Collaboration among multiple stakeholders can be crucial to the success of natural resource management. In recent years, a wide variety of methods have been developed to facilitate such collaboration. Because these methods are relatively new and come from different disciplines, little attention has been paid to drawing comparisons among them. Thus, it is very difficult for potential users to sort through the increasingly large literature regarding such methods. We suggest the use of a consistent framework for comparing collaborative management methods, and develop such a framework based on five criteria: participation, institutional analysis, simplification of the natural resource, spatial scale, and stages in the process of natural resource management. We then apply this framework to six of the more commonly cited methods: soft systems analysis, adaptive management, ecosystem management, agroecosystem analysis, rapid rural appraisal and participatory rural appraisal. Important differences among methods were found in prescriptions for stakeholder participation, institutional analysis, and simplification of complex natural resources. Despite such differences, the methods are surprisingly similar overall. All methods are applicable at the scale of a watershed. Most of the methods include techniques for understanding complex natural resources, but not complex social institutions, and most include monitoring and assessment as well as planning. Our comparisons suggest that, although much work has been done to improve collaborative management of natural resources, both in the development of collaborative methods and in related social science disciplines, the results have not been shared among disciplines. Further organization and classification of this work is therefore necessary to make it more accessible to both practitioners and students of collaborative management.
KEY WORDS: adaptive management, agriculture, agroecosystem analysis, collaboration, ecosystem management, natural resource management, participatory rural appraisal, rapid rural appraisal, soft systems analysis.
Published December 20, 2000.