Disputes over water resources and water management projects happen frequently. Shared Vision Planning (SVP) is a tool that helps to avoid them by involving stakeholders in all phases of model development and decision-making. SVP combines more traditional water resource planning approaches with public participation and collaborative computer modelling. These jointly developed models are used to identify problems, determine objectives and criteria for evaluation, and to analyse trade-offs and alternative options.
Shared Vision Planning was first developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. By involving participants from the outset, they can develop a common understanding of the natural water system and gain insights into how the different parts of the system are linked. This way, SVP helps to build a common language about the water resource issues among parties. Stakeholders take part in developing the tools that are later used to evaluate the alternatives, and generate alternatives themselves, which can be tested using the model. This ensures that the results from the models will be credible to all stakeholders and decisions based on them accepted.
Shared Vision Planning follows seven steps, of which the first five can be repeated as more information becomes available for evaluation.
- Build a team and identify stakeholders, decision makers, and experts;
- Develop objectives and categories for evaluation;
- Describe the status quo by using the collaboratively built model;
- Jointly formulate alternatives;
- Evaluate alternatives and develop recommendations using the model;
- Synthesise results in a plan and implement it;
- Update the plan.
Shared Vision Planning is best suited for multi-stakeholder, multi-issue situations. As parties begin to confront the need to plan for growing scarcity of water under competing demands, it is highly useful to bring sectors together. It is also useful where there is no common database and data sharing is difficult, and where there is little shared knowledge of the resources.
In order to be suitable for SVP, a model must:
- Be interactive and accessible to people who have no previous experience with modelling or programming;
- Be user-friendly, and have an intuitive interface;
- Allow for real time evaluation of scenarios and options;
- Create an output which addresses all the interests of the stakeholders;
- Be reliable and detailed enough that it can provide a basis for actual decision-making.
There are a number of software products that are suitable for developing models for Shared Vision Planning. The two that are most frequently used are STELLA10 and OASIS11. For simple models, Microsoft Excel is also an option.
- The best modelling applications try to show parties an overall picture of the situation and to put the water conflict situation in context.
- Not all the data for SVP needs to be quantitative. Non-quantitative displays can also be used, and some of them have proven to be the most important information for decision-making. By not imposing uniform quantification, the public has more “wiggle room,” which can produce better alternatives.
- A shared vision can also be useful to begin to illustrate how benefits can be generated from cooperation and thus begin to push parties towards a focus on sharing benefits, rather than simply sharing flows.
- It is often helpful to begin the exercise of developing objectives, performance measures, and methods of display in small groups. The first small group exercise can be conducted in homogenous groups so that people of similar interest can help each other clarify and develop objectives and measures in a relatively safe environment. The second round would then be heterogeneous so that people with different viewpoints begin to compare their interests and values, and to test their ideas with people who have other perspectives.
- It is important that participants have a choice in how the information from the model is visualized. Only if the resulting displays are meaningful to them, can shared vision planning be successful.