IV Policy, Institutuinal and Capacity Development, Education and IME System

Participatory Sustainability Research for Risk Management and Leadership Development

Masanori Kobayashi

Abstract Effective risk management and sustainability promotion require proper assessment of the environment and social capacity for managing the environment. National governments and international agencies provide monitoring data on the environment such as data relating to air and water quality, forest cover, land, biodiversity, and waste management. While local communities and stakeholders need to play a vital role in managing risks and promoting sustainability at the field level, however, they often lack scientific information. Instead they rely on the experiential and observation-based information that is often the most useful in communicating to other community members and stakeholders. Participatory assessment can therefore provide a useful tool for community members and stakeholders to comprehend environmental risks and challenges in promoting sustainability. Meanwhile, the feedback from the communities and stakeholders constitutes useful information for decision-makers and practitioners to plan and facilitate transformation in policies and institutions in order to improve environmental risk management and promote sustainability.

Keywords Environmental risks • Leadership development • Social capacity assessment

• Stakeholder participation • Sustainability

Introduction: Environment and Social Capacity Assessment for Effective Environmental Risk and Sustainable Resource Management

It has long been acknowledged that local communities and stakeholders have a vital role to play in protecting the environment, managing risks, and promoting sustainable use of natural resources, and environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all citizens concerned, as reaffirmed in the Rio Declaration adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNGA 1992). Ostrom (1990) refers to participatory environmental management by characterizing it as management of common pool resources by non-governmental actors. Ostrom (2000) further articulates the features of self-governance of natural resources. Ostrom asserts that the presence of leaders or entrepreneurs is an important factor in instigating social mobilization, structuring governance mechanisms, and promoting collective actions to manage the environment and natural resources.

When developing and operationalizing self-governing mechanisms for environmental management or sustainable natural resource use, the role to be played by leaders or entrepreneurs is paramount, but emphasis is also given to the utility of involving external facilitators in similar processes (APFED 2010). The latter supplement the leaders or entrepreneurs, who can be endogenous. External facilitators are involved in raising awareness among local community members and stakeholders, organizing them, and institutionalizing collaborative management of the environment and natural resources. They can play an instrumental role in identifying and providing options for interventions in addressing environmental risks or sustainability challenges. It is however important to note the caveat that the external facilitators also need to understand the local conditions and context (Adandedjan and Niang 2006). They are not supposed to impose their own preconceived notions of collective actions on community members and stakeholders (Sow and Adjibade 2006). It must be the local community members and stakeholders who make the final decisions on the modalities of collective actions.

It is a core purpose of sustainability science to understand the mechanisms of natural resource use and impacts on the environment and livelihoods. To carry out effective sustainability science, it has been suggested that multi-disciplinary expertise should be brought together to facilitate in-depth transformation of the way scientific research is organized (Dedeurwaerdere 2013). Integration of science and knowledge about natural and social systems has evolved to become sustainability science (Rockström et al. 2009; Blackstock et al. 2007; Yasunari 2013) and a platform has been established to promote science-policy interface on sustainability (Takeuchi 2013). Sustainability science is said to consist of two key components, namely a descriptive analytical mode based on an advanced form of complex system analysis, and a transformation mode oriented toward developing practical solutions for sustainability problems. An increasing emphasis is now given to the latter component to facilitate a socio-economic transition toward achieving stronger sustainability (Dedeurwaerdere 2013).

If the participatory appraisal for the environment and ecosystems can be undertaken using a simple and indicative assessment approach, such a process can provide a useful tool as well as a step toward commencing dialogues for stakeholder/ community leaders, scientists, and practitioners. Such dialogues can address how to improve environment/ecosystem management and livelihoods as a preliminary stage in participatory learning and action (PLA), or participatory sustainability science (PSS) research. The participatory appraisal process can also provide a meaningful opportunity for students to acquire holistic viewpoints on sustainability and develop the analytical and facilitation skills required for environmental leaders by confronting reality and being required to comprehend the complexity and dynamism intrinsic to sustainability conundrums. In practice, however, PLA or PSS research does not always lead to the intended outcome due to either poor conflict resolution or insufficient facilitation (Blackstock et al. 2007) and there are a number of challenges in integrating PLA or PSS into environmental leadership training programs. This paper aims to outline the genesis and evolution of PLA or PSS, its advantages, and the challenges in applying it in environmental leadership development at universities.

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