Participatory model building

Knowledge management (KM)and information technology (IT) both link, and enhance each other in learning-based initiatives such as participatory or cooperative model-building. Often one of the best techniques for generating improved thinking at a social level is to use models as an aid to help stakeholders visualize the wider social and bio-physical processes that they cannot see unaided. Many forms of modelling can be used in this participatory manner. Conceptual modelling  is often done as a starting process, providing a graphical representation or diagram that involves stakeholders in clarifying the initial framing. Papers that illustrate a participatory or collaborative approach to modeling as a link between information and knowledge management include:

Collaborative (participatory) modelling

The use of participatory modeling to promote social learning and facilitate community disaster planning. This 2015 paper by Sarah Henly-Shepard, Steven Gray and Linda Cox presents a three-phase social learning framework to facilitate stakeholder-driven scenario-based modeling, in order to inform community disaster planning in relation to the potential impacts of a tsunami. This enabled a community committee to represent, explore and actively question their beliefs about the natural hazards that their community faces. Further, the modeling process allowed the committee to represent the communities’ dynamic nature, run tsunami hazard scenarios to quantify potential direct and indirect effects, and explicitly compare trade-offs of competing adaptation strategies. Changes in the committee’s model representations that took place over time demonstrate a progression through single-, double- and triple-loop learning, indicating that social learning occurred across individual to institutional levels, and over short- to long-term time scales.

Behavioural issues in environmental modelling: The missing perspective. This 2015 paper by Raimo Hämäläinen demonstrates the importance of behavioural issues in environmental modelling. These issues can relate both to the modeler and to the modelling process including the social interaction in the modelling team. The origins of behavioural effects can be in the cognitive and motivational biases or in the social systems created as well as in the visual and verbal communication strategies used.

Empowering marginalized communities in water resources management: Addressing inequitable practices in Participatory Model Building. This 2015 paper by Cameron Butler and Jan Adamowski points out that while there is significant focus on improving stakeholder engagement, there is a lack of studies specifically looking at the experiences of marginalized communities and the barriers that prevent their fuller participation in the decision-making process. This paper explores the common issues and presents recommended improved practices, based on anti-oppression, related to the stages of problem framing, stakeholder identification and selection, workshop preparation, and workshop facilitation.

Companion modelling: a method of adaptive and participatory research. This 2013 paper by Olivier Barreteau and colleagues review experiences with companion modelling. Based on this comparative analysis, they suggest, therefore, a few key points describing companion modelling that can help practitioners moving forward.

How Collaborative Technology Supports Cognitive Processes in Collaborative Process Modeling: A Capabilities-Gains-Outcome Model.  This 2013 paper by Jan Recker and colleagues examines which capabilities technologies provide to support collaborative process modeling. It aims to provide an understanding of the process of collaborative process modeling, and detail implications for research and guidelines for the practical design of collaborative process modeling.

www_iconIntegrated environmental modeling: A vision and roadmap for the future. This 2013 paper by Gerard Laniak and colleagues present “integrated environmental modelling” (IEM) as a landscape containing four interdependent elements: applications, science, technology, and community. These elements are then described from the perspective of their role in the landscape, current practices, and challenges that must be addressed. The authors suggest that improving our current practice will require that the global community of IEM stakeholders transcend social, and organizational boundaries and pursue greater levels of collaboration.

Modelling with stakeholders. This 2010 paper by Alexey Voinov and Francois Bousquet  use this overview paper to first look at the different types of stakeholder modelling, and compare participatory modelling to other frameworks that involve stakeholder participation. Based on that and on the experience of the projects reported in this issue and elsewhere, the authors draw some lessons and generalisations.

Public Participation and Perceptions of Watershed Modeling This 2009 paper by Mark Johnson acknowledges that public participation in environmental management is increasingly common across many natural resource sectors. Environmental policies in the water resources sector, in particular, depend upon both computer-based watershed modeling activities and public participation in watershed management decisions, though the integration of participation in watershed modeling remains uncommon. Case studies of two watershed councils in Central New York offer differing perspectives on the effectiveness of public participation in modeling efforts as a mechanism for improving environmental conditions in watersheds. Although watershed modeling is improved from public input in the forms of local knowledge and data contributions, care must be taken at the outset to ensure that public participants appreciate what modeling can and cannot provide so that modeling activities are best able to inform watershed management decisions. A critical assessment of three A’s of public participation in watershed modeling (e.g., model applicability, accessibility and accuracy) should be undertaken prior to model development.

Lessons for successful participatory watershed modeling: A perspective from modeling practitioners This 2008 paper by Alexey Voinov and Erica Gaddis reminds us that participatory modeling is the process of incorporating stakeholders, often including the public, and decision makers into an otherwise purely analytic modeling process to support decisions involving complex natural resources questions. They present a series of lessons based on experience working with stakeholder groups to develop watershed and water quality models. The lessons relate to stakeholder engagement, modeling tools, model development and calibration, scenario testing, and applying results to management decisions.

www_iconEvaluating Participatory Modelling This CSIRO working paper by Nathalie Jones and colleagues introduces a framework for evaluating projects that have adopted a participatory modeling approach. The framework assesses the extent to which different participatory modeling practices reinforce or divert from the theoretical assumptions they are built upon. The paper discusses the application of the framework in three case-studies.

