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From In-person to Virtual Engagement: Adaptations of a Participative Process for Designing a Marine Litter Public Policy in Brazil



Marine litter is a transversal issue that affects the environment and society in a multitude of ways. As such, solutions to this problem are complex and demand the engagement of multiple sectors of society. The São Paulo Strategic Plan for Monitoring and Assessment of Marine Litter (PEMALM) is the first public policy of its kind, seeking to establish indicators and build knowledge to move towards a plan to combat marine litter in the most populous state in Brazil. From its inception, PEMALM has sought to establish a participative construction framework, involving key stakeholders at each step. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, the participative construction process had to be adapted. Here we present and discuss the strategies applied in the participatory process of PEMALM to guarantee the remote engagement of stakeholders. Three participatory milestones were part of the final policy-making process: a first in-person workshop which gathered stakeholders in a single location, a series of in-person meetings in which the project team travelled to where the stakeholders are located, and, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, an entirely virtual workshop. Sector participation was found to be alike for online and on-site events, with higher participation of the public sector, followed by academia, NGOs and the private sector in both. The adjustments and the adaptive effort placed on the participatory process due to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as being dedicated and attentive to the needs of attendees, expanding the modes of interaction and promoting a flexible and light schedule to reduce online fatigue, guaranteed the quality of stakeholder engagement and participation. The positive accomplishments of the hybrid strategy used in building PEMