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Application of intervention design concepts to project planning for collaborative adaptive management of natural resources

Kathi K. Beratan, North Carolina State University (retired)


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Natural resource management practitioners responsible for planning collaborative adaptive management (CAM) efforts face major challenges related to the complexity of both the systems being managed and the management systems themselves. Standard project planning approaches such as logic models are poorly suited to such situations. Development of an effective action plan requires identification of potential interventions that are both likely to be impactful and practical in that particular social-political context. Little guidance is available for practitioners because there has been only limited translation of theory-driven guidelines into practical and readily useable tools and guidelines. Similar challenges are shared by practitioners in many applied social science and transdisciplinary fields that focus on interventions aimed at changing individual and collective human behavior. Intervention research was developed to assist with program development in applied social science fields and can provide natural resource management practitioners with insights into how they can gather and organize information about human behavior that is specifically relevant to the problem situation. The basic organizing structure of intervention design can be summarized as: intervening actors take actions intended to cause modification of the behavior of targeted actors leading to improvement in the conditions of interest. I present an organizing structure based on intervention design concepts that expands on the human behavior elements of the Exploratory Problem Assessment (EA) approach of Beratan (2019). The EA approach affords the positive features of results chains while further enhancing the usability and timeliness of the results for facilitation of strategic planning and project evaluation. The approach provides information that is directly relevant to project planning and can be done by or for a CAM project manager relatively quickly at the start of project planning with a minimum of facilitation. The basic concepts are readily understandable to nonspecialists both because humans are predisposed to perceive causal relationships and a diagrammatic presentation using information design principles can readily convey quite complex relationships. An example from a collaborative multilevel land-use planning effort in North Carolina illustrates how the framework can be applied.

Key words

collaborative adaptive management; intervention design; project planning; theory of change

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087