ICE- SAV Improved Community Engagement through Spatial and Visualisation methods
Community engagement in research agenda setting for environmental management, sustainable development and grass roots decision making has been shown to lead to improved decision outcomes. The current focus within the AHRC Connected Communities programme and the Coalition governments ‘Big Society’ agenda both provide support and a policy context for developing these types of initiatives further.
Communication and engagement tools are required to encourage and facilitate effectively community involvement in environmental decision making. Research groups from the University of York and University of Abertay (Dundee) in collaboration with other colleagues from London Metropolitan University and the 3rd sector organisations including Groundwork Trust have independently been developing a variety of methods to facilitate this community participation particularly in relation to local environmental management, ecosystem service provision and urban development. Researchers at the University of York have also been developing novel approaches, linked to spatial tools, to look at the relationship between social and environmental inequalities and potential consequent injustice.
These independently developed approaches have elements of four interlinked common threads:
1. They include a spatial dimension to the assessment of the issues and solution development.
2. Linked to this spatial disaggregation of information is the use of novel visualisation tools to improve the communications of issues thereby enhancing stakeholder understanding.
3. This visualisation has involved techniques to assess aspects of socio-economic and environmental inequalities and their relation to local communities’ perceptions of environmental injustice.
4. The various methodologies have been developed with the common theme of attempting to engage with the public, to more effectively incorporate their community knowledge, environmental understandings and preferences into decision making processes.
This stakeholder participation has multiple goals including improving the outcomes of policy formulation by incorporating local residents’ values and knowledge but also through behavioural change towards greater sustainability amongst the people and communities involved in the process. In order to add value to these research activities a knowledge exchange activity is proposed in order to consolidate the range of currently independent methodologies for community engagement and participation in environmental decision making that have been developed by the various project partners. This knowledge exchange will identify how these approaches can be better integrated and utilised by communities to address their research concerns.