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Improving Decisions with Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Information: A Theory-based Practical Context Diagnostic for Conservation

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Affiliation: University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute
This report introduces such a context diagnostic tool for conservation and Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Assessment and Valuation (BESAV) practitioners. The tool includes five approaches based on well-established social science theories. Each approach gives a contrasting perspective and raises a set of thought-provoking questions on social, organizational, institutional and political aspects of context. The tool is illustrated throughout by examples inspired by realworld case studies, gathered through interviews and participatory workshops. The tool can be used at different stages of BESAV projects (scoping, implementation, evaluation and debriefing).
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Technical Background Paper
Improving Decisions with Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
A Theory-based Practical Context Diagnostic for Conservation
March 2017
Clément FEGER1, Laurent MERMET2, Emily MCKENZIE3, Bhaskar VIRA4
1University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, Department of Geography (University of Cambridge)
and Luc Hoffmann Institute
2AgroParisTech and Centre for Ecology and Conservation Sciences (UMR-7204), Museum National d’Histoire
Naturelle and AgroParisTech
3WWF-US, WWF-UK and Natural Capital Project
4 Department of Geography, University of Cambridge and University of Cambridge Conservation Research
The authors are grateful to the Valuing Nature Programme Placement Scheme for the initial
funding of this research as well as the Luc Hofmann Institute for their subsequent support. The
authors would also like to express their gratitude to the Natural Capital Project team, the TESSA
team and to all the participants to the workshops and interviews for their valuable inputs. We also
thank the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute. The authors are very grateful
to Chris Sandbrook and Dave Tickner for their time and their independent reviews and comments
that helped us improve the document substantially.
Suggested citation
Feger, C., Mermet, L., McKenzie, E., Vira, B. Improving Decisions with Biodiversity and
Ecosystem Services Information: A Theory-based Practical Context Diagnostic for Conservation.
Technical Background Paper, University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute. March
Executive summary
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment the most comprehensive assessment to date of the
status and trends of Earth’s ecological systems warned us that 60% of the benefits nature
provides to people (‘ecosystem services’) are being degraded or used unsustainably. This
triggered widespread efforts, by research groups, conservation organizations and think tanks, to
design and use ecosystem services assessments and tools around the world. These efforts aim to
integrate the value of naturein decision-making, policies, business operations and ultimately to
change society’s development trajectory to be sustainable.
Yet, recent studies point out that not all new tools and scientific knowledge on ecosystem services
are effectively used as a basis for decision and action leading to positive social and environmental
outcomes. To create change, new scientific and expert knowledge, even when worrying, robust
and empirically grounded, is not enough. It needs to be mobilized by leaders and change agents
researchers, conservation NGO practitioners, motivated policy makers or business who use the
information systems and knowledge as part of a strategy of communication, advocacy and action.
Context matters. A good understanding of the context for biodiversity and ecosystem services
approaches often determines whether a project has impact or not. Such understanding can be
gathered quickly and easily using ‘context diagnostic1’ tools. These can be used by practitioners
who are agents of change in real world situations.
This report introduces such a context diagnostic tool for conservation and Biodiversity and
Ecosystem Services Assessment and Valuation (BESAV) practitioners. The tool includes five
approaches based on well-established social science theories. Each approach gives a contrasting
perspective and raises a set of thought-provoking questions on social, organizational, institutional
and political aspects of context. The tool is illustrated throughout by examples inspired by real-
world case studies, gathered through interviews and participatory workshops. The tool can be
used at different stages of BESAV projects (scoping, implementation, evaluation and debriefing).
We have grounded this context diagnostic method on well-established social science theory to
build on their rich insights and empirical studies. The five theories were chosen for their relevance
to the management of ecosystems:
institutionalizing treatment of new environmental issues
strategic analysis and strategy development
knowledge and innovation as a lever of change
the mobilization and articulation of multiple values
the well-being of local communities who use the natural environment and the role of
institutions and rules in enabling them to do so
These theoretical frameworks can enrich the way practitioners reflect on and understand the
dynamics of change that they are part of. !
1!Other examples of ‘context diagnostic’ methods include ‘Rapid Rural Appraisals’ in the farming sector, ‘context studies’
Towards a strong theory of change 1.
Section 1 Key Messages
- Context is critical for achieving impact with biodiversity and ecosystem services assessment and
valuation (BESAV).
- The contexts in which BESAV is used are complex and diverse.
- Diagnosis of the complex organizational, political, institutional and social dimensions of a context
can help to create and adapt strategies for mainstreaming BESAV into decisions.
- Context diagnosis can include the formal institutional, policy and legal processes, and social and
economic setting, but should also address the underlying dynamics of action.
- The audience for this background paper is; (1)practitioners trying to use BESAV knowledge to
create change. Such practitioners always face challenges navigating the social, political,
institutional and organizational dynamics to create the change they seek; (2) researchers in
conservation and social sciences.
- The overall objectives of this background paper are to: (1) introduce the context diagnostic tool
and (2) contribute to a shared culture in the natural capital community of context evaluation,
adaptive management, and debriefing on lessons, successes and challenges.
- The context diagnostic tool derives from five social science theories. The theories were chosen for
their relevance to address management of ecosystems. On the basis of each theory, we have
designed a diagram and a check-list of questions for reflection.
- The diagrams are not meant to create prescriptive ‘blue prints’. Rather, they aim to enrich how
practitioners reflect on, engage with and communicate the situations that they aim to transform.
1.1. Why a context diagnostic method for biodiversity and ecosystem services
Since the publication of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA, 2005), increasing efforts to
design, apply and spread Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Assessment and Valuation
(BESAV) tools and practices around the world (Bagstad et al. 2013; WBCSD 2013; Berghöfer et
al. 2016; Waage and Kester 2015; Waage and Kester 2013; Kareiva et al. 2011; Berghöfer et al.
2015; Peh et al. 2013) BESAV tools and practices are developed to influence decision and policy-
making processes in ways that improve outcomes for biodiversity and human wellbeing (see
Boxes 1 and 2) (Daily et al. 2011; Daily et al. 2009; Tallis and Polasky 2009; Ruckelshaus et al.
2015). In general terms, the natural capital community of practice has a theory of change that
assumes that:
By (1) developing BESAV science and tools to make information and knowledge easily
accessible for decision-making;
And by (2) engaging with leaders and institutions around the world to build a collaborative
community of BESAV practitioners;
Then decision-making, policies, regulations and investments will increasingly be based on
BES knowledge
So that improved social, economic and-environmental outcomes are achieved.
However, recent studies point out that many of these new tools and scientific knowledge on
ecosystem services are in reality not used for decision and action, and ultimately do not generate
better outcomes (Laurans and Mermet 2014; Laurans et al. 2013; Mermet, Laurans, and
Leménager 2014; McKenzie et al. 2014; Primmer and Furman 2012; Jeantil, Recuero Virto, and
Weber 2016).This highlights the need to keep refining and elaborating a more nuanced and
sophisticated theory of change for natural capital approaches. It also begs important questions that
the natural capital community needs to explore: What could increase operationalization and
mainstreaming of ecosystem services knowledge in decisions, policy and management? How can
existing tools and approaches better fit the needs and realities of decision-makers? How to use
BESAV in practical situations? (Rosenthal et al. 2014; Berghöfer et al. 2016; Guerry et al. 2015)
Box 1: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Assessment and Valuation: A diverse field of research
and practice
We define ‘Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Assessment and Valuation’ (BESAV)to be any
form of production and communication of knowledge and evaluative information on the state,
quality, quantity, value, and trends of biodiversity and ecosystem services, that aims to influence
decisions or guide action.
BESAV can involve biophysical modeling of ecological processes, economic valuation, social
valuation and qualitative methods for value articulation, mapping, trade-off analysis, cost benefit
analysis and natural capital and ecological accounting methods.2 It can produce biophysical metrics,
and qualitative, quantitative and monetary metrics of value 3. The various methods, tools and
approaches involved in BESAV can be used by conservation practitioners, researchers, knowledge-
brokers, expert consultants, policy-makers, private sector managers, land-use planners, and others.
In developing this context diagnostic tool, we have engaged with two communities that have
developed complementary BESAV toolkits and approaches:
(1) Natural Capital Project approach and toolkit
The Natural Capital Project4 has designed integrated BESAV tools for use in different decision
contexts. Since the partnership began in 2005, the Natural Capital Project has developed:
- an open-source toolbox called InVEST’ (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and
Tradeoffs) The InVEST toolbox produces maps, quantitative biophysical outputs and in some cases
monetary estimates of the provision of multiple ecosystem services on landscapes and seascapes.
- OPAL (Offset Portfolio Analyzer and Locator) for quantifying the impacts of development
and the value of potential protection or restoration activities
- RIOS (Resource Investment Optimization System) to help design cost-effective investments
in watershed services.
These tools have been applied, tested and refined in more than 30 decision contexts around the world
(Arkema et al. 2013; Bhagabati et al. 2012; Cabral et al., 2016; Feger et al. 2015; Goldstein et al.
2012; Guerry et al. 2012; Nelson et al. 2009; Ruckelshaus et al. 2015). This experience has helped to
develop a general natural capital ‘approach’ for using BESAV tools to change decisions effectively
including, for example, iterative science-policy engagement, scenario development, stakeholder
engagement and capacity building (Rosenthal et al., 2014, Ruckelshaus et al., 2015).
(2) TESSA approach and toolkit
The Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA) was developed through a
collaboration of six institutions part of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (see
TESSA provides guidance on low-cost methods (household surveys, participatory mapping, simple
modeling software, etc.) to evaluate the benefits people receive from nature at sites to influence
decision making5. The toolkit is primarily aimed at conservation practitioners working on specific sites
but can also be used by land-use planners, development organizations or the private sector (Peh et al.
2 This choice is consistent with Bhergöfer et al., 2016
5 See :
2013; Peh et al. 2014). The approach includes key concepts on ecosystem services, guidance on
conducting scoping appraisals for sites, decision trees and flow charts to choose appropriate methods,
valuation methods and participatory scenario generation, and guidance on the use of knowledge
produced in decisions. TESSA methods and approaches have been used in more than 20 sites around
the world (Birch et al. 2014; Peh et al. 2014; Peh et al. 2013; Muoria et al. 2015).
Box 2: The Natural Capital Project theory of change6
· Robust evidence of the feasibility and benefits of ecosystem service-based policy
change is created around high-profile issues in places of importance,
· Practical and useful ecosystem-service science and tools are made widely available,
· Powerful leaders at all levels are engaged, nurtured and their decision-making needs
met, and a robust and collaborative community of practitioners is developed,
Then, through an iterative process:
· There will be increasing interest and willingness to test and implement ecosystem
service approaches at progressively greater geographic and institutional levels;
· Influential institutions and players will alter their decision-making practices, policies,
and regulations to use ecosystem service approaches, persuading other institutions and
decision-makers across the world to follow suit; and
· A critical mass of evidence and ecosystem service users/supporters will emerge,
So that, eventually:
· Investment in biodiversity, sustainable management of ecosystems, and human well-
being rise dramatically, and
· The state of biodiversity and nature’s life-support systems for humans demonstrably
The theory of change for natural capital approaches has already been refined and further
developed based on lessons in the field. Researchers and practitioners have increasingly integrated
BESAV tools in participatory and interactive stakeholder engagement processes. They have also
developed collaborative scenario development methods and tools (Rosenthal et al. 2014;
McKenzie et al. 2012; Koschke et al. 2014)7. The natural capital community has also started
looking back, to take stock and assess whether and how the production and communication of
new information on the value of ecosystems has been used and influenced decision-making
(McKenzie et al. 2014; Ruckelshaus et al. 2015; Rosenthal et al. 2014; Berghöfer et al. 2015;
Booth et al. 2012; Laurans et al. 2013; Christie et al. 2012). Enabling conditions have been
identified under which BESAV is more likely to generate change, such as the perceived
legitimacy of information, strong leadership, clearly defined authorities or decision-making
pathways and demonstrated interest in using such information in decisions (Posner et al. 2016;
Posner, McKenzie, and Ricketts 2016; Ruckelshaus et al. 2015).
Yet, the contexts in which BESAV is used are complex and diverse, involving multiple
stakeholders. Decision contexts include: spatial planning; development planning and permitting;
protected area management and financing; payments for ecosystem services; adaptation to climate
6 See :
7 Specific tools have also been developed to help stakeholders develop scenarios in participatory ways : Scenario Hub : ; Scenario Generator :
change; REDD+; ecological restoration; creating sustainable cities; private sector decisions and
sustainable supply chains. BESAV is used in different geographies, at different scales. The
organizational, political, institutional and social challenges that BESAV practitioners face are
hugely contrasting. In most cases, these contexts demand much more than simply adding new
knowledge to a clear, well-bounded and formally organized decision or policy process.
Although some useful general recommendations exist (Posner, McKenzie, and Ricketts 2016;
Rosenthal et al. 2014), there are many ways to use BESAV to change decisions and success
factors are often highly context dependent. The way different stakeholders mobilize new
knowledge in a change process is context specific. And so are the value systems and goals that
underpin peoples’ decisions and behavior.
Mainstreaming BES into decisions therefore requires diagnosis of the organizational, political,
institutional and social aspects of a project’s context. This includes analysis of the formal
institutional, policy and legal processes, and general socio-economic setting (VNCST, 2017). But
it also requires analysis of the deeper underlying dynamics of action. This is because BESAV
projects often (1) challenge the existing practices and choices of stakeholders to operate in totally
new ways, and (2) deal with difficult trade-offs (conservation vs development outcomes, long-
term vs. short-term benefits; public good vs. private profit; different ecosystem services, etc.). We
expect that understanding and reflecting on these underlying dynamics of change more explicitly
can help BESAV practitioners design and implement their interventions and be more effective.
1.2. Who is the audience for this background paper? What is included and how
should it be used?
This technical background paper was developed primarily with and for people working with
environmental NGOs (e.g. WWF, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Birdlife, RSPB, applied
researchers at the Natural Capital Project). Specifically, it targets those who are responsible for
the design and implementation of real-world interventions in which BESAV plays a key role. The
wider target audience for this background paper is practitioners or ‘policy brokers’, particularly in
the conservation and development sector (e.g. development bank managers working on
biodiversity protection projects), who commission and apply BESAV approaches. Conservation
and social science researchers represent another audience for this technical background paper,
which can provide an entry point for more in-depth social science based analysis of biodiversity
and ecosystem services complex governance contexts.
The primary purpose of the context diagnostic tool is to support efforts in developing influential
strategies for using BESAV, by considering how to engage in essentially political discussions
with decision-makers and stakeholders.
The context diagnostic can help elaborate the context of any BESAV project at different phases:
In the scoping or early phases, to help a team assess and create the conditions that enable
success, identify what specific changes can reasonably be expected from the project and
determine appropriate metrics of success.
During a project, to reflect on how the context has evolved since the project started, and
how to adapt.
At the end of a project, to debrief, discuss, analyze and compare successful and less
successful outcomes, reflecting on questions like: What can we call success? Where and
how did BES information lead to effective commitments or actions? What role did others
and we play?.
The overall objective of this background paper is to contribute to the development of a shared
academic and professional culture in the natural capital community of context evaluation,
adaptive management, debriefing, and sharing of lessons, successes and challenges. The
background paper introduces:
New vocabulary and concepts for practitioners who seek ways to create change more
effectively and communicate that change in compelling ways
diagrams and check-lists of questions to guide practitioners as they think through their
fictionalized examples inspired by real-world case studies
a guidance section (Section 7) that suggests different ways the context diagnostic tool can
be used and integrated in training and capacity building
The context diagnostic is complementary to social science field methods for collecting
information such as interviews, surveys, stakeholder mapping, observation, secondary data, etc.
Using the context diagnostic may generate ideas for additional field-work to investigate specific
issues (see Section 7).
1.3. Strong foundations in social science theory
Generally speaking, context diagnostic tools use social science methods (questionnaires,
stakeholder and issue mapping, interviews, surveys, focus groups, secondary data, cross-checking
information from different sources, direct observation, etc.). These methods can be used to obtain
and discuss relevant contextual information in a short time and at low cost. Different communities
and sectors have developed and used context diagnostic methods for decades. For most businesses
that operate in complex environments and deal with multiple stakeholders, such as utility or
infrastructure companies, context diagnostic assessments are a fundamental part of their strategy
design. Similar methods are used in the business world to create space for discussion by
management teams, to develop shared visions, and reflect on projects, strategies, responsibilities
and goals8.
In the farming and development sectors, Rapid Rural Appraisalsare commonly used by project
teams to obtain new information, formulate new hypotheses, and adapt interventions9. In the field
of social development, diagnostic assessments are a crucial step in helping project teams to select
and prioritize their strategic initiatives10. Closer to our issue area, the World Resource Institute
developed a context diagnostic tool to support forest restoration initiatives (Hanson et al., 2015).
The WRI Restoration Diagnostic is ‘a structured method for identifying which success factors
for landscape restoration are already in place, which are partially in place and which are missing
within a country and landscape that has restoration opportunities’ (Hanson et al. 2015). The
working paper published by the ValuES project in April 2016, Increasing the Policy Impact of
Ecosystem Service Assessments and Valuations, insists on the importance of scoping, framing,
thinking about the engagement process, and considering context in the natural capital community
(Berghöfer et al., 2016)11.
8 See for instance the work on business Balance Scorecards as exploration, reflexivity, sense-making and innovation devices
by Busco et Quattrone, 2015.
9 See for instance :
10 and "A Question-Set to Guide Context Analysis for the
Design of Social Accountability Interventions," Working Draft Paper, January 2012, Social Development Department, World
11!Also, the Topic Guide produced by Evidence on Demand (Nunan, 2016) looks at the complexity of decentralised and
multi-level governance of natural resources and proposes, among other approaches, that practitioners map the institutional
context through political economy analysis.!
Inspired by these approaches, this background paper provides biodiversity and ecosystem services
practitioners with a context diagnostic method that can help them be more effective agents of
change using BESAV. It bridges (1) powerful insights and coherent sets of questions from well-
established social science theories, which are particularly relevant and useful for the analysis of
social, organizational, institutional and political dimensions of the management of ecological
issues; and (2) real world case studies and empirical experience applying BESAV in practice12.
The method essentially consists in examining a field situation, the biodiversity and ecosystem
services issue to be addressed (e.g. deforestation, watershed protection, establishment of an
ecological corridor, etc.), and the BESAV intervention project that aims at addressing it, from
these five distinct, clearly identified perspectives, each rooted in a specific, deeper theoretical
Some of the approaches introduced here relate to tools that are widely used to assist in strategic
planning (e.g. actor and power mapping tools and barrier analysis). The five theories mobilized in
this context diagnostic tool have been chosen for practical relevance but also for their rich
conceptual background, and their strong foundations on empirical studies. We believe that this
context diagnostic tool can:
enrich the way practitioners reflect on, understand and communicate their contexts
stimulate further development of BESAV tools and deeper analysis of their impact.
encourage further expansion of biodiversity and ecosystem services research to include
new social science domains and mobilize researchers from new disciplines.
The following table gives a snapshot of the five perspectives in the context diagnostic:
12 Our approach originates from, and builds on: (1) the work of Mermet, Laurans and Leménager in Tools for what trade?
(2014), where five social science theories are mobilized to discuss in depth issues related to the utilisation of economic
instruments and valuations in biodiversity management; (2) the work of Feger (2016) and Feger and Mermet (2017) on
accounting for the collective management of ecosystems, that suggests ways to better connect ‘evaluative information
systems for conservation’ (that includes BESAV, ecological indicators, Red Lists etc.) with the negotiation and
institutionalization of environmental accountabilities at multiple scales; (3) current efforts by the natural capital community
who actively work towards improving the impact of their tools and approaches on decision-making and policy (McKenzie et
al., 2014; Ruckelshaus et al., 2015; Rosenthal et al., 2014; Posner et al., 2016);
The context diagnostic is not meant to be prescriptive. Teams of BESAV researchers and
practitioners can use the visual diagrams and check-lists of questions to:
explore the contexts they are engaging in
gain insights on future steps to be taken
reflect on and assess past work
1.4. How the context diagnostic method was developed
The context diagnostic was informed by interviews and workshops with BESAV researchers and
practitioners working for conservation organizations and part of the Natural Capital Project and
TESSA networks. Workshops were also held with InVEST and TESSA practitioners. Participants
discussed challenges and success factors when trying to create change with BESAV, based on
participants’ experiences. Early versions of the context diagnostic were presented and served as a
basis of discussion for the participants’ case studies. This input has informed the context
diagnostic and provided useful case studies.
The context diagnostic tool is a first prototype. It has been tested in the Philippines and in
Indonesia. We welcome and encourage further road-testing to improve it further.
The rest of the background paper (Sections 2 to 6) introduces the five context diagnostic
perspectives. Each section (1) briefly introduces the theory; (2) describes and explains a fictional
example; (3) provides a diagram and suggests ways to use it for team discussion, reflection and
context analysis. Section 7 concludes with ways in which the context diagnostic can be tested in
real world situations.
Social'science'theory'mobilized' Dimension'of'the'interven6on'
Adapting to different stages of maturity in the change process 2.
Section 2 Key Messages
- The insights from this perspective can help practitioners reflect on the following aspects of
context: (1) the stage of social and political maturity stakeholders and decision-makers are at in
dealing with an ecological issue; (2) the role BESAV activities can play; (3) the best way to get to
the next stage.
- This is based on the Politics of Nature which is a political philosophy for the collective social and
political treatment of ecological issues
- It distinguishes between four stages in dealing with a new ecological issue: Perplexity,
Consultation, Hierarchization, Institutionalization
- At every stage, BESAV teams can play a crucial role by providing, communicating and using BES
- At each stage, BES knowledge serves a different purpose, such as detection of problems, advocacy
of critical issues, facilitating negotiation, on-going monitoring, etc. Its content and communication
therefore need to be adapted to the stage and meet the objectives facing stakeholders and decision-
makers at that stage.
2.1. A short introduction to Politics of Nature (Latour, 2004)
From the moment an ecological issue is first identified to the time it is eventually addressed, there
is a long and complex process of social and political deliberation, negotiation and sometimes
confrontation. In Politics of Nature, Latour (2004) describes this process following four stages.
Latour defines politics as the exploration and composition of a ‘common world’ by the
‘collective’. The ‘collective’ is a community of people (humans), but also animals, plants,
technologies, ecosystem functioning, social institutions, etc. (non-humans). From this perspective,
ecological issues are questions about what ecological entity (e.g. a forest, a species, an ecosystem
service) becomes a member of the ‘collective’.
Latour proposes a four stage process in which facts and values are always discussed conjointly.
The two first stages Perplexity and Consultation, belong to what Latour refers to as the ‘Upper
house’. They are designed to answer the questions: Who/what is in the ‘collective’? and
Who/what should be taken into account? A real world example would be questions such as: Is
there really a problem with the smaller African elephant populations? Do we want to live with
African elephants? Should we take them into account in our decisions, compared to other issues?
The two next stages, Hierarchization and Institutionalization belong to what Latour calls the
‘Lower house’. They are designed to answer the questions Can we live together? and What is the
place of each new member of the ‘collective’ relative to other established members? To continue
our real world example: On what conditions, at what cost, and how do we want to live with
African elephants? How much space are we ready to give to the African elephants?
It is through this four stage process that the collectivecan detect, negotiate and gradually deal
with each ecological issue, before institutionalizing its treatment. If the collective fails to treat
the issue, it risks that it will return. Stages in the process cannot be short-cut, otherwise crucial
aspects are left unsolved.
The collective can follow this four stage process for any new ecological issue, thanks to the joint
efforts of ‘scientists’, ‘economists’, ‘moralists’, ‘politicians’ and others. Each group specializes in
certain skills and provides a complementary contribution, alongside others, at all stages of the
In light of this theory, BESAV practitioners can think of themselves as a specific group that gives
visibility and standing to non-humans that are valuable and/or useful to humans. They can reflect
on the skills and the role they play at each stage of the political treatment of new ecological
2.2. Applying to BESAV projects: what stage are we at in the political process?
BESAV teams can use this perspective to identify the stage of treatment of the ecological issue in their
context. At different stages in the process, different types of BESAV information, communication and
engagement will be more effective to generate change. Case Study 1 provides an illustration, inspired
by a real-world case study:
Case Study 1: Implementing Payments for Watershed Services (PWS)
In a South American country, an environmental NGO has worked for 5 years towards the
implementation of PWS to protect the watershed of a major city. The project team has been working
to communicate the importance of protecting the hydrological services of the watershed, to establish
good working relationships with relevant stakeholders and engage them in developing a watershed
protection scheme. They have used different BESAV tools at different phases of the project and for
different purposes: ecological investment assessment, ecological modeling, indicators and cost-benefit
analysis. Today, funding has been secured and a project portfolio in terms of watershed protection
activities in specific locations - has been developed. The project team and public and private sector
partners are about to start implementing watershed protection actions.
How can I adapt my use of ecosystem services assessments to different stages in the process of change?!
Insipired by Politics of Nature (Latour 2004)
Should we really take
this problem into
Who is concerned by
this problem and how?
What changes can we
negotiate to manage
this problem?
How do we collectively
manage this problem?
Exploratory assessments
(Upper house)
Assessments for commitments
(Lower house)
Perplexity Consultation Hierarchization Institutionalization
Detection, alert, diagnosis Advocacy Trade-offs negotiations Monitoring, management, control
The diagram distinguishes between two major uses of BESAV: (1) Exploratory assessmentsto
explore and advocate for ecosystem services issues so they are recognised and taken into account;
(2) Assessments for commitmentsto contribute to the negotiation and implementation of
commitments by stakeholders to deal with the ecological issue.
Each stage is associated with a core question that stakeholders have to address e.g. should we
really take this problem into account?’; ‘who is concerned by this problem and how?’ The
diagram suggests different BESAV activities for each stage e.g. detection, alert, diagnosis;
advocacy; negotiating trade-offs; monitoring, management and control. Filling out the diagram
and using it to reflect on the project context can help the team to identify what BESAV tools,
outputs and activities will be most relevant and useful. Ecosystem services monitoring in a
context where the level of awareness about ecosystem service degradation is still low and few
stakeholders feel concerned is likely to be premature and less impactful than awareness raising
and campaigning. Conversely, exploratory assessments will not be useful when stakeholders are
already in the process of negotiating trade-offs and about to implement management plans.
At the Perplexity stage, the central question is: should we really take this problem into account?
It relates to the existence and meaning of the ecological issue (e.g. is there really a problem with
deforestation? How big is the problem?). Biophysical indicators, monetary valuations and
spatially explicit mapping of ecosystem services can be used to show trends or changes in BES
under likely future scenarios. This can raise attention to issues that are going unrecognized.
BESAV output and activities can be tailored to alert people to worrying trends and threats to
biodiversity and ecosystem services, with a focus on how it is likely to affect them.
Case Study 1.1:
In the first year of the PWS project, the problem of watershed degradation was not yet well known by
local communities. The municipality was not aware of it. The board of the local water utility chose
largely to ignore the issue, as they could not see how they were concerned now the benefits of
participating in watershed protection. Exploratory assessments that the BESAV team conducted on the
watershed provided data and ecological indicators showing rapid degradation of water quality and
quantity in multiple areas. This gave visibility to the problem and made it an unavoidable topic for
stakeholders to address. More groups became involved in water management.
At the Consultation stage, there is prevailing agreement that a biodiversity or ecosystem service
issue exists and is significant. The central questions are: Who is concerned by this issue and in
what way?’ The collective now needs to consult widely and find out who is affected by the issue,
and how would they be affected by possible solutions. Teams can use BESAV to highlight issues
and advocate for solutions. Maps and indicators, particularly those that differentiate impacts on
particular groups or stakeholders such as serviceshed assessments, distributional and beneficiary
analysis can be used to explore and represent how stakeholders depend on and impact biodiversity
and ecosystem services, and how they would be affected by possible solutions, such as plans or
Case Study 1.2:
During the next three years of the PWS project, the BESAV team used hydrological modeling tools
and indicators to understand how hydrological flows would be affected by different scenarios for
protection of the watershed. The team engaged different stakeholders (municipality, Ministry of
Agriculture, Ministry of Economy and Finance, private companies, other NGOs) through workshops
where ecosystem services maps and indicators were presented and discussed. The process was helpful
to advocate for protection of the watershed to secure a reliable, clean water supply, and to convince
the local water utility of the importance of their role. The exploratory ecosystem service assessment
also helped to identify how local communities’ agricultural practices traditional farming techniques
affect the watershed and water quality.
At the Hierarchization stage, the core question is: what changes can we negotiate to manage this
problem? Everyone now needs to negotiate and decide how to address the issue. The negotiations
involve exchanging moral, scientific, economic and other arguments. Diverse trade-offs will
affect each member of the collective. Implementing the chosen solution will change priorities and
have costs for some actors. Questions include: How dealing with this issue affects different
actors? Who are the winners and losers? The BESAV team can help address these questions with
concepts, language and quantitative and qualitative methods to assess and compare the
consequences of different solutions, such as management plans. They can encourage new
commitments to deal with the BES issue by providing information about the costs and benefits of
different options to each stakeholder.
Case Study 1.3:
In the past year, the team used an ecological investment assessment tool to identify and rank the
different areas of the watershed for their importance in the regulation of water quality and quantity.
On the basis of this information, they developed a watershed conservation project portfolio. The team
discovered two other actors concerned by watershed protection: the Ministry of Housing and the
national regulatory body in charge of establishing water tariffs. Their involvement triggered the
development of a new water tariff regulation in which part of water distribution financial revenues is
invested in watershed conservation projects. The team helped the regulatory body, the Ministry of
Housing and the local water utility negotiate water tariffs to internalize the cost of conserving water
resources, as well as compensatory payments for the local communities, with analyses of the full cost
of water.
At the Institutionalization stage, after the heated struggles and negotiations, a deal has been
struck on how to deal with the ecological issue, widely recognized by all. The collective now
needs to develop and implement routine practices and procedures for this deal to become
institutionalized. At this stage, the core question is: ‘How do we collectively manage this
problem?’ Teams can use BESAV tools and activities to help by monitoring the status and trends
of biodiversity and ecosystem services and by accounting for the various commitments
stakeholders have made to contribute to ecosystem management.
Case Study 1.4:
The Ministry of Housing and the regulatory body agreed that 1% of the local water utility’s revenues
from water services be allocated to the watershed’s protection. Additionally, they agreed on a
financial mechanism that would invest these revenues into the watershed conservation projects and
control their appropriate use over time. The BESAV team has chosen five watershed protection pilot
projects to start the scheme’s implementation, based on their high ecological return on investment.
The local communities will gradually change their farming practices over the next three years in
exchange for financial compensation. The BESAV team proposed hydrological monitoring tools to
ensure that the scheme produces the expected effects over time and works closely with local
communities on improving the water availability and quality.
2.3. Using the diagram
This diagram can be used to reflect on how to adapt BES knowledge production, communication
and use, and related activities like stakeholder engagement, to different stages in the process.
Use the grey area below the four boxes to write down key elements of the context that
relate to the four stages and associated questions (in orange and red), and guided by the
types of BESAV activities that can help to address them (see example below). Sequence
the discussion by: (1) identifying the stage your context is at; (2) reflecting on how your
team can best contribute to this stage with BESAV tools and activities (3) reflecting on
how your team can help push forward to the next stage.
Reflect on the following questions, using the diagram where helpful:!
(1) What stage are we at now? Which questions are stakeholders currently trying to answer?
Do we still have activities ongoing relevant to the previous stage?
(2) What stages has the collective already been through? What is proving challenging in
attempting to get to the next stage? What could help the collective to get to the next stage?
(3) In Perplexity, what is the current level of awareness among stakeholders about the
importance of BES issues? How can we design our BESAV process to increase the
visibility of these issues? How can we increase our capacity to detect BES issues and alert
(4) In Consultation, who (stakeholders) and what (non-humans) have we consulted on their
relationship with the BES issue? Who and what should we consult further? How can we
help to synthesize and make visible to others their specific connections to BES and their
position on how to deal with it? What BES information and process could trigger
meaningful and productive negotiations?
(5) In Hierarchization, what could help members of the collective to compare their visions,
negotiate the associated trade-offs, and get closer to a decision? Can we propose new
solutions or compare existing alternative plans for future management of the issue?
(6) In Institutionalization, what BESAV tools and activities can we propose to help
implement the chosen plan? Are their ecological processes and objectives that need long-
term monitoring? Can we position ourselves as a trusted intermediary that controls and
accounts for how changes and agreed new practices are put in place and made routine?
Are there any other BES issues that have recently emerged that we now need to take into
account (getting back to Perplexity)?
Case Study 1.5:
In the fifth year of the PWS project, the team organizes a workshop to reflect on their current
situation, look back on the progress made and identify next steps.
The team first discusses at what stage they are in They are now involved in negotiations on
implementation of the PWS scheme. The team agrees the collective is now towards the end of the
Hierarchization stage in its treatment of the watershed quality issue. For some aspects of the project,
they are possibly already in Institutionalization. Indeed, the BESAV team has been helping with water
tariff negotiations for the past year, for example by undertaking cost-benefit analysis and developing a
project portfolio with priority areas for ES restoration action.
The member of the team in charge of work with local communities points out that there is still much
advocacy work to be done with those communities to convince them of the importance of watershed
protection, meaning further Consultation is needed. More BES knowledge on how new farming
practices could increase local water availability and quality in specific areas would be useful to make
progress in Consultation with local communities.
Looking back, they identify two factors that were key to make the big step that lies between
Consultation and Hierarchization, and that could be useful to have in mind in future similar projects:
(1) their ability to convince the water company of the importance of watershed protection was thanks
in part to the use of a BESAV tool that provided tailored data and maps of where to implement
projects with the highest returns on investment for hydrological gains (quantity, quality and
availability of water); (2) the strong working relationship with the regulatory body, whose new water
tariff law for watershed protection accelerated negotiations about how, where and who to implement
better watershed protection.
