April 5, 2016

Multi-stakeholder Landscape Platforms: What actually happens there?

Sara ScherrEcoAgriculture Partners

The first ‘element’ in integrated landscape management laid out in the Little Sustainable Landscapes Book is ‘establishing a multi-stakeholder platform’.

There has been a lot of discussion about how to organize and convene these platforms: how to make sure the right people are involved so that decisions will be considered legitimate and be impactful. But what exactly is the ‘magic’ of the platform that somehow turns a diverse, contentious group of organizations and individuals into a productive collaborative that can effectively mobilize the transformation of a landscape to meet those multiple goals?

For change on-the-ground

The overall goal of landscape platforms is to achieve key outcomes at landscape scale such as sustainable agriculture and productivity, biodiversity conservation, secure water supplies, and cultural values. The platform is needed to take advantage of potential synergies among these goals, while minimizing trade-offs and ensuring access to critical natural resources by less powerful stakeholders.

At a concrete level, ILM needs to result in on-the-ground changes in the way that land and resources are being managed, that synergistically achieve multiple goals and are spatially-targeted and strategically sequenced over time to have aggregate landscape benefits. Examples include forming biodiversity reserves that also benefit local farming communities; establishing habitat networks in and around farms; reducing land conversion by increasing farm productivity; minimizing agricultural pollution; modifying specific soil, water and vegetation management practices; modifying farming systems to mimic natural ecosystems; or directing new finance and investment to key actors/priorities identified in the agreed landscape plan.

Working together to develop concrete changes on the ground, like this new slaugherhouse on Manyara Ranch that will improve local incomes, is the ultimate measure of success of an MSP.

Working together to develop concrete changes on the ground, like this new slaugherhouse on Manyara Ranch that will improve local incomes, is the ultimate measure of success of an MSP.

Change in mindset is needed

A well-facilitated platform is the mechanism by which the various stakeholders are encouraged and enabled to make these on-the-ground changes happen, on their own and in concert with others. For fundamental change to happen requires that real changes occur in perceptions, decision-making, incentives, and institutions.

For example, platforms may help businesses and managers perceive reduced risks, and thus increase their investments or make longer-term investments. Costs may be reduced by sharing among stakeholders, simplifying regulations, or reducing negative externalities (such as sedimentation from upstream costing downstream landowners). Stakeholders may obtain more secure access to key resources. Programs may be re-designed to promote inter-sectoral coordination. Funders may create new financial guidelines that encourage multifunctional farm and resource management.

Participants prepare an action plan for scaling up impact within the Maasai Steppe.

Participants prepare an action plan for scaling up impact within the Maasai Steppe.

How a good MSP helps its members

What do platform members do together that actually creates these changes? Here are a few things.

  • Enhancing understanding of landscape processes and multiple stakeholder interests: stakeholders develop capacities to plan and manage at a landscape scale, including implementing specific farm, field and forest practices; facilitating multistakeholder partnerships; conducting spatial analysis and planning, etc.;
  • Joint spatial analysis at a landscape scale: land use types are mapped at a landscape scale and analyzed through a collaborative process to understand where trade-offs and synergies exist to guide the spatial pattern of investment;
  • Partnership building and conflict resolution: stakeholders work together to build trust and an understanding of one another’s diverse needs and constraints;
  • Collaborative planning to achieve multiple goals: the multi-stakeholder platform determines it would like to achieve multiple goals simultaneously and undergoes a planning process to determine which internventions should be targeted where and at what time;
  • Negotiating rights and responsibilities: different groups of stakeholders negotiate how they will access and manage common resources in the landscape, including expectations on stewardship and ensuring protections and voice for vulnerable groups;
  • Organizing research and monitoring of landscape processes: the impacts of interventions are monitored and evaluated to see their effect on different goals, and motivate innovations;
  • Collaborative resource mobilization: stakeholders in the platform join forces to mobilize resources to implement trarget interventions;
  • Removing policy barriers: policies and regulations between sectors are harmonized and tenure rights are strengthened to better promote ILM;
  • Opening market opportunities: markets are shaped to incentivize the production of goods from sustainable, multi-functional landscapes.

When these things start to happen, real landscape change follows.

Read More

Leading Integrated Landscape Partnerships
Little Sustainable Landscapes Book

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2 Comments

  • Adrian Young
    September 14, 2016 at 5:22pm

    I have been involved in initiatives that have sought to utilise multi-stakeholder platforms to improve environmental management in both Ethiopia and New Zealand. However, in both cases the language used to describe these types of platforms is very different to how these processes are articulated here. I think there is a real need to works towards some common (and more accessible) language to describe these types of processes/platforms to enable greater levels of exchange and learning across countries and sectors working towards similar goals in this area.

    • Editor-in-Chief
      September 15, 2016 at 11:55am

      What were the words or the language used to describe the platforms in those cases? Perhaps we’re close to common ground already? We definitely try to tailor our language for the context in which we work, but indeed, in global discourse and for international or even regional knowledge exchange, it would be beneficial to have common terminology. This is difficult for exactly the reason that different terms for multi-stakeholder platform are used everywhere. In many cases, local traditional institutions (with their own deeply embedded language norms) are functionally multi-stakeholder platforms: a common terminology risks stripping these institutions of their cultural relevancy and therefore their authority. Challenging questions: thanks for raising them.

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