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Visions, beliefs, and transformation: exploring cross-sector and transboundary dynamics in the wider Mekong region

Alex Smajgl, MERFI Mekong Region Futures Institute; CSIRO Land and Water Flagship
John R. Ward, MERFI Mekong Region Futures Institute; CSIRO Land and Water Flagship
Tira Foran, CSIRO Land and Water Flagship
John Dore, DFAT Australian Aid, Australian Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand
Silva Larson, CSIRO Land and Water Flagship; College of Business, Law and Governance, Division of Tropical Environments and Societies, James Cook University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07421-200215

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Abstract

Policy and investment decisions in highly connected, developing regions can have implications that extend beyond their initial objectives of national development and poverty reduction. Local level decisions that aim to promote trajectories toward desirable futures are often transformative, unexpectedly altering factors that are determined at higher regional levels. The converse also applies. The ability to realize desirable local futures diminishes if decision-making processes are not coordinated with other influential governance and decision levels. Providing effective support across multiple levels of decision making in a connected, transformative environment requires (a) identification and articulation of desired outcomes at the relevant levels of decision making, (b) improved understanding of complex cross-scale interactions that link to potentially transforming decisions, and (c) learning among decision makers and decision influencers. Research implemented through multiple participatory modalities can facilitate such relevant system learning to contribute to sustainable adaptation pathways. We test application of a systematic policy engagement framework, the Challenge and Reconstruct Learning or ChaRL framework, on a set of interdependent development decisions in the Mekong region. The analysis presented here is focused on the implementations of the ChaRL process in the Nam Ngum River Basin, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the Tonle Sap Lake and environs, Cambodia to exemplify what cross-scale and cross-sectoral insights were generated to inform decision-making processes in the wider Mekong region. The participatory process described aligns the facilitated development of scenarios articulating shared future visions at local and regional levels with agent-based simulations and facilitates learning by contrasting desired outcomes with likely, potentially maladaptive outcomes.

Key words

complexity; development; Mekong; participatory research

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087