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Strengthening links between anthropologists and system dynamicists: participatory group modelling and natural resources


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System dynamics is a way to look at the complex physical and social systems around a particular problem. It can be used to design policies to improve how the systems work (thus reducing the problem). CIFOR scientist Carol Colfer believes that system dynamics modelling can help address natural resource problems in developing countries, including those related to climate change. And in the process, the perspectives of the most marginalised groups should be sought out and included. Colfer presented this PowerPoint at the annual System Dynamics society meeting, held in Washington, DC in late July 2011. Her presentation (prepared with system dynamicist, Richard G. Dudley) encourages system dynamics practitioners to use their skills for climate change adaptation and mitigation; and provides guidance for incorporating the views of marginalised people.

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Strengthening links between anthropologists and system dynamicists: participatory group modelling and natural resources

  1. 1. Strengthening links betweenanthropologists and systemdynamicists:participatory group modellingand natural resourcesCarol J. Pierce Colfer & Richard G. DudleyCenter for International Forestry Research (CIFOR, Bogor, Indonesia)Cornell Institute for International Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD, Ithaca, New York)
  2. 2. Outline of Talk Rationale Sample barriers to gaining accurate views from marginalised stakeholders System dynamics ‘requirements’ for participatory modelling Added complications in the rural developing world Key steps in facilitation process Suggestions for techniques
  3. 3. Rationale 1: Relevance of participatory approaches  Utility of system dynamics for addressing global problems  Difficulties of gaining input from the disempowered  Also:  Urgency of climate change (and relevance of system dynamics)  2011 – The Year of the Forest
  4. 4. Rationale 2: Why do we care about marginalised people?  They live on the land  They make everyday decisions about the land  They use land resources to survive …….. a day to day struggle.  Basically, they know what is really going on.
  5. 5. Sample Barriers to GainingReal World Views Pygmies in Central Africa – stakeholder Identification Junior Indonesian ACM team members – cultural and structural constraints Shangwe in Zimbabwe villages – ethnic and linguistic communication barriers Melayu woman in Borneo – gender barriers Plantation workers in South Africa – the powerful inhibit the less powerful
  6. 6. System Dynamics Standard Practice Recommends: For Participatory Modelling 1  Pragmatic aspects (e.g. purpose of meeting and agenda; needed equipment on hand; context with few distractions)  Facilitation (establishing rapport; series of meetings; open, semi-circular seating; ‘group memory’ - evidence of the group’s thoughts and progress) 1 from Richardson & Andersen 1995; Vennix 1996; van den Belt 2004; Vanclay, Prabhu & Sinclair 2006
  7. 7. System Dynamics Standard Practice Recommends: Desired Attitudes & Skills (see Vennix 1996) Attitudes  a helping attitude  authenticity and integrity  an inquiring mind  an air of neutrality Skills  Appropriate feedback  Positive reinforcement
  8. 8. System Dynamics Standard Practice Recommends: Roles (Richardson & Andersen 1995)  Facilitator  Recorder  Content coach  Process coach  Gatekeeper [five people or combined?]
  9. 9. Added Complications in RuralDeveloping World Settings Complexity of stakeholders Overlapping and differing sociopolitical structures Gender barriers and differences Extreme power differences among participants Illiteracy High levels of conflict
  10. 10. Implications for Developing WorldParticipatory Modelling (4 slides)These are of key potential importance forclimate change programs, such as:NAPA (National Adaptation Programs forAction)REDD++ (Reducing Emissions fromDeforestation and forest Degradation)
  11. 11. Implications for work in the developing world (1/4): Practical Considerations  Logistical complexities magnify (transport, subsistence trade-offs, electricity, infrastructure++)  Need more time (to acquaint villagers with goals, procedures, and obtain their ideas)  Cultural sensitivity may be more crucial
  12. 12. Implications for work in the developing world (2/4): • ‘Comfortable locale’ - may mean in a village Witness facilitates Zimbabwean farmer meeting on a convenient hill Villager in Gabon expresses his anger about local politics Colfer with villager-collaborators in Sumatra
  13. 13. Implications for work in the developing world (3/4): Changes in Key Steps  Identifying stakeholders – may require more effort  Decision about how to provide functions described by Richardson & Andersen 1995  Obtain facilitation expertise Some key facilitation points:  Learn to listen and observe social behaviour  Monitor and manage power imbalances
  14. 14. Implications for work in the developing world (4/4): Some Steps in Facilitation …with the marginalised in mind  Begin by getting group feedback, including ‘hopes and fears’ for the meetings  Decide what meeting format will provide the most input from those marginalized.  Manage domineering and silent members (talking stick, ‘yellow/red card’, tossing a ball to speaker)
  15. 15. Ideas: Sample Techniques to Help Include the Marginalised  Fishbowl  Future scenarios  Line on the floor  Solve my problem  World Café
  16. 16. Solve my problem - KyrgyzstanA Tanzanian communityenvisions their future A multi-stakeholder group in Borneo presents their drawing of factors affecting health
  17. 17. Principles about Group Process - 1 Smaller, like-minded groups encourage freer participation [with report-backs to the larger group]---early on Diverse groups are useful for sharing of perspectives and developing shared, holistic analyses---as model evolves People are more at ease, more communicative, in familiar settings
  18. 18. Principles about Group Process - 2 Effective facilitation overcomes interaction difficulties The facilitator/modeler ‘suspends assumptions’ to understand, then brings together divergent views into a model Sincere respect for participants, their cultural systems and their opinions ‘comes across’, encourages honest sharing of views
  19. 19. Conclusions Urgent natural resource problems confront us, not least those related to climate change System dynamics modelling can help address these problems Issues of justice and human rights dictate more effective inclusion of the marginalised We hope system dynamics practitioners can both address natural resource and climate change problems, and work toward including all relevant perspectives more effectively.
  20. 20. Questions? or Comments?Read the related paper Strengthening links between anthropologists and system dynamicists: participatory group modelling and natural resourcesContact Carol Colfer: Richard Dudley: