Designing Collaborative Processes for Adaptive Management: Four Structures for Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration

Take-away message. A collaborative adaptive management process is one in which the principles of collaborative problem-solving are integrated with the steps of the adaptive management cycle. Collaborative problem-solving is a process that involves identifying stakeholder interests and seeking solutions that address multiple interests. An adaptive approach mimics the scientific method: specifies hypotheses, highlights uncertainties, structures actions to expose hypotheses to field tests, processes and evaluates results, and adjusts subsequent actions in light of those results.

Parties should consider a collaborative approach to scientific inquiry and learning when there are multiple jurisdictions, resource users, and viewpoints about the best way to manage a social-ecological system. If a decision is made to conduct adaptive management in a collaborative manner, parties should consider who will make decisions, how decisions will be made, the amount of resources that will be required, and the length of time available to design and establish the group. When designing collaborative approaches for adaptive management programs, it is important to provide forums for interaction between managers, scientists and other stakeholders; invite input from affected stakeholders during each step of the adaptive management process; determine up front when monitoring will be evaluated and when management will be adapted if needed; and design decision-making bodies to incorporate and act on new information. Collaborative approaches should be designed to fit the specific circumstances of a particular situation. That said, it can be helpful to observe structures that have been used successfully by other adaptive management programs to collaborate with affected stakeholders. This paper reviews four mechanisms for multi-stakeholder collaboration that have been used by the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program, the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, and South Florida Ecosystem Restoration.

Follow-up discussion question. What other structures have you participated in or seen used to facilitate collaboration among stakeholders in an adaptive management project or program? What worked well with that structure/approach? What were the challenges?

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