The team then discusses future challenges. To make the final step towards institutionalization, they
admit that the collective still has to negotiate and decide who will lead implementation. What will be
the roles of other partners? On what time scale? As BESAV experts, the team can contribute to these
negotiations by proposing relevant monitoring tools and activities to track and measure ecological
gains over time. They can also provide capacity to local communities and advise on the effective
allocation and use of the funds.
How can I adapt my use of ecosystem services assessments to different stages in the process of change?!
Insipired by Politics of Nature (Latour 2004)
Should we really take
this problem into
Who is concerned by
this problem and how?
What changes can we
negotiate to manage
this problem?
How do we collectively
manage this problem?
Exploratory assessments
(Upper house)
Assessments for commitments
(Lower house)
Perplexity Consultation Hierarchization Institutionalization
Detection, alert, diagnosis Advocacy Trade-offs negotiations Monitoring, management, control
Contributing to a strategy for conservation 3.
Section 3 Key Messages
- The insights from this perspective can help practitioners reflect on key aspects of context that
affect the most strategic use of BESAV to achieve conservation and development outcomes. It
can help BESAV teams reflect on which strategic paths are most likely to generate change from
- Strategic Environmental Management Analysis (SEMA) helps to analyse and elaborate strategies
to obtain ecological objectives
- SEMA acknowledges that many development activities detrimental to BES are organized by
sector, involving multiple actors who share similar interests (mining, farming, fisheries,
infrastructure development, etc.)
- It distinguishes between three categories of actor: (1) environmental players who act for
environmental improvements; (2) productive sector players who pursue core interests that are
antagonistic to environmental objectives; and, (3) high-level decision-makers and regulatory
actors who arbitrate between environmental, social, and economic goals
3.1. A short introduction to Strategic Environmental Management Analysis
(Mermet, 2011; Mermet and Leménager, 2015; Leroy 2006)
Strategic Environmental Management Analysis (SEMA) has been developed since the 1990s to
address who takes what action to achieve environmental goals. (Mermet et Leménager, 2015).
SEMA adopts the point of view of those who are determined to reach ambitious biodiversity and
ecological objectives and make it their core focus and priority.
The approach invites conservation practitioners to analyze the action system they are part of. They
can use this analysis todevelop their own strategy to address a clearly defined biodiversity and/or
ecosystem services concern.
In SEMA’s world view, the future of an ecological system depends on the interplay between two
types of ecosystem management: (1) actual ecosystem management defined as all human actions
that influence ecological conditions, which may be unintentional or unrecognized and (2)
intentional ecosystem management defined as “the set of actions that have as their main and
explicit aim to reach expected environmental performance” (Mermet et al., 2014, p.288).
A fundamental question is who drives intentional management of the environment? Who are the
environmental players? This requires a rigorous analysis of who is strategically and consistently
working for the BES issue by initiating action and driving it forward.
SEMA acknowledges that economic and human development is organized by large productive
sectors with significant impacts on ecological systems: industrial farming, forest plantation,
infrastructure building and transportation, mining, etc. Taking action to address environmental
issue requires not only dealing with individuals and local communities, but sector-based large-
scale systems of organization and their respective strategies.
The relations between productive sector and environmental players are often balanced by high-
level decision-makers and regulatory players’. These are actors or institutions with power to
arbitrate between competing interests. For them, environmental concerns are only one set of
issues that needs to be integrated along with many other public and sectoral concerns (e.g.
agriculture, forestry, mining, infrastructures, etc.).
SEMA focuses on a central element of strategy: for every project that an environmental player
tries to develop and implement, there will be deliberate resistance. This resistance comes from
those for whom the environmental issue is not a priority. Their strategy is to make part or all of
this project fail. Not every context can be reduced to a set of confrontational relationships. But
SEMA’s perspective calls for a serious analysis of the opponents to a project of change. What are
their respective goals and strategies of action? Their resources and power? How do their positions
change relative to other players as the situation evolves? What level of confrontation can be
expected and in what form?
The SEMA perspective is particularly useful to inform teams on: (1) the design and use of
BESAV as advocacy tools for BES protection in adversarial contexts; and, (2) strategy to
negotiate, pressure for change and to make others accountable for their impacts and commitments.
3.2. Applying to BESAV projects: who are the potential allies and opponents?
BESAV teams can use this perspective to discuss the strategic use of the information they provide
and related activities. With whom and for whom do we work? Against whom and what?
There are two versions of the diagram representing different categories of players in strategic
interactions. To illustrate, we use a fictionalized example, inspired by a real-world case study:
Case Study 2: Integrating BES in land use and development decisions
Two years ago, an environmental NGO launched a BESAV project in a South East Asian country at
the Provincial level. The project aims to influence the government’s spatial planning and public policy
making. The team also works toward the creation of sustainable financing mechanisms to support the
implementation of spatial plans and green economy investment plans. The BESAV team also
collaborates with local stakeholders, including the private sector, to encourage them to take
ecosystem services into account in their development planning. Six ecosystem services were mapped
and valued (carbon storage, non-timber forest products, habitat quality for wildlife, water yield,
sediment retention and nutrient retention). Several collaborative workshops were organized with the
local University and Provincial government officials.
!! !!
How can I improve the strategic use of ecosystem services assessments to obtain change from others?!
Allies and decision-makers: with whom and for whom do we work?!
Inspired by Strategic Environmental Management Analysis (Mermet, 2011; Mermet and Leménager, 2014; Leroy, 2006)
!! !!
How can I improve the strategic use of ecosystem services assessments to obtain change from others?!
Inertia and resistance: against what and whom do we work?!
Inspired by Strategic Environmental Management Analysis (Mermet, 2011; Mermet and Leménager, 2014; Leroy, 2006)
First reflect in your context on three categories of players and their strategic interactions:
(1) environmental players who actively work for the improvement of ecological
outcomes; (2) productive sector players, whose activities impact ecosystems; and, (3)
authorities and high-level government decision-makers who arbitrate between sectoral
Note that actors can fit in categories that are counter-intuitive. Each actor’s stated
intentions, past and current actions, and working relationships should be used to determine
which category they fit in. For example, an environmental NGO may not really be an
environmental player if they consistently prioritize unsustainable farming practices.
Government institutions may not be true high-level decision makers and regulatory
players if they only serve the interests of a productive sector like agriculture. A private
water company’s technical department may be an environmental player if it has a strong
interest in watershed protection.
It may also be helpful to assess how each sectoral actor’s activities impact BES and what
actions/interventions they conduct to mitigate these impacts, or restore or enhance natural
Case Study 2.1:
In the South East Asian Country where the BESAV team operates, two key actors are ‘regulatory
players’: the Provincial Administration in charge of the provincial spatial planning process; and,
high-level national decision-makers, who are developing a new Environmental Code and Green
Economy Policy Framework.
The ‘productive sector players who contribute to deforestation are: mining and logging companies
with concessions to operate within protected areas; rubber plantations; the Ministry of Agriculture,
who gives land concessions and supports timber trade and intensive rubber farming; infrastructure
development companies and their investors; and poachers.
Environmental players’ include: another big international environmental NGO; a variety of local
NGOs who specialize in different conservation issues; the local University environmental department
who supports the BESAV team and hosts the workshops; and the Ministry of Environment in charge of
enforcing and managing protected areas, fighting deforestation and developing sustainable financing
BESAV teams can use this diagram to reflect on a crucial distinction between (1) those with
whom and for whom the team works to create change (‘allies’), and (2) the actors and factors
against whom they work, who create inertia or who resist the change they want to create
(‘opponents’). Although this distinction can appear arbitrary in contexts where all actors usually
play ambiguous roles, it is a useful way to discuss and reflect on the strategic dimension of the
action system. This is not about excluding certain actors or having moral judgments on their
actions or intentions. It is about thinking in a more explicit way about how an environmental
player using BESAV might act with and on others to obtain changes towards greater BES
protection. It can help reflect on questions like: What productive sector player can help drive
forward the change that the BESAV team wants to achieve? Whose interests is the BESAV team
itself allied with? What productive sector player is actively resisting change and why? Should the
team try to obtain change from a productive sector player by directly cooperating, or given the
situation, should they work with regulatory players to change the rules of the game? Can the
BESAV team strengthen their position, voice and resources for action by working with other
environmental sector actors? What factors make cooperation in the environmental sector difficult?
Should the team try to overcome them? How?
Case Study 2.2:
At the time of the analysis, the Provincial Administration is mostly an ally, as the BESAV team
convinced them of the importance of BES for the Provincial Administration’s objectives:
development, economic prosperity and the wellbeing of local communities. The Provincial
Administration now supports detailed BES mapping by the BESAV team. The national level decision-
makers publicly support the work, but are reluctant to provide data of forest cover at the national
level. Discussions suggest that their current priority is infrastructure development. There are risks
that they might not approve the provincial spatial plan if it does not fit this priority.
Most productive sector actors are degrading BES, with the tacit support of the relevant public
authorities who benefit from these economic activities. There is possibly some corruption and illegal
logging. However, the BESAV team has worked well with two rubber plantation companies who were
interested and came to the BESAV workshops. They have become allies. The team has shown them
the effects of unsustainable production on water quality and quantity which rubber production
depends on. They agreed to work together on the development of watershed protection plans.
The BESAV team does not coordinate well with other local NGOs. There is competition for funding
from the government and international institutions. In addition, some NGOs have concerns about the
risks of using anatural capital approachand collaborating with the private sector.
The BESAV team is an environmental player who uses BESAV to obtain changes with and from
other players. This raises a set of important questions that the BESAV team can reflect on: If the
members of the team are indeed an environmental player, who are theyand who is part of the
team? How much do they share the same environmental goals? With whom can they engage in a
discussion on their strategy without undermining or weakening their intentions and future action?
Can they adapt their objectives and strategy to achieve it?
Answering these questions can complement the analysis of others strategies and positions.
Although these questions can be introspective and touch on sensitive issues, they can provide
crucial insights for strategy, through reflecting on questions, such as: How clear are our goals?
How strong is our position and collective identity? How shared and well understood are our role
and goals in using BESAV?
Case Study 2.3:
The BESAV team is connected to an NGO that is often stereotyped as ‘opposing economic
development’ by public authorities and the private sector. The team’s objective is to use BESAV tools
to show that environmental protection supports the social and economic development national
objectives. They hope that these arguments will lead to redirecting public and private development
investments toward ecosystem protection. The team often encounters difficulties convincing others
about the tangibility of natural capital value compared to direct revenues from productive activities
such as rubber plantations. The team finds it challenging to speak about these challenges within their
own organization, as they are afraid it could undermine internal support for their work.
3.3. Using the diagram
A BESAV team can use this diagram to reflect on their strategic situation as it evolves.
- Use the areas around the boxes and arrows to write down the names of actors, enabling or
challenging factors associated with their actions, and their relationships and interactions.
Use the questions in the boxes to guide discussions.We suggest sequencing discussions to reflect
on: (1) who, beyond the BESAV team, should participate in the strategic diagnosis exercise and
why; (2) the different players, their relations, their roles and their power; (3) the next steps to take
to obtain the change the team seeks.
Reflect on the following questions, using the diagram where helpful:
(1) Who are ‘we’, and what goals are we trying to achieve? Who can/should we share our
reflections on the strategic situation with?
(2) Who can we consider, at this time to be ‘allies’ in the change we want to create? How
do we work with them? How do they work with one another?
(3) Who can we consider at this time as ‘opponents’ who create inertia or resist the
change we want to create? Have we tried to work with them directly? Why was it
(not) a success?
(4) What are the productive sector players’ strategies and what are their respective
relationships with high-level decision-makers and players? How do they influence
them? Does it undermine our push for environmental goals? Do they act in a way that
puts our project and goals at risk?
