Engaging and empowering communities and stakeholders in rural land use and land management in Scotland

Report on how best to assist rural communities to engage with decisions on land use and land management.

Annex 10 Key Engagement Concepts

Getting beyond compromise

From our experience, environmentalists often express the concern that involving other stakeholders or communities in decisions around land management risks ' selling out the environment', weak compromises and poor land management.

This is a legitimate concern if the process of planning land use and land management is poorly designed and based on adversarial/positional negotiation behavior. However, engagement processes designed on consensus principles work differently because they help people shift from adversarial negotiation tactics to cooperative ones.

The model in Figure 5 explains this idea further. It represents two people (Party A and Party B) negotiating with each other. The shaded area is the zone in which a negotiated outcomes could be reached. Outside this zone parties are getting too little of what they want and the negotiation will break down.

Figure 5 Negotiation model

Figure 5 Negotiation model

If person A and person B use positional and adversarial negotiation tactics, it is a battle of power. A 50:50 outcome (the middle of the line of compromise) is the fairest outcome and sometimes described as 'win/win' but in reality both parties are losing 50% of what they want so it is actually lose/lose. If one person has more power than the other and can increase their share it will be at the cost of the other person and force a win/lose outcome.

This way of thinking about negotiation and power is the basis of the fear environmentalists express about weak compromise and the risk of ' selling out' on environmental priorities.

A well designed and facilitated engagement process, based on principles of consensus building, will help people change behavior, seek mutually beneficial outcomes and maximize win/wins and collective action. Table 21 below describes the difference between positional/adversarial tactics and positional/co-operative behavior.

Table 21: Characteristics of adversarial and co-operative behaviour

Positional/adversarial negotiation behaviour

Principled /co-operative negotiation behaviour

Withhold information

Share information

Make threats

Ask questions

Argue from positions

Explore interest and needs

Attack the others knowledge or them

Explore knowledge and perspectives

Defend position

Seek solutions

Work on each other

Work on the challenge

Actively seek win/lose

Actively seek win/win

Using all forms of knowledge

Rural land and rural communities are dynamic and constantly changing from both internal and external influences, which interact in often unpredictable ways 1 .

To reduce uncertainty policy makers talk about the need for evidence based decisions but that begs the questions whose evidence and who decides whose evidence counts? Most environmentalists favour science above other kinds of knowledge but scientific knowledge is never complete: intrinsic to the pursuit of science knowledge is that it is contested and challenged both from within and from other disciplines.

Communities and stakeholders hold other kinds of knowledge about the way things work. These can include: local trends and changes, how the environment is used and who uses it, key locations for particular activities, cultural meanings, and feelings about the place.

A well-designed engagement process will help people share what they know about the situation and what they base that knowledge on. Everyone has the right to then question what they hear and where information is contested, the group can work out what to do. For example, whether the uncertainty is of such significance that the group is unable to make any further decisions until it is addressed or if the matter is easily addressed and the group can move forwards.

Shifting focus from problems to strengths

The usual approach to land use and land management is problem solving, which involves focussing on the problems and how to fix them. Research shows this can have a negative effect, 2 causing people to feel defensive and disown the problem, and blaming something or someone else. People can also feel overwhelmed with the complexity and scale of a challenge and become demotivated, feel powerless or deny a problem exists 3 . Fixing problems takes resources (people, time, energy, creativity, innovation and funds). Unless there is a new injection of resources, it has to be drawn from what is already working with the potential for weakening that too and causing a net increase in problems.

An alternative and more effective approach is to design a process that frames questions to help people identify what is already working well, consider what needs to happen to enhance or strengthen current efforts and then explore what else needs to happen. This has a positive effect. People feel their contribution is identified, acknowledged and valued. They realise good work is already being done so the challenge seems more solvable. This kind of approach builds positive momentum for delivery, harnesses existing resources of time, effort, innovation and energy and works with the current momentum. In short, it motivates people and plays to strengths. 4


Back to top