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Methods for Developing Multiscale Participatory Scenarios: Insights from Southern Africa and Europe

Kasper Kok, Wageningen University
Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); University of Wisconsin
Monika Zurek, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)


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Scenario planning is increasingly recognized as a useful tool for exploring change in social-ecological systems on decadal to centennial time horizons. In environmental decision making, scenario development tends to include participatory methods for engaging stakeholders and is conducted at multiple scales. This paper presents insights from participatory scenario development in two separate multiscale environmental assessments. We find that, to engage stakeholders at multiple scales, it is important that the issues explored at each scale be relevant and credible to stakeholders at that scale. An important trade-off exists between maintaining relevance to stakeholders at different scales and maintaining consistency across scales to allow for comparison of scenarios. Where downscaling methods are used to ensure consistency, there can be important consequences for (1) the diversity of scenario outcomes, (2) temporal mismatches in the storylines at different scales, and (3) power relationships among stakeholders at different scales. We suggest that development of participatory scenarios at multiple scales has a strong potential to contribute to environmental decision making, but it requires a substantial investment of time and resources to realize its full potential.

Key words

Mediterranean; multiscale scenario; participation; scale; scenario; southern Africa

Copyright © 2007 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087