(5) How can we make the situation evolve to achieve our goals? Who should we try to
engage with directly in the productive sector or among the high-level decision-makers
regulatory players? Who should we collaborate and coordinate our actions with
among other environmental players to consolidate our position? How can we use BES
knowledge, tools and activities?
Case Study 2:
As the team reflects, several strategic insights emerge: (1) most of the productive sector players
(especially the mining and logging businesses) are not motivated by environmental and biodiversity
concerns and have limited interest in the project. They are strongly supported by the Ministry of
Agriculture. They are also supported by decision makers at the national level who, although they
publicly support the BESAV project, have consistently decided in favor of natural resources
exploitation and infrastructure development. (2) The team has good working relationships with the
Provincial Administration who fully endorses the BESAV project. They recognise the need to balance
development and conservation in spatial planning. However, the Provincial Administration needs
approval of spatial plans from national government who are not prioritizing ecosystem protection in
comparison to production and development concerns. National government are refusing to provide
needed forest cover data. They also demand proof that natural capital protection will provide tangible
revenue, as a pre-condition for project support. (3) Local and international environmental NGOs
compete, and the BESAV team cannot collaborate with these NGOs to put greater pressure on
national decision-makers.
Based on this context analysis, the team agrees several actions to address these challenges:
(1) Continue to engage directly with the two rubber plantation businesses who have shown interest in
integrating BES in their development plans. Cultivate them as private sector ‘champions’. Build
capacity for more engagement by productive sector players. Develop a strong communication strategy
to identify publicly those businesses who do not engage.
(2) Continue to maintain a strong and trusting relationship with the Provincial Administration.
Improve coordination with other local and international environmental NGOs to obtain needed forest
cover data from the national government.
(3) Accelerate work with the Ministry of Environment to develop sustainable finance mechanisms that
would provide revenues for natural capital protection. Request support from the European Union,
UNDP, and private investors who use green standards for technical advice and funding.
!! !!
How can I improve the strategic use of ecosystem services assessments to obtain change from others?!
Allies and decision-makers: with whom and for whom do we work?!
Inspired by Strategic Environmental Management Analysis (Mermet, 2011; Mermet and Leménager, 2014; Leroy, 2006)
!! !!
How can I improve the strategic use of ecosystem services assessments to obtain change from others?!
Inertia and resistance: against what and whom do we work?!
Inspired by Strategic Environmental Management Analysis (Mermet, 2011; Mermet and Leménager, 2014; Leroy, 2006)
Helping others reach their own goals through innovative solutions 4.
Section 4 Key messages
- The insights from this perspective can help a BESAV team to (1) listen and reflect on other actors’
identities, needs and obstacles; and, (2) adapt BESAV interventions in ways that make them likely
to become widely adopted.
- Sociology of Translation is useful to analyse how an innovation can reshape actors’ identities,
relationships, interests and behaviour.
- In this theory, researchers who introduce an innovation are positioned as the main agent of change.
- For an innovation to make a difference for ecosystem management, it has to be viewed by each
actor that needs to adopt it as a better solution for each actor to achieve their own goals. If so, they
will adopt it (as a ‘compelling passage point’)
4.1. A short introduction to the Sociology of Translation (Callon, 1986)
Callon’s article is a seminal contribution to actor-network theory’. It focuses on how scientific
knowledge, technology, and the natural and social worlds co-evolve and shape each other. Callon
uses the term ‘translation’ to describe the process through which an innovation leads to changes in
identities, interests, relationships and alliances between humans and non-humans. He positions
innovators as the main agents of change.
Callon shows that for an innovation to transform a situation, it has to be widely adopted. People
will adopt the innovation only if it meets their practical needs and priorities better than their
current situation. Callon calls an innovation with this potential a compelling passage point’ i.e. a
route that actors prefer to travel to reach their goals. Callon distinguishes four stages of
(1) ProblematizationResearchers seek to make their innovation indispensable. They describe
the problems facing other actors (humans and non-humans), and propose adoption of their
innovation as a solution to these problems.
(2) Interessement – The actors express interest to test the innovation. New research funding, data
and participation enable testing to proceed. New connections and relationships are built
among actors, as they experiment and organize together.
(3) Enrolment –Researchers seek to create new roles for different actors, based on the
innovation. The actors can accept, modify or reject those roles. The situation is unpredictable
and unstable. The innovation and new roles required may not work for everyone.
(4) Mobilization For the innovation to have significant impact, many more actors will
ultimately have to adopt it. This requires that those involved in the innovation process were
representative of their ‘group’ (e.g. were the farmers involved in the experiment
representative of all farmers that will have to use the innovation in practice? Was the
watershed studied representative of other watersheds where the innovation will be
This perspective can be useful to analyze how far BESAV can be made feasible, and compelling
to fundamentally change roles and relationships of key actors affecting BES outcomes.
4.2. Applying to BESAV projects: how to make our solutions compelling for other
BESAV teams can use this perspective to reflect on their role as innovators and what it will take
to get their innovations widely adopted. To illustrate this perspective13, we use a fictionalized
example inspired by a real-world case study:
Case Study 3: Developing an integrated Green Economy management plan
A BESAV team are working with the national government in a coastal African country to develop and
implement a Green Economy plan. This plan aims to enhance the protection of natural capital and
provision of ecosystem services across the country. The team wants to use BESAV to make the
country’s capital city a model example for the integration of BES in city planning. Climate change and
sea level rise threaten the city’s coastal neighborhoods. There are environmental and economic
pressures on communities’ livelihoods. Ecosystem degradation has led to declining water quality,
while prices rise.
The left side of the diagram represents the BESAV team, their own objective and the innovations
and sets of solutions that they propose to others. The BESAV team is not an impartial observer.
They are one actor, among others, who aim to improve social and ecological outcomes. To
achieve that goal, they offer BESAV innovations (new tools and information on BES, innovative
13 The diagram is directly derived from Figure 2 in Callon (1986).
Inspired)by)Sociology of Translation (Callon, 1986)
Compelling Passage Point
(How shoud we problematize and design our
biodiversity friendly production techniques such as agroforestry, facilitation of a stakeholder
engagement process through iterative workshops and scenarios, etc.). They propose that BESAV
innovations can reshape interactions to be more sustainable. However, success depends on
understanding what it will take for others to adopt it.
Case Study 3.1:
The BESAV team wants to improve mangrove protection along the city’s coast to increase resilience
against sea level rise and secure coastal water quality. The team also wants to increase protection of
the city’s watershed to secure a clean, reliable water supply. They believe that framing environmental
problems in terms of how nature benefits people (ecosystem services) and using cost-benefit analysis
and mapping tools they will encourage adoption of BESAV results in city and land-use planning.
Specifically, they believe that BESAV will: (1) provide the city with convincing arguments and data for
financial support from the national government for conservation; (2) make coastal communities aware
of the value of mangroves for their long term livelihoods and galvanize action to stop mangrove
degradation; and, (3) convince the water authority to invest in nature protection. Eventually, they
hope that the city can provide lessons and inspiration for national scale BESAV.
The right part of the diagram represents other actors. To create the change the BESAV team
seeks, these actors need to be on board in a common ‘alliance’ and to adopt the innovations and
solutions proposed. The BESAV team therefore has to understand each actor’s identity, goals,
obstacles and needs. Each actor has its own perspective and reasoning about the situation and
proposed innovation. The boxes on the right side of the diagram can be used to reflect on other
actors’ identities and worldviews, practical needs and goals, and the obstacles/problems they
encounter to achieve them.
Case Study 3.2:
The other actors that the BESAV team needs to engage are: (1) the municipality, in close association
with the national government. They want to have a good reputation and fame in order to be re-elected.
For that, they need to overcome their current difficulties in delivering security, water and food; (2) the
city water authority who wants to deliver water at low cost while limiting new investments. Their
obstacle is the falling quality of water due to watershed and mangrove degradation; (3) the coastal
communities, who want to avoid inundation and flooding during tropical storms and sea level rise.
They also need fish for food, which is an important source of local nutrition. Their obstacle is the
city’s growing population and the competition for limited resources, which encourages
overexploitation; (4) the city’s remaining mangroves (non-human actor) want to survive and
perpetuate themselves. Their main obstacle is local communities’ use of their wood for charcoal.
For this innovation to be adopted and create change, the BESAV innovations will have to address
each actor’s needs and provide a better solution to their problems than the usual way they operate.
The BESAV team needs to ‘translate’ the innovations in a way that resonates with other actors’
needs. This generally happens through iterative discussions between the BESAV team and the
other actors and changes made to the innovations proposed. The diagram can help to reflect on
ways to reformulate or communicate the innovation in ways that get to the heart of addressing
other actors’ problems.
Case Study 3.3:
To make BESAV tools transformative, the team reflects on opportunities to: (1) meet with city and
national government officials to show them ecosystem service maps and data that demonstrate how
protecting remaining mangroves will significantly reduce the risk of flooding and inundation,
improve livelihoods of poor communities, and increase the security of coastal areas; (2) meet with the
water authority to develop a portfolio of projects that increase water quality cost effectively; (3)
consult with local community leaders to discuss the role of mangroves as fish nurseries and in storm
protection, propose a plan for mangrove protection and replanting that could provide employment for
local people and help lower resource competition; and, (4) study carefully the local mangrove
species’ ecology to determine a sustainable level of fuel wood harvesting and co-develop sustainable
mangrove harvesting techniques with local communities.
4.3. Using the diagram
A BESAV team can use this diagram to reflect on their role as innovators and what it will take to
get BESAV solutions widely adopted and mainstreamed in decisions.
In the boxes on the right, write down:
(1) details about relevant actors including their identities. Include both people and non-
human actors
(2) each actor’s current goals, practical needs and priorities
(3) the obstacles facing each actor to achieve their goals and needs
(4) ways the BESAV team ‘translate’ the BESAV approach to address each actors needs
and obstacles to encourage adoption
The diagram can be used iteratively as a BESAV project evolves. Use the diagram
iteratively, moving from left to right. Sequence team discussions to: (1) reflect on the
outcomes the BESAV team wants to achieve and their current hypothesis for how BESAV
tools and activities will help achieve these goals; (2) identify the actors they need to
interest and adopt the innovations; identify their goals, needs and obstacles; (3) reflect on
ways to reformulate the BESAV hypothesis and adapt the BESAV innovation to fit other
actors’ needs and encourage adoption.
It may help to reflect on these questions as you work through the diagram:
(1) What are the BESAV innovatiosn (tools, activities, technical solution, engagement
process, etc.) that we want to introduce? What is our initial hypothesis about how
these innovations will create the change we seek? Why do we think our BESAV
innovations can become indispensable and adopted by key actors?
(2) Who are the actors (e.g. an individual, a local community, an organization, an
institution, a watershed, a species.) concerned by our innovation and by the questions
we formulate? Who do we need to adopt the solution we propose (e.g. approach,
assessment or monitoring tools, management plan.)? What do we know about these
actors’ identities, their own interpretation of the problems they face, their needs,
challenges and obstacles? How does it challenge our initial hypothesis about how our
BESAV innovation can create change?
(3) How can our BESAV innovation help key actors overcome obstacles and achieve their
goals? How can we design and adapt what the team does to fit their needs and get
them engaged? How can we gradually form an ‘alliance’ with actors around our
solutions? Are there needs we will not be able to fulfill?
(4) Are the actors we are negotiating with representative of others in their group/sector?
Will our innovation eventually be mobilized by everyone we need to adopt it?!
