Participatory modelling

It is a challenge to agree on a common strategy or action plan. Participatory modelling is a concept that can contribute to increased cooperation between various stakeholder groups and experts in the development of action plans.

Different stakeholders do often have different experiences and perceptions with regard to the nature of a problem, including its causes, impacts, links to other issues, as well as way to solve it. Consequently, it is a challenge to agree on a common strategy or action plan.

In addition, implementation of action plans are often hindered by limited communication between stakeholders and decision makers due to limited dialogues during the development of the plans.

Participatory modelling is a concept that can contribute to increased cooperation between various stakeholder groups and experts in the development of action plans. Using models as a platform for dialogues can assist in common formulation of today’s conditions, the reasons for present conditions, as well as in recommendations of what to focus on in an action plan.

By involving authorities, experts and stakeholders in all steps of the process (including the model setup), suggested actions are formulated based on scientific foundations, as well as on recognitions of views from those affected, which increases the possibility that the action plans will be implemented locally.

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Figure 1. Participatory modelling meeting in Kårtorp, with farmers from the Vindå River basin, draining to the Baltic Sea.

A methodology has been developed

The Hydrological Research Unit at SMHI has, in cooperation with social science researchers at Linköping University and Lund University developed a participatory modelling methodology aimed to ensure increased dialogue between stakeholders and experts in development of strategies and action plans, with emphasis on the local level.

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Figure 2. Participatory modelling meeting Thukela river basin, South Africa with farmers from the community of Mhlwazini.

The methodology is based on that stakeholders, facilitated by models and various experts on relevant fields formulates a common view on present situation or impacts of a foreseen change of, e.g. climate (including its causes and consequences for various actors), and together formulates an action plan. Participants can also, e.g. arrange field monitoring campaigns of, e.g. water quality.

Participatory modelling has been applied in Sweden linked to the Water Frame Directive, with focus on actions to reduce inland and coastal eutrophication (Figure 1) and in South Africa linked to adaptation to climate change, with focus on water resources and agriculture (Figure 2).


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