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Addressing ambiguity in participatory processes for sustainable resources management to support Integrated Assessment

September 23, 2020 @ 11:30 am - 1:00 pm

PNS5: Digital journey to PNS 2021 symposium in Florence*

Addressing ambiguity in participatory processes for sustainable resources management to support Integrated Assessment

23 Sept. 2020, 11:30-13.00 CEST

*Virtual session.

The Integrated Assessment Society (TIAS) announces its virtual session at the 5th Post-Normal Science Symposium, “PNS5: Digital journey to PNS 2021 symposium in Florence”

Over the past few decades Integrated Assessments (IA) have gained increasing importance as a means of understanding and dealing with the impacts of climate and environmental change on natural resources management. As a scientific “meta-discipline,” Integrated Assessment integrates knowledge about a problem domain and makes it available for societal learning and decision making processes. IA is used to frame, study and solve complex socio-ecological issues at all scales.

Central to IA is the engagement of stakeholders and scientists, often from diverse disciplines and/or sectors, and the concomitant ambiguity that emerges when these individuals with diverse backgrounds, languages and interests meet to address resource management issues. Ambiguity is a type of uncertainty that refers to the confusion or discrepancy in understandings that emerge in a group over the issues of concern and their solutions. As such it reflects the multiplicity of meanings and preferences, and unavoidable differences that exist among actors in responding to change. In participatory processes, like the ones pursued in IA, ambiguity is unavoidable. How ambiguity is tackled determines which problems are addressed, how, and with what knowledge. However, despite the relevance that ambiguity can have, it is commonly overlooked in IA, resulting in assessments that are biased, exclusive or simply responding to the views and needs of just a few stakeholders. The issue suggests that deep insights into the politics of participation, accompanied with more careful preparation, guidance and moderation, are needed especially when bringing together inter- and transdisciplinary groups from different sectors in addressing natural resource problems of common interest and with multiple stakes.

In this session we want to explore with participants in an active way how ambiguity has been and could be more effectively addressed in the context of Integrated Assessment. We are particularly interested in applications that use participatory forms of inquiry (e.g., participatory modelling, decision support systems, etc.) in addressing ambiguity in Integrated Assessment. The presenters will provide 10 min pitches outlining their experiences with ambiguity in participatory processes and then other participants will be invited to share their experiences. Examples will be provided from several projects including water abstraction in Mediterranean regions, management of the WEF Nexus in river basins in sub Saharan Africa, and water management in Spain.

Input talks and discussion

  •  ‘The (re)democratization of knowledge in participatory processes – The dangers of overlooking ambiguities’, Marcela Brugnach (chair), BC3 – Basque Center for Climate Change, the Basque Foundation for Science, Ikerbasque, Spain and The Integrated Assessment Society e.V., Email: marcela.brugnach@bc3research.org
  • ‘Ambiguities in Integrated Assessment – Experiences from stakeholder processes in water-energy-food nexus management’, Caroline van Bers, The Integrated Assessment Society e.V. and Institute of Environmental Systems Research, Osnabrueck University, Germany, Email: cvanbers@tias-web.info
  • ‘Narratives as epistemic tools to work with ambiguity in extended peer communities’, Violeta Cabello Villarejo, Institute for Environmental Science and Technologies, Autonomous University of Barcelona, and BC3 – Basque Center for Climate Change, Email: Violeta.Cabello@uab.cat

This will be followed by a 60-min moderated discussion among participants focusing mainly on (but not limited to) the following questions from a post normal science perspective:
1. What are examples of ambiguities related to current socio-environmental issues or problems (e.g. concerning floods, droughts, food, from a climate change perspective)?
2. Does our awareness of these ambiguities change the way we address a socio-environmental issue or problem in, for example, how we interact with stakeholders, the type of knowledge needed, how processes are designed?
3. What is being done or could be done differently to cope with ambiguity?
4. What are examples of approaches that have worked and the lessons that can be drawn from these and more generally applied in both research projects and the development of management and new policy measures?
The main sectors to be addressed are water management, WEF Nexus, collective processes, climate change adaptation.