Forest Service); Kathleen Theoharides (Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs); Jonathan Thompson (Harvard Forest)
  • Abstract:

    Developing scenarios to explore possible environmental futures is a widely-used tool in socio-ecological research. Scenario planners working in environmental systems increasingly enlist stakeholders to help develop scenarios but effectively integrating stakeholder participation with scenario analyses and modeling remains a challenge. Using the New England Landscape Futures project as a case study, we explore how a method for co-designing a scenario elicitation process can be used to help balance the needs of both stakeholders and scientists. To illustrate the design process, we document seven influential decisions made with stakeholder input, describe the competing demands that we negotiated, and outline the rationale for the selected approach. We find that three priorities drove most of our decisions: maximizing stakeholder involvement in the scenario development process, efficient use of stakeholder time, and research needs. The outcome was a robust, intense, and highly-structured one-day scenario development protocol that engaged stakeholders in the full scenario development process from initial orientation and identification of driving forces through to fleshed out scenarios narratives and quantitative inputs able to inform land use simulations. Its deployment in six state workshops was successful in eliciting divergent scenarios that stakeholders perceived as being plausible and relevant. Stakeholder responses to the process were positive, though also reflected the compromises made during the co-design process. Research needs were largely met, though initial expectations likely exceeded what could reasonably be elicited from a diverse stakeholder group in one day. Our experiences highlight the importance of process design and how selection of scenario development techniques should follow from the project objectives, problem context, and stakeholder preferences for engagement activities. The use of a co-design framework that recognizes the challenges involved, seeks stakeholder input on the scenario elicitation process, and adapts the process accordingly can contribute to greater effectiveness and impact for participatory socio-ecological scenario processes.

  • Research Category: Conservation and Management