If you have a hammer everything looks like a nail: ‘traditional’ versus participatory model building In this paper Christina Prell and colleagues argue that the modelling of complex, dynamic and uncertain socio-environmental systems requires close collaboration between research disciplines and stakeholders at all levels, for if such models are representations of aspects of reality, how can it be possible to build them without inputs from people who interact with the systems in reality? This paper reflects on findings of case study research involving stakeholders in knowledge creation through conceptual and formal model building to support upland water catchment management. This poses a number of interesting new challenges for the organisation of the research process, leading to higher levels of uncertainty for researchers and funding agencies. A considerable amount of trust is required from funding agencies to devote money to financing processes with vaguely defined and surprising outcomes, as well as the flexibility to allow for modifications of design and ultimately to rely on the composition of the project team to provide the expertise the problem requires. [Note: This appears to be an early version of the paper]

www_iconCompanion modeling, conflict resolution, and institution building: sharing irrigation water in the Lingmuteychu Watershed, Bhutan. Companion modeling is a methodology which makes use of multi-agent systems in a participatory way in fields such as sustainable resource management. The objective is to apply simulation tools when dealing with these complex systems in order to understand the institutions and norms that drive the interactions among actors, and consequently between actors and their environment. This Ecology & Society paper by Tayan Raj Gurung, Francois Bousquet and Guy Trebuil shows how this methodology helped resolve a conflict over the sharing of water resources by establishing a concrete agreement and creating an institution for collective watershed management.

www_iconMediated modeling: a system dynamics approach to environmental consensus building This book by Marjan van den Belt introduces mediated modeling as an approach that enhances the use of computer models as invaluable tools to guide policy and management decisions. Rather than having outside experts dispensing answers to local stakeholders, mediated modeling brings together diverse interests to raise the shared level of understanding and foster a broad and deep consensus. It provides a structured process based on system dynamics thinking in which community members, government officials, industry representatives, and other stakeholders can work together to produce a coherent, simple but elegant simulation model.

Why involving people is important: the forgotten part of environmental information system management. This paper by Will Allen and Margaret Kilvington points out that developing information management systems to support decision making on-the-ground cannot take place in isolation of the broader social context within which people generate and utilise information and learn. The technology and hardware components, which are the most visible aspects of such systems, receive most attention from researchers and funders. However, if we want people to use information more effectively to help change the way they look at the world — and how they go about managing its resources — then we must pay equal attention to the social aspects of information systems, in particular to ensure that they support learning. This paper outlines the requirements for collaborative learning, by which the differing perspectives of multiple stakeholders are coordinated to manage complex environmental problems. A process for utilising the principles of collaborative learning for developing integrated information systems to support decision making is discussed. Particular attention is paid to the new skills of relationship building, facilitation, and conflict management required by multidisciplinary teams developing such systems. Examples to illustrate how these skills could be used in practice are drawn from case studies in resource management in New Zealand.

www_iconAllen, W.; Bosch, O.; Kilvington, M.; Oliver, J.; Gilbert, M. 2001. Benefits of collaborative learning for environmental management: Applying the Integrated Systems for Knowledge Management approach to support animal pest control. In this paper the ISKM (Integrated Systems for Knowledge Management) approach is presented to illustrate how learning-based approaches can be used to help communities develop, apply, and refine technical information within a larger context of shared understanding. Particular attention is paid to the issues that emerge as a result of multiple stakeholder involvement within environmental problem situations. Finally, the potential role for the Internet in supporting and disseminating the experience gained through ongoing adaptive management processes is examined.

www_iconParticipatory Avenues. This site acts as a focal point for sharing lessons learned and innovation in practicing ethically-conscious community mapping and participatory GIS as means to add value and authority to people’s spatial knowledge and improve bottom-up communication. It hosts the Participatory 3D Modelling: Guiding Principles And Applications; Handbook which can be downloaded.

www_iconCooperative modelling: building bridges between science and the public – Journal of the American Water Resources Association, Apr 2006. This paper by Kristan Cockerill documents results from post-project interviews designed to identify strengths and weaknesses of cooperative modeling; to determine if and how the model facilitated the planning process; and to solicit advice for others considering model aided planning. Modeling team members revealed that cooperative modeling did facilitate water planning. Interviewees suggested that other groups try to reach consensus on a guiding vision or philosophy for their project and recognize that cooperative modeling is time intensive. The authors also note that using cooperative modeling as a tool to build bridges between science and the public requires consistent communication about both the process and the product.

www_iconComplex Science for a Complex World This book recognises the impotance of applying principles of sustainability, resilience and triple-bottom-line accounting to the problem of managing and regulating the interaction of humans and their environment. The science to underpin these efforts must understand and ultimately predict the dynamic behaviour of coupled systems embodying human behaviour and biophysical responses. Unlike the natural systems that environmental and earth sciences have traditionally addressed, these human dominated systems display learning, adaptation and complex non-linear feedbacks. They are ‘Complex Adaptive Systems’. Traditional approaches to modelling and understanding such systems have treated the natural and human parts quite differently. Natural biophysical processes have been approached with confidence by modellers who understood that, however complex a system like the earth’s climate might be, it could still be expected to obey physical laws and its behaviour was, at least in principle, predictable. The human component, in contrast, was generally treated as entirely contingent and not subject to regular laws (with the notable exception of economics, whose practitioners make draconian simplifying assumptions about human choices with limited predictive success). This situation has changed drastically in the last decade with the growth of complexity theory and its application to human behaviour and decision making – including simulation modelling and agent-based modelling (ABM) techniques.

A related area is conceptual modeling . In broad terms, conceptual modelling is the process of developing a graphical representation (or model) from the real world.