Case Study 3.4:
As the team discusses, they agree the following:
(1) The team’s initial hypothesis was that BES maps and data would be used by the municipality in
their land-use planning. However, as the project progresses, the municipality’s officials seem
unwilling or unable to change the current land-use plan. They are not interested in the initial offerings
of the BESAV team. They would prefer to take more visible action that addresses an urgent security
issue in the city. The BESAV team therefore decides to focus on mangrove protection because of the
clear and immediate link to the security of local communities in the face of storm surge, inundation,
sea level rise and natural hazards. Recent cyclone damage means this is at the top of people’s minds.
(2) The water authority agrees to use BES modeling tools to identify priority mangroves and
watersheds for protection. They agree to redirect investments from grey to green infrastructure, if
there is a clear case to make to their board of directors that it effectively improves water quality
within five years. The BESAV team therefore needs to provide information on how watersheds purify
drinking water mangroves filter wastewater and sewage effluents (this also falls under the
responsibility of the water authority).
(3) After discussing with the BESAV team, the local community leaders agree to develop a mangrove
protection plan, as they acknowledge it would help reduce flooding, increase fish populations, and
provide employment. The BESAV team wonders however if the leaders are truly representative of
local people: when it comes to implementation. Will everyone be mobilized? Will they agree not to
use the mangroves as their prime source of fuel wood along the entire coastal area of the city? These
questions prompt the team to survey the local population to understand their position better.
(4) The team does not know yet if the mangroves can be sustainably harvested and still provide flood
protection and fish habitat. The team now needs to wait and see if the mangroves will react to
sustainable harvesting in the way their BES tools and models predict. If not, the project is likely to
!"#$%&'()*+)Sociology of Translation (Callon, 1986)
Compelling Passage Point
(How shoud we problematize and design our
Navigating multiple coexisting and contradictory orders of values 5.
Section 5 Key Messages
- This perspective can help BESAV teams to reflect on (1) the multiple ‘orders of valuethat they
have to deal with when they exchange information, arguments, and justifications with others; (2)
how to overcome clashes of values among stakeholders.
- The Economies of Worth theory is useful to recognize and analyse the spectrum of contradictory
and coexisting orders of values that people mobilize on a regular basis to justify their claims,
positions, behaviours, and decisions to others.
- Boltanski and Thévenot introduce 6 prevailing orders of value (inspiration, civic, industrial,
market, domestic, fame). Each rests on a ‘shared common principle’ on which the value of a
behaviour, decision, or claim is assessed.
- Although many behaviours and decisions concerning the environment are justified in terms of
these six orders of value, other authors debate the existence of an ‘environmental order of value’
that rests solely on the principle of care for nature.
- Economies of Worth is set in the context of stakeholders seeking cooperation. Other situations are
best addressed by studies on strategic argumentation, rhetoric, or power relations (for example, see
Section 4 of this background paper).
5.1. A short introduction to the Economies of Worth (Boltanski and Thévenot, 2006)
Boltanski and Thévenot’s work on the Economies of Worth, also known as Justification Theory,
describes different commonly held normative logics (‘orders of worth’ or ‘orders of value’) that
people use to justify behavior and decisions. It focuses on ethical, rather than rational or strategic,
dimensions of decision-making. The authors propose an analytical framework for observing and
understanding how people justify their behaviors, proposals, claims, decisions and actions in real-
life situations and when dealing with public issues. The theory refers to six ‘orders of worth’ or
value: ways people judge worth and legitimacy. Each rests on ideas about what contributes to the
common good, which the authors call ‘shared common principles’ (e.g. efficiency, aesthetic
beauty, fame, respect of law and procedures, respect of traditions, etc.). It is important to point out
that these six orders of value coexist and partly contradict one another (e.g. what is most effective
may disturb traditional arrangements, etc.). There is thus no overarching order of value.
Something has value and moral standing if:
Order of value
Shared common principle
Order of inspiration
It contributes to creativity, spirituality or aesthetic beauty.
Civil order
It contributes to public common interest through law and democratic
Industrial order
It promises to be successful and effective in solving a practical issue
Market order
It makes participants more prosperous through active involvement in
mutually advantageous trade and economic competition
Domestic order
It is based on the respect of traditional values, familiar practices and
Order of fame
It increases attention from others and contributes to increased
reputation and media visibility
It increases the care taken for nature, prioritizing natural processes and
Table 2 : The six orders of value’, Boltanski and Thévenot
5.2. Applying to BESAV projects: how do we and others justify our claims,
behaviors and actions?
This perspective can be useful for BESAV teams to:
strengthen justifications and arguments for the value of protecting, restoring or enhancing
biodiversity and ecosystem services.
identify and sort out the heterogeneous value orders that stakeholders mobilize when they
react to BES-based claims and actions or justify their own behavior when dealing with
the ecological issue.
reflect on ways to help actors articulate and consolidate new value compromises.
Case Study 4 illustrates with a fictionalized example inspired by a real-world case study:
Example 4: Negotiating a regional action plan for protection of coral reefs and fisheries
A BESAV team is helping three NGOs create a co-management plan for a large marine area that is
home to one of the highest density of coral reefs in the world. The reproduction of key fisheries, such
as tuna, depends on these reefs. The team needs to provide relevant BES knowledge and participate as
experts in the intense negotiations between 6 neighboring countries and other stakeholders.
The left part of the diagram represents the BESAV team and the different ways they have so far
used, or plan to use, BES concepts and knowledge to argue for the importance of taking
ecosystems and biodiversity into account in decision-making. It is important to clarify here that
the theory does not invite BESAV team or other stakeholders to ‘betray’ their core beliefs (i.e.
the intrinsic value of care for nature held by many conservation practitioners) by replacing
them tactically with other orders of value in their discourses and deliberations in an
argumentative struggle. The theory does not deal with issues related to the strategic or
deceitful use of values by different actors. It rather recognizes and puts forward that the
treatment of issues in open, democratic societies is based on the coexistence of equally
important but contradicting orders of value, and on managing the tensions between them, for
instance by finding value compromises.
2007; Mermet, Laurans, and Leménager 2014, 240243; Thévenot, Moody, and Lafaye 2000). Whether the environmental
order meets the conditions to become a stand-alone order of value is debated see (Godard 2004; Lafaye and
Thevenot, 1993; Latour, 1998)!
Some tips about using this diagram:
Do not classify people or organizations in pre-assigned categories. Every type of actor and
individual can use different orders of value depending on the situation. For example, in a
company, on the same day, a manager can use the market order to ask for support for a
project from the board of directors and the domestic order to request holidays with his
family. Hence, a BESAV team does not always have to argue only in terms of the
environmental order’s ‘care for nature’.
In the course of a project, a team can use BES knowledge in different orders of value in
their arguments, with different champions!to push for change. For example, different
orders of worth may be used in a participatory workshop with stakeholders, a high-level
bilateral meeting with government officials, a written report to donors, or a field visit with
local communities.
Case Study 4.1:
The BESAV team has used various orders of value advocate for a marine BES management plan.
(1) The BESAV team is motivated by the ‘environmental order: a desire to protect this important
place for marine biodiversity. This motivation is expressed in the team’s work plan, shared with
the three NGOs who support the project.
(2) To launch the project, the team used the ‘order of fame’ to garner support from the six national
governments. At high-level international meetings on sustainable economic development the team
spoke directly to countries’ leaders about increasing their reputation and visibility by engaging in
the management plan to protect coral reefs.
Inspired by the Economies of Worth (Boltanski and Thévenot, 2006)
Actor 2:
How do I argue about BES values? How does my interlocutor speak
about BES values, or react to my
Order of inspiration (spiritual, aesthetic beauty)
Civic order (law and democratic procedures)
Industrial order (effectiveness and efficiency)
Market order (mutually advantageous trade-offs,
commercial competition)
Domestic order (traditional values and familiar practices)
Order of fame (media visibility and reputation)
A tentative emerging environmental order (care for nature)
Actor 1:
Actor 3:
Actor 4:
(3) To obtain the support of the World Bank and the European Union, the team highlighted in a
report the recreational and tourism values of coral reefs and the need to preserve their aesthetic
beauty, mobilizing primarily the ‘order of inspiration’ but also the market values of tourism.
(4) Since fishing in this nursery area threatens the ability of tuna to reproduce and grow, the team
engaged with the large tuna fisheries. They used essentially ‘market order’ justifications showing
the economic risk of tuna population collapse if coral reefs are significantly degraded. They used
BES modeling and mapping to define marine zones that protect tuna nurseries and ensure
sustainable fisheries revenues.
The right hand side of the diagram represents other actors (partners, stakeholders, local
community representatives, government officials, funders, etc.). The diagram can describe how
each actor justifies their positions, behaviors and decisions when deliberating in good faith. All
actors can use multiple orders of value. For example, a mining company may predictably mobilize
the market or industrial orders of value but may also justify behavior using the domestic order, for
example, by arguing that their activities support traditional livelihoods. Using this diagram can
help BESAV teams to pay attention to: (1) the orders of value embedded in actors’ justifications
and claims about the BES issue; (2) how others react to the BESAV team’s arguments and
presentations; and, (3) how other actors speak to each other about the issue.
Case Study 4.2:
The large fisheries companies reacted positively to arguments based on ‘market order’ and agreed to
help develop the management plan. However, the team started to receive requests to meet with local
NGOs and syndicates representing small-scale community fisheries. They felt that (1) discussions
about the management plan had only happened at a very high level and (2) the role of coral reefs in
supporting local, subsistence and small-scale commercial fishing had been overlooked. The BESAV
team started to focus on local fisheries in their assessments and consult with local community fisheries
What can a BESAV team do to resolve disagreements or clashes of value? This perspective
highlights two possibilities:
(1) When a conflict arises between two people that share the same ‘order of value’, the
conflict can be resolved by applying an appropriate ‘test’ to the situation. For instance,
a conflict between two individuals who both refer to the ‘industrial order’ when
debating protection of a watershed, can likely be resolved through data, and indicators,
that evaluate the most efficient level of protection. The BESAV team can provide
knowledge to help solve such a disagreement.
(2) When there is a conflict over which order of value to use to judge a situation or make
a decision, the BESAV team can help stakeholders build compromises. Compromises
can be hybrids where different orders of value are articulated together (e.g. “this
project must not only respect the beauty of the landscape (order of inspiration), it must
also provide economic revenue to the company that provides jobs to local people
(market order)”).
Case Study 4.3:
The World Bank and the European Union agreed to support the marine management plan initiative.
They were convinced by evidence in the report on the aesthetic values of the coral reefs (‘order of
inspiration’) and the potential to support sustainable tourism. Yet they disagree on the financial
support to provide. They contest the methods used to estimate the monetary value of cultural
ecosystem services (cultural heritage value, recreation and tourism value and aesthetic values), on
which the funding request was based. Using a different methodology, they reach a lower value
estimate. On this basis, they have decided on lower funding for the project. Given this conflict was
based on the same order of value, the team proposed an independent expert be asked for a third
The 6 countries reacted positively and all decided to help develop a management plan, judging that it
would improve their regional and international reputation and visibility. During the project, the team
began discussions with the countries. During the meetings, they presented different BES maps of the
marine/coral reef zone highlighting areas that need protection.One country developed a
confrontational position, threatening the overall negotiation process, based on the ‘civic order’. The
country’s officials said that the definition of zones of ecological importance and the roles of each
country should take into account maritime political borders (which are disputed in the region).
5.3. Using the diagram
A BESAV team can use this diagram to reflect on how to convey messages and arguments on the
value of biodiversity and ecosystem services in ways that resonate.
