Intermediate collaborative adaptive management strategies build stakeholder capacity

Take-away message. Collaborative adaptive management is often an appropriate, important, and necessary activity to engage a variety of stakeholders in constructive planning and learning. In some cases, however, non-scientist and non-manager stakeholders lack the background to effectively engage with scientists and managers. Because the participation of all stakeholders is essential, capacity building activities may be helpful to prepare non-specialists for a future endeavor in CAM.

This article describes the Springs-Basin Working Groups in north Florida which have been formed around several large and valuable freshwater springs that are showing the impacts of water extraction, development in the springshed, and nutrient loads. The groups were designed to share information, not provide management recommendations, so they are not CAM. Yet they have created a set of active, engaged, and knowledgeable citizens. We suggest that groups like this provide an intermediate step of building capacity which could prepare non-specialists for a CAM endeavor.

We interviewed and surveyed members of three working groups to better understand their perspective of the meetings and the impacts of their participation. The Reasonable Person Model helped explain our findings: (1) Respondents have developed a shared mental model of the springs and they credit their understanding to attendance at the working group meetings. Because the groups do not represent diverse perspectives, however, respondents do not change their ideas about the springs, but gain information and competence. (2) Despite the complexity of the issue, respondents have not been overwhelmed by scientific information. They feel that meetings have made them more effective participants. (3) Respondents believe that the working groups are making a difference and provide examples such as the Springs Champion award and the increase in awareness that local citizens express.

The Reasonable Person Model offers three elements that “quasi-CAM” strategies could use to increase the capacity of participants to engage in CAM programs. Such intermediate strategies may also help agencies build confidence in using CAM with citizen participants.

Follow-up discussion question. What other examples of “quasi-CAM” programs help build capacity for CAM activities?

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