OOS 1-6 - Stakeholder participation in decision support system development: Impacts on buy-in and consensus

Monday, August 8, 2011: 3:20 PM
16B, Austin Convention Center
Adrian L. Vogl, River Systems Institute, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX

Proponents of participatory approaches to natural resources management argue that they increase the likelihood that stakeholders accept policy decisions, because stakeholders’ direct interactions enhance the integrity and credibility of the decision-making process and consensus on policy outcomes.  In addition, much literature exists on the supposed benefits of stakeholder participation in the development of science-based planning tools.  The stated goal of many studies is to identify properties that characterize “effective” participatory processes, rather than explicitly evaluating a given method for promoting more effective management.  There has been very little critical evaluation, however, of the level of effectiveness of participatory modeling processes for actually increasing stakeholder buy-in and consensus.  In this study, a combination of questionnaires and structured interviews were conducted with local stakeholders involved in development of a decision support system, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the participatory modeling process.  The Cypress Creek Project Decision Support System (CCP-DSS) takes the form of an interactive watershed simulation model and multi-criteria analysis package, incorporating relevant data to aid in the selection of appropriate management strategies for a small watershed in central Texas.  The goal of the survey and interviews was to evaluate the degree of impact that participation had on stakeholder’s trust, buy-in to the process, and degree of consensus regarding priority issues for watershed management, effective and appropriate management instruments, and barriers to effective long-term management. 


Results demonstrate that stakeholder involvement did in fact increase participants’ perceptions of the legitimacy of science-based decision support tools and their utility for decision-making in the local area.  However while the stakeholder process had positive impacts on stakeholder understanding and consensus in some areas, in other areas consensus actually decreased.  Other results suggest that involvement in the process had a positive impact on stakeholders’ knowledge regarding the complexity of resource management issues and the multiple ways that could exist to achieve desired goals.

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