Use the diagram to:
Connect the BESAV team to the orders of values already used, or that the team intends to
use to justify their claims, their activities, or future plans.
Connect actors that the team is in discussion with, to the orders of value they use to justify
their own actions, decisions and behaviors.
This diagram can be used iteratively, from left to right. Sequence the team discussions to reflect
(1) orders of value used in the project so far with specific actors (on the left side of the
(2) orders of values expressed by other actors about the BES issue at hand, or in reaction
to the team’s arguments and claims;
(3) new ways the team could advocate for BES activities using the order of value that
matters most to other actors;
(4) current clashes of values and ways to resolve them.
It may help to reflect on the following questions when using the diagram:
(1) What orders of value have we used to argue for protecting biodiversity and ecosystem
services and to make the case for our solutions? With whom have we used each order
of value, in what situation?
(2) As we listen to other actor, what orders of value can we identify? On what shared
common principle’ do they seem to base their decisions, or justify their actions?
(3) How have others reacted when we made our arguments about BES? Did they use the
same order of value as us? If they used another one, can we reformulate our claims on
the basis of that order of value?
(4) Are disagreements among stakeholders based on the same or different order of value?
(5) If it is a disagreement based on the same order of value (‘a dispute’), can we help
resolve it using BES tools and methods?
(6) If it is a ‘disagreement’ on which order of value, can BES assessment tools and
activities help find workable compromises?
Case Study 4.4:
The BESAV team reflected that:
(1) They still need to use the environmental orderin discussions with partner environmental NGOs.
(2) They have mobilized ‘order of inspiration’ arguments in their negotiations for support from the EU
and World Bank. However, a ‘dispute’ emerged about the methods and criteria used to quantify the
aesthetic and the cultural service values of the coral reefs in monetary terms. It is therefore logical to
seek the help of an expert in economic valuation to review the methods and help reach agreement.
(3) Use of the ‘market order’ and ‘domestic order’ with large fisheries and local community fisheries
has proved so far effective in discussions.
(3) Discussions with the national governments have been driven forward by motivation to improve
reputation and gain visibility (‘order of fame’). The countries were close to an agreement on co-
managing the marine area without consideration of borders. This cooperation is now threatened by
one country that invoked the ‘civil order’ to question the legality of the management plan on the issue
of national maritime political borders. To solve this disagreement, the team needs to reach a
‘compromise’ that articulates the ‘order of fame’ and the ‘civic order’. One option is that
participation and contribution of each country be adjusted based on the proportion of areas of high
ecological importance within the boundaries of its legal national maritime zone. This would not
undermine the visibility and reputation of the management plan for excellent multilateral cooperation
on an important environmental question. It may also address the concern raised about national
maritime borders.
Inspired by the Economies of Worth (Boltanski and Thévenot, 2006)
Actor 2:
The six
How do I argue about BES values? How does my interlocutor speak
about BES values, or react to my
Order of inspiration (spiritual, aesthetic beauty)
Civic order (law and democratic procedures)
Industrial order (effectiveness and efficiency)
Market order (mutually advantageous trade-offs,
commercial competition)
Domestic order (traditional values and familiar practices)
Order of fame (media visibility and reputation)
A tentative emerging environmental order (care for nature)
Actor 1:
World Bank
Actor 3:
Large tuna
Actor 4:
Improving human well-being by renegotiating institutions 6.
Section 6 Key Messages
- Institutional approaches to local ecosystem use can be useful to analyse how, a local community
or group of individuals uses its surrounding natural environment for its own well-being.
- These institutional approaches can be useful for BESAV teams to reflect on how their BES
knowledge and activities affect institutions and rules to benefit local communities’ ability to use
their natural environment for their well-being.
- The Environmental Entitlements Framework from Leach, Mearns and Scoones suggests that
individuals transform environmental goods and services into ‘capabilities’ (specific component of
well-being) through a process of ‘endowment’ and ‘entitlement’. Institutions (formal and
informal, macro and micro) mediate each step of this process.
- Ostrom’s Common-Pool Resources theory focuses on analysis of the rules and infrastructures that
condition access of individuals to resources and the benefits they provide.
6.1. A short introduction to the Environmental Entitlement Framework and
Common-Pool Resources theory
The Environment Entitlements Framework (Leach, Mearns and Scoones, 1999) focuses on the
ability of people and local communities to improve their well-being through use of natural
resources. The theory builds on critiques of community-based natural resource management that
local communities are not static or homogeneous and the local environment is dynamic. The
analytical framework can be used to examine how institutions at different scales, both formal (e.g.
legal systems and rules) and informal (e.g.customary property rights, social conventions and
norms, local codes of behavior), influence the way local people gain access to and control over
environmental goods and services, and how they use them to achieve well-being. It is grounded in
entitlement analysis’ (Sen, 1981) to understand how individuals and groups improve their well-
The Environment Entitlement Framework helps identify: (1) different components of peoples
well-being such as health, nutrition, shelter, education, knowledge, sociability, clothing, emotions
(‘capabilities’); and, (2) how people achieve these components of well-being through access and
control over environmental goods and services. Individuals and local communities convert
environmental goods and services into ‘capabilities’ through :
Endowments: actors’ rights and resources such as land, capital, easy access, labor, skills,
that they can mobilize to gain access and control over environmental goods and services.
Entitlements: utilities that people derive from environmental goods and services such as
direct use of water, food, fuel resources, market value, ecosystem services such as
landslide risk mitigation or pollution treatment, etc.)
Ostrom’s ‘Common-Pool Resources’ theory also focused on the role of institutions and
infrastructure, such as irrigation systems and roads. This theory shows that if multiple users of a
shared ecological resource (a forest, a fishery, a watershed, etc.) want to avoid overuse and
ecological degradation, they need to establish systems of rules and control to coordinate
behaviour (Ostrom, 1990; Ostrom et al., 1994). The theory insists on rules and infrastructure that
(1) affect access to resources and (2) regulate how benefits from resource use are shared among
individuals of a given community, and between the community and other external actors (e.g. a
public institution, a private sector player).
BESAV practitioners often want not only to improve environmental outcomes, but also human
well-being. The Environment Entitlement Framework and Common-Resources Pool theory can
help BESAV teams to analyze how institutions, rules and infrastructure affect how local people
can use resources for their livelihoods. It helps reflect on two key questions: (1) how will
institutional and infrastructural changes recommended through a BESAV project affect local
communities’ well-being? (2) (how) can BESAV information be used to renegotiate institutions
and rules in ways that improve both ecosystem management and people’s well-being?
6.2. Applying to BESAV projects: how do existing institutions affect ecosystem
management and human wellbeing?
This diagram15 can help BESAV teams reflect on how their tools and activities can be used to re-
negotiate institutions, rules and infrastructure in ways that improve people’s well-being and
livelihoods. Case 5 illustrates, inspired by a real-world case study.
Case Study 5: Co-developing a land use plan for a large system of lakes and swamps
The Paya Swamp is a 30,000 hectare system of wetlands located on the shores of a large African lake.
The Swamp is one of the richest biodiversity areas in the country and provides many ecosystem
services: productive soils, water purification and regulation, small scale and large scale food
production, papyrus products, carbon sink and climate regulation, tourism and recreational services,
etc. The Swamp is also the poorest area of the country, home to more than 100,000 residents who
directly depend on it for some part of their livelihood (subsistence farming, fishing, grazing, etc.). The
area is under pressure as the Swamp has been subject to rapid land use change (drainage, urban
development, water extraction and river canalization). These changes threaten its ecology and
increase the risk of conflicts among local stakeholders over the management and use of the land. In
addition, an intensive large-scale American rice farm has drained about 6,000 hectares, increasing
tensions among local. A BESAV team has been working with a national NGO to develop a land use
plan for the Paya Swamp. To do this they assess and value the BES the Swamp supports and engage in
a participatory learning and planning process.
15 The diagram is directly inspired from Figure 1 in Leach, Mearns and Scoones (1999).
The left hand side of the diagram represents the process through which a community can
transform an environmental good or service into ‘capabilities’ (i.e. components of their well-
being). They can do this by acquiring legitimate and effective command over environmental
goods and services (‘endowments’) and by deriving from them different forms of utilities
(‘entitlements’) that will contribute to their well-being. In the diagram, the endowment and
entitlement concepts are merged in the question: how do people/the local community concerned
by the analysis succeed or fail to access ecosystem goods and services and create value through
their use for themselves and for others?’ Different communities living in the same area might
have very different ways to access, control and use the local ecosystems for their well-being.
Case Study 5.2:
The community of people living around the Swamp, uses it for subsistence agriculture and wild
papyrus harvesting. The villagers can access the Swamp because they live close to it, have limited
rights to land and can use their own labor. They use the products for their subsistence and they sell
the surplus for cash income. They use the papyrus for their own use (baskets, furniture, etc.) but sell
most of it. They use the revenue to invest in children’s schooling and new farming tools. This
contributes to their capabilities (nutrition, education, shelter) and well-being.
The blue boxes in the middle of the diagram can be used to identify the institutions and
infrastructure that facilitate the ability of a community to: (1) access an ecosystem good or
service, or use their capital, skills, labor or rights to obtain effective control over it; (2) transform
and use ecosystem goods and services to improve their well-being. These institutions can be
formal (e.g. rules and legal frameworks, international and national market rules and prices, a land-
use management plan adopted by a public agency, a protected area, etc.) or informal (e.g. local
conventions, village hierarchy, gender division, cooperative work groups, informal trading
networks, etc.).
Case Study 5.3:
Both formal and informal institutions and infrastructure mediate villagers’ ability to access and
control areas of the swamp suitable for farming, including: (1) land leases issued by the County
government that allow the large scale rice farm to access and drain part of the land. This reduces
villagers’ access; (2) protected areas run by the country’s wildlife service that exclude agriculture
from within their boundaries; (3) cultural land tenure of the village hierarchy. This land tenure is not
in law, but defines how land is allocated among families in the village and what they can do with it
(crop cultivation, grazing, etc.); (4) fences built by the rice farm limit people from using the land for
subsistence farming.
The institutions and infrastructure that mediate the ability of villagers to use the Swamp’s ecosystems
goods and services are: (1) local markets for food and papyrus products; (2) the drainage regime of
the rice farm that affects the water level in the Swamp and available land for farming; (3) the
Corporate Social Responsibility policy of the rice farm that sets out who can access their land and
helps local villagers fund schooling; (4) intra-household bargaining on the allocation of food and
papyrus for personal use commercial sale.).
The grey box on the right side of the diagram represents the BESAV team’s intervention and its
current or anticipated effects on institutions and infrastructure. The team can reflect on how the
BESAV intervention currently affects or could help change the existing institutions and
infrastructure to benefit people’s well-being (see Case Study 5.4).
6.3. Using the diagram
A BESAV team can use this context diagnostic diagram to reflect on their role in changing the
local institutions, rules and infrastructure that affect the well-being of people and local
communities. The diagram can be populated with information about local communities, the
institutions that govern them, and their relationship with the environment.
Complete the diagram by filling out the different boxes for one specific community or group of
individuals and for one specific relation with an ecosystem good or service. It may help to:
(1) Choose the local community and ecosystem good or service to focus on;
(2) Reflect on how people gain access and control over ecosystem goods and services, to
derive value. Write down the different components of well-being affected.
(3) Identify the formal and informal institutions and infrastructure that affect
transformation of ecosystem goods and services into components of well-being.
(4) Reflect how the BESAV project has changed institutions and infrastructure, and how
they would be affected by future project plans. Reflect on whether or not it is ultimately
empowering the local community to achieve well-being.
These questions may be helpful in reflections:
(1) How do local people and communities use ecosystems for their livelihoods? What
ecosystem good or service contributes to what component of their well-being? Do
our BESAV tools and activities consider local livelihoods and how local people
use ecosystem goods and services?
(2) How do local people and communities access and control these ecosystem goods
and services? What formal/informal institutions and infrastructure affect access
to, and control over, an ecosystem good or service? Where and by whom are these
institutions negotiated or changed? How do/will our BESAV tools and activities
affect the evolution of these institutions? What can we do to ensure our BESAV
tools and activities change these institutions and rules to have positive impacts on
local communities’ well-being?
(3) What value do local people and communities derive from their access and control
over an ecosystem good or service? What formal/informal institutions and
infrastructure facilitate or hinder their ability to derive these values? What
component of well-being do these values contribute to? Where and by whom are
these institutions negotiated or changed? How do/will our BESAV tools and
activities affect the evolution of these institutions? Can our BESAV tools and
activities help to re-negotiate and change these institutions rules in a way
favorable to local communities’ well-being?
Case Study 5.4:
The BESAV team reflects on how the use of site-specific BES tools to map the Paya Swamp ecosystem
services as well as the stakeholder engagement process that they want to put in place would affect the
local institutions, rules and infrastructures. They also consider how these activities and outputs could
help the local communities who practice subsistence farming to re-negotiate these institutions and
rules in ways that improve their wellbeing.
If the ecosystem services maps inform the design of a new land use plan, this would have a major
influence on people’s endowments and access to the Swamp’s goods and services. It would replace the
current County government lease to the rice farm, and make more land available to local
communities. It could also destabilize the cultural land tenure of the villagers, as certain areas now
used for subsistence farming would be put aside for biodiversity and ecosystem service protection. The
team agrees to be focus on the increase in land accessible to community’s for farming. They agree
that discussions should be conducted with village leaders to obtain a more precise map of the current
informal land tenure, to avoid potential conflicts between local farmers. The team also reflects on the
possible effect of the new land use plan on the local market price of crops. If prices were to rise, the
team conceives of financial compensation during the first ten years of implementation of the land use
plan. Finally, the team agrees that their engagement process with local stakeholders should contribute
to capacity building and education as well as creating strong social connections among stakeholders
that would not usually interact.
The team decides to repeat the reflection exercise for the communities and villages that are located
closer to the lakes of the Swamp, and for whom fishing appears to be important for well-being.
Guidance section: how to use the context diagnostic tool in practice 7.
A tool is not useful until it is put in practice and used. This section describes some practical ways
to use the context diagnostic tool. The tool has been used in various ways in while tested in the
field in the Philippines and Indonesia:
- One day work session
- 2 week expert mission
- In extended collaborative discussions
- For social science research
This is suggestive and not exhaustive list. Each of these options can be adapted or combined to fill
specific needs.
7.1. One day work session
1-2 day work session among the core members of a BESAV team (typically 5-10 team
Useful for rapid, context analysis
The tool is used as a basis for discussion to explore as a team the context for a project and get an
overview of the main issues that may affect strategy or planning. This may be helpful for
- When a conservation or development NGO develops a new strategy and intends to use
BESAV tools. In this case, the context diagnostic tool can be used to critique and
improve the strategy and theory of action based on what is known about the context at
this early stage. They can identify crucial elements that need to be anticipated or dealt
with for the intervention project to succeed.
- When a BESAV project is met with unanticipated or difficult challenges that slow
down or block change. In this case, the context diagnostic tool can help the team to
take a step back and reflect on challenges that need to be analysed in more depth to re-
orient the intervention strategy.
- As part of project evaluation and monitoring processes. In this case, the team can
mobilize the tool as a way to step back and reflect on the intervention that they are
conducting, analysing and reporting progress, and identifying new challenges.
It may be helpful to:
1. Organize a work session focused on analysing the context for a strategy or project that
a team intends to conduct or are currently conducting.
2. Produce a document describing the current state of knowledge on the context and the
specific intervention project in advance of the work session.
3. Require participants to read this background paper and learn about it through the
related training material and videos.
4. During the work session, focus on those worksheet diagrams that seem most relevant
to the participants.
5. Discuss potential solutions and agree next steps to address issues raised.
6. Draft a brief note at the end of the work session recapitulating the main points of the
7. Design a work plan for the core team members to explore further the feasibility and
relevance of potential solutions and next steps.
7.2. 2 weeks expert mission
Use the context diagnostic tool in a 1-2 week field mission
Can help to evaluate a BESAV intervention project and/or challenge its theory of
In this set-up, 2-5 members of the team or external consultants may conduct the context diagnosis
to explore institutional, social and political dimensions. This may require input from or
involvement of local specialists or consultants who have knowledge of the context, primary
research such as interviews and field visits, and discussion of the results with project team and
partners. The goals may be to raise attention to contextual issues in the project design and to
produce recommendations for how to make the project succeed.
It may be helpful to:
1. Gather background information on the context, the BESAV project and its vision and
objectives for achieving social and environmental change. This may include reports,
project feasibility studies, and expert consultations.
2. Spend the first few days of the trip having in-depth discussions with local experts or
consultants individually or in small groups. The local context can be discussed generally
and using the context diagnostic to facilitate discussions. These consultations should
identify salient and challenging social, political or institutional issues affecting the
BESAV project’s theory of action.
3. Conduct interviews with key stakeholders who play an important role or will be involved
in the BESAV project.
4. Organize field visits to see where the project will be implemented, meet with local
communities and experts with interviews and/or informal discussions.
5. At the end of the short mission, deliver the results of the analysis to the project team,
manager and/or partners. We recommend presenting results with little or no reference to
the five theories used in the context diagnostic, and focusing on practical insights and
The context diagnostic tool has been used in this way in the South of the Philippines, where the
French Development Agency and its Filipino institutional partners are developing a new project to
fight deforestation on mountain ranges. The project will involve working with local indigenous
groups to promote community-based agroforestry and forest restoration, and halt slash-and-burn
practices that degrade primary forest cover. The context diagnostic tool was used to discuss the
project’s theory of action with the local project team and to inform field visits and interviews with
project stakeholders and partners. The tool helped identify crucial elements for success (Mermet
and Feger, 2016).
7.3. Extended collaborative discussions
Use the context diagnostic tool as a basis for dialogue
Hold a series of workshops with key stakeholders involved a BESAV project.
Here, the context analysis may be undertaken with stakeholders involved in designing a BESAV
project (e.g. businesses, farmers, local communities representatives, local government
representative, national policy-makers). Dialogue among stakeholders can illuminate current or
possible future issues related to the project context. In this way, the team can build a shared
understanding of the social, political and institutional issues stakeholder agreement about how the
project can effectively create environmental and social change. The consultative nature can
increase collaboration, share perspectives and build trust. But it may weaken focus on ecological
objectives, take significant time and resources and reinforce existing power structures unless well
It may help to:
1. Organize workshops or focus group discussions with different groups of stakeholders
involved in the BESAV project.
2. Prepare a document describing the current state of knowledge on the context and BESAV
project for workshop participants.
3. Prepare a summary of the context diagnostic approach and preliminary questionnaire for
workshop participants based on the question check-lists in this report.
4. Use professional facilitators to facilitate workshops using both plenary and small group
discussions to discuss, analyse and exchange perspectives.
5. The exercise can be repeated with different groups of stakeholders and in different
6. Based on these workshops, a report can summarize key insights and recommendations
from the group discussions.
7. The team designing the BESAV project can then use these key insights to run their own
analysis based on the context diagnostic tool.
This context diagnostic tool was used this way in Papua and in Sumatra, Indonesia, by WWF to
inform the design, assessment and implementation of two ecological corridors (Wasur-Bupul-
Bian and RIMBA) (Barano et al., 2016). Five focus group discussions with different groups of
stakeholders (businesses, forest management units, local communities, etc.) were organized using
the context diagnostic tool as a basis for analysis, exchange of perspectives and dialogue.
7.4. For social science research project
Use context diagnostic tool for in-depth research on ecosystem governance.
Here, the context diagnostic method is used by social science researchers who specialize in
environmental management and seek to draw on the theoretical frameworks. This could involve
working sessions with the BESAV team, interviews, field visits, in-depth analysis etc. The
research results can provide recommendations to the BESAV project but may also contribute to
academic debate about ecosystem management and governance.
It may help to:
1. Organize a working session between social science researchers and the BESAV team
interested in improving their intervention design and implementation. A first exploration
of the context can be conducted with the BESAV team.
2. Social science researchers can then conduct interviews and field-visits to collect first-hand
information on the context.
3. A report with key recommendations can be drafted to support the BESAV team’s
intervention. Longer pieces (background paper, academic article, book, etc.) may
contribute to academic discussion and debates.
What for?
How much time and
1-2 day work session for
rapid context analysis
Rapid context diagnosis
for a BESAV project
Core members of
BESAV team
2 week expert mission
to inform intervention
design and adaptation
Appraisal of a BESAV
project to design or
improve its theory of
Core members of a
BESAV team, supported
by a small team of
Extended collaborative
Dialogue, exchange,
exploration and shared
analysis among all
stakeholders in a BESAV
BESAV team,
stakeholders, professional
Social science research
In-depth analysis of a
context to derive
recommendations for a
BESAV project and
contribute to academic
BESAV team and social
science researchers
!LMNO(?(G(Summary of different ways the context diagnostic tool can be used
Concluding thoughts 8.
This background paper begins to transform well-established social science theories into a practical
context diagnostic tool to support BESAV practitioners understand the political, social and
institutional dimensions of context, in ways that enable them to be more effective in changing
decisions and catalyzing action for better ecosystem management.
We are aware that no theory, method or tool will ever replace the energy, knowledge, know-how
and real-world experience of those working on the ground. However, we hope that this context
diagnostic tool can support the efforts of those who are on the front-line, leading BESAV projects
to create change. The resources can help teams to systematically analyze their context and
disentangle the complexity.
The next steps are in your hands. We welcome and encourage others to apply the context
diagnostic tool in different places, provide feedback on the tool, provide case studies of
application, develop further training materials, dig deeper into social science literature to further
develop the tool and compare and assess results from different contexts.
Further Reading 9.
The anchoring of the tool in on-going social science academic debates opens perspectives to dig
deeper into this literature to further develop the tool and to further enrich the discussions and
analysis of contexts that the tool arouses. The present report presents very briefly the social
science theories it builds on, with the hope to make them more accessible, through the
development of the diagrams and lists of questions, to practitioners for their own analysis.
Eventually, the depth and the efficacy of these methods will depend on the time devoted by some
BESAV practitioners to acquire the conceptual vocabulary and theoretical knowledge they rely
on. This can be done by attending training sessions, or by developing new partnerships with social
science researchers. It can also be done by self-learning: we indicate below relevant entry-points
references in the literature associated with each approach, as well as the relevant chapters in the
book Tools for What Trade from Mermet, Laurans and Leménager (2014) that applies some of the
theories presented here to the question of economic tools for biodiversity. Ultimately, results from
the use of this context diagnostic method in different contexts will have to be assessed and
compared, both in terms of the concrete recommendations it helped its users to formulate for their
intervention projects but also in terms of its contribution to the on-going academic conversation
on ecosystem services governance.
Politics of Nature(
Latour, B. 2004. Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy, Harvard
University Press, Cambridge, MA.
Chapter 9 in Mermet, L.,