Acting on Ecosystem Service Opportunities


Step 6: Designing and agreeing on the instrument

In order to be approved by the key actors, the instrument needs to be feasible and acceptable to stakeholders. This step involves presenting a convincing model of how the instrument would work, clarifying institutional and administrative details, and confirming the feasibility and effectiveness of the design.

As a result you will have:

  • Finalised a design document for the instrument
  • Clarified institutional and administrative modalities
  • Confirmed feasibility and obtained agreement to proceed.


Once you have received the results of the additional studies, your team (ideally with the active participation of key stakeholders) should be able to decide which instrument or package you want to develop.

Task 6 A. Elaborating the basic design and architecture of the instrument

At the end of Task 6A you will have prepared a well-structured document that brings together the outcomes of the earlier steps of the assessment process in order to convey the basic design and architecture of how the selected instrument will work.

What this task is about

The objective of this task is to put together a design document which

1) describes the rationale and objectives of the new instrument,

2) lays out its architecture and delivery mechanisms,

3) clarifies who would participate and what their role would be, and

4) summarises how costs and benefits would be shared and key risks and impacts managed.

The table of contents in Template 6A suggests the minimum content of the design document. The design document should serve several purposes. Its overall aim is to convey what the instrument is all about. As such, it can be used to communicate aims and outcomes to its intended participants, potential donors or funders, and other interested parties. The design document also provides information necessary for institutional and administrative modalities (see Task 6B), a way to double-check feasibility and acceptability (see Task 6C), and the basic elements of a contract or agreement for implementing the instrument (see Task 7C).

      A graphical model can help illustrate the basic design!    Please click to learn more 

      A good map of the area of interest can be an important tool!    Please click to learn moreA map can support discussions and mutual understanding in the team about the scope and objectives, and can be very useful in communicating them to stakeholders. A map can also be useful for discussing the origin of ecosystem services as well as where their benefits accrue, or help to define explicitly where changes or activities need to take place.

How to go about Task 6A

By now, most basic aspects of the design document will have been generated. You may have already tried to tie it all together within a conceptual model or a complete description. Meet with your team, use your notes from earlier steps and Templates (actors, roles and enabling conditions) and start linking it all together. Write up the design document following the structure of Template 6A. Approach this task with the clear intention to come up with a proposal that outsiders will easily understand and find sensible. A diagram might help you understand the links and/or to communicate the design to stakeholders.

While drawing up your draft proposal and writing the design document it is important to remember that your next step is likely to include testing your proposal with stakeholders, usually in a workshop setting. Tasks 6B and 6C will clarify specifics and will serve as a basis for contractual arrangements in Step 7. In order to get the most out of this opportunity for testing, it is worth emphasising areas of uncertainty or where you perceive risks. Be aware also that your proposal may not be as easy to grasp as you think. Before you release it, check whether it is easily comprehensible to a wider group of stakeholders. You don’t want them to react negatively to your proposal just because it isn’t clear enough.

  Template 6A: Table of contents for designing the document      Download

Task 6 B.  Clarifying institutional and administrative modalities

At the end of Task 6B you will have specified institutional and administrative modalities for the instrument design, based on consultation with the actors and institutions involved. You will have added this information to the design document and could use it to draw up formal arrangements or contracts.

What this task is about

The premise of this task is that the design and architecture of the instrument as mapped out in Task 6A was quite general, so you now need to specify more detailed modalities and procedures within the relevant institutions. The questions are summarised in Template 6B, distinguishing between administrative modalities and financial aspects that determine the economic feasibility and sustainability of the arrangement. The questions are actually very basic (who would do what, how often, in what format, for how much, how is it managed, what if they fail to comply? etc.) but will supply the level of detail required to finally discuss a concrete design with the relevant institutions and, in many cases, to prepare a contract or formal agreement.

      Voluntary schemes are a way to apply the ‘beneficiary pays’ principle!     Please click to learn moreIn Thailand there is no legal basis yet for applying the Beneficiary Pays principle by which authorities could collect and allocate funds from beneficiaries of ecosystem services. Although legal advisors recommended taking advantage of legal loopholes, the local authorities did not want to do anything that might go against (or beyond) the law. Both in Thadee and in Bu Phram, part of the solution was to rely on a system of voluntary payments and to register independent associations for collecting and distributing funds.

How to go about Task 6B

Template 6B presents a checklist with questions to address. A number of points will have emerged from formulating the overall mechanism and writing the document in Task 6A. It is best to discuss directly with the stakeholders and institutions involved what they will be expected to do, which modality works best for them, their fears and concerns and how modalities might be changed to address these. It is essential that the functioning of the instruments fits into the normal procedures of the institution or the individuals expected to participate. For instance, a voluntary charge should be added to a regular payment that people already make, not treated as a separate administrative step. In Task 6A, formulating the overall mechanism involved thinking about governance structure and financial flows. However, when you go through the checklist and discuss it with stakeholders, you may feel a need for additional information: e.g. to estimate administrative costs, to construct a more detailed governance model, or to clarify the legal basis for the instrument. In that case, you might want to go back to the guidance provided in Task 5C.

  Template 6B: Checklist for institutional and administrative modalities     Download Checklist

Task 6 C.  Double-checking feasibility, acceptability and buy-in

At the end of Task 6C you will have confirmed that the instrument is feasible and acceptable, based on the checklist in Template 6C. You will have adapted the proposal where this was not the case.

What this task is about

This task has three main aims:

(i) to double-check feasibility – can it really work or have we overlooked any decisive detail?

(ii) to make sure that the design and framing including the wording is acceptable in the social and cultural context

(iii) to confirm that key actors are committed to participating in and supporting the implementation of the instrument.

Most of the work to achieve these three points has already been done in previous steps. In Task 4B you checked whether specific opportunities are compatible with and appropriate to the context at hand. This should have been a good first safeguard against proposing anything completely unacceptable or infeasible. Then in Tasks 5A and B and 6A and B you defined and refined most crucial aspects. The task here is to double-check you haven’t missed anything and to address any remaining doubts. The questions in Template 6C serve as guidance for this purpose.

At this stage it may also be necessary to carry out a more formal assessment of social, environmental and/or livelihood impact. Whether or not this is required depends on the significance of the effects that you noted in the feasibility check in Task 6B. The laws and administrative/financial systems where the instrument is being implemented may also determine its necessity, as well as the requirements of any donor or funding institutions; and, if needed, what level of detail and response is required. Depending on the results of the feasibility and impact assessments, it may then be necessary to go back to Task 6A, and modify the instrument design. Usually, this requires adding appropriate response measures: in other words, planning how to deal with the issues encountered.

      Appropriate wording can make a difference!  Please click to learn moreFor negotiations and contractual arrangements in ECO-BEST, culturally appropriate wording was important. The term ‘ecological fee’ was acceptable but ‘water fee’ was not, since historically (by royal decree and national law) people have a right to water.

How to go about Task 6C

Template 6C presents a checklist of questions that address the different criteria for feasibility and suggests how to test for them. Some aspects of the feasibility check will require deskwork and discussion within the team, to make sure that all aspects have been covered. You can then make a list of points that require further stakeholder consultation. Importantly, broad social and cultural acceptability will have to be confirmed with stakeholders, e.g. key resource persons such as religious or community leaders, or teachers who know the local people and the norms, attitudes, and beliefs governing social life.

Key stakeholder commitment requires direct and intensive contact, either by individual consultation or in a workshop setting. The general objectives of a workshop at this stage might be:

  • to present the draft proposal for economic instrument(s) and the rationale behind it
  • to present results of additional analyses that help demonstrate the rationale and feasibility of the proposal
  • to receive feedback on feasibility and needs for adjustment
  • to ensure buy-in and agreement to proceed with the planning and implementation.

The design document developed in Task 6A and amended in Task 6B serves as the basis for discussion, but make sure that it is presented in a format that participants understand. If possible, it could help to provide draft proposals prior to the workshop, so that they can organise their thoughts beforehand. Participants should be encouraged to think critically about risks and bring their perspectives on things that might go wrong and changes that should be considered.

  Template 6C: Checklist for assessing the feasibility and acceptability of the instrument    Download Checklist

Selected references and further guidance for Step 6

Guidance on planning and testing the feasibility of economic instruments

Chapter 6 of Young et al. (1996) provides design principles for policy instruments (Task 6B).

Chapter 3 of the Conservation Finance Guide (CFA 2008) describes business planning for protected areas (Task 6A).



Step 1:



Step 3:


ecosystem service opportunities

Step 2:

Scoping the

context &


Step 4:




Step 6:


and agreeing

on the instrument

Step 5:


out the


Step 7: