‘‘Win-win solutions’ that can combine conservation and livelihoods benefits may not always be found, but it is definitely worth looking for them. Embarking on this search in collaboration with stakeholders may often lead to surprising and innovative ideas.
In our work between the science and practice of nature conservation and sustainable development, we have detected that practitioners often struggle to identify - and tap into the potentials of – the policy and financing instruments that could work in their particular context. Academic debate on the issue addresses many relevant points but often uses generalized framings, complex formats and academic language which are unfamiliar to those working on their implementation.
The guidelines presented here should serve as a compass for practitioners towards recognizing the opportunities for their specific context and towards selecting and planning suitable instruments which will lead to more sustainable practices. We hope that the tool will inspire and structure the quest for policy and financing solutions and eventually bring about conservation and livelihoods benefits alike.
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How were the guidelines developed?
These guidelines were developed during the ECO-BEST project in Thailand (2011-2015) in order to structure the implementation of economic policy instruments in three Thai pilot sites. Due to ECO-BEST objectives and our collaboration with the Thai Department of National Parks, the initial focus of the guidelines was on protected areas and buffer zone management. However, the framework can equally be applied to safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems in the wider landscape in areas without official protection status.
Using state-of-the-art academic concepts, methodologies and approaches relating to ecosystem service assessments, policy instruments for biodiversity conservation and participatory processes, we have aimed to translate and incorporate them into a practical, field-based manual for conservation and development planners and managers. We also draw on, synthesize and adapt the insights and methodologies developed under various other practice-oriented guidelines, such as the 6-step approach developed within ‘TEEB in Local and Regional Policy and Management’ (TEEB 2012a), the 6-step approach to ‘Integrating Ecosystem Services into Development Planning – IES’ (Kosmus et al. 2012), or the step-by-step guidelines developed by The Word Resources Institute (WIR 2008 a,b).
By now, the guidelines have been applied in several countries (Mexico, Pacific Islands, India, etc.). The web-based guidelines are a modified version of initial print format (Rode and Wittmer 2015) which takes into account lessons, examples, and additional material based on all the application experiences. In the future the guidelines and the material provided by the website will be continuously updated.
Guiding principles that can enhance the success of the approach
Involving stakeholders: Stakeholders should be involved throughout the process, and explicit efforts should be made to recognize and balance their different ideas and interests. This means identifying and engaging key groups and individuals from the outset, and ensuring their continuous participation during the entire identification and planning process. Special effort should be made to ensure that the process is as inclusive, open and transparent as possible, especially for those already socially or economically marginalized, or who lack a ‘voice’ Capturing ecosystem opportunities requires groups of people to change their behavior. Stakeholder involvement makes it possible to understand people’s motivations for current (unsustainable) behaviour and resistance to change, reveals existing conflicts and collaborations, and exposes related issues they are struggling with. A good understanding of their positions, interests and constraints is essential for new instruments to be designed successfully. Stakeholders are much more likely to accept the proposed policy if it alleviates or at least addresses their constraints. Similarly, early piloting with particularly motivated stakeholders to find out what ‘flies’ or not – and for what reasons – can help to fine-tune the instrument and avoid painful learning experiences or failure with a larger group. In addition, involving stakeholders from the outset increases the legitimacy of the process. The guidelines assist successful stakeholder involvement during each step of the process.
Integrating a range of knowledge and expertise: The approach described in these guidelines is transdisciplinary, developing objectives and solutions with stakeholders and integrating a wide range of knowledge and expertise. When choosing the members of the team, both technical and strategic factors should be considered. The team should cover key technical disciplines and almost always include local experts and knowledge-holders. Equally important, however, is a solid understanding of the ‘big picture’ of both the general approach and the goals. At different stages, the team will most likely need access to additional expert knowledge (e.g. of local bio-physical relations or legal aspects, or for economic valuation). Whatever the specific needs of a particular assignment, the team will probably include people with various natural and social scientific backgrounds (e.g. economics, law, biology, ecology and hydrology) as well as different experiences and interests (e.g. planners, managers, researchers, local government, land and resource users and community representatives). Balancing and integrating these different perspectives requires a strong, well-coordinated approach to leadership and teamwork.
Communicating effectively: Communication deserves special attention. It is vital for ensuring the smooth running of the process, for maintaining collaboration and cooperation within the team, and for fostering the buy-in and ownership of stakeholders. It may even be useful to have a communication expert follow the entire process. For effective communication in a change process, listening carefully and adjusting to stakeholder motivations, needs and constraints is just as essential as clear communication within and beyond the team. In conservation, it is particularly important that people don’t feel judged, i.e. that they are thought to be doing wrong and need to be re-educated. Communication challenges need to be addressed – and are likely to vary − at every stage of the process, identifying what needs to be communicated, to whom, and how best to do it. For instance, at the very beginning it is crucial to develop a clear message about the broad aim and vision behind the assessment and to specify how it will be carried out, who will be involved, and what it might entail. Later in the process, a new arrangement or instrument with specific activities will need to be proposed and discussed. The guidelines highlight communication issues at different stages of the process.
Taking a flexible, adaptive approach: The steps and tasks follow a logical, iterative process and often depend on information generated or agreement reached earlier. However, a process like this can never be entirely linear. Adjustments will often be necessary: for example, combining various tasks, reordering them, repeating them, or going back and forth. It is very important to adapt and respond to the current context and to integrate feedback, new information or changing circumstances in order to move on effectively. Last but not least, these guidelines lay out a road map for change, but success will largely depend on the energy and ingenuity of you and your team.
ecosystem service opportunities
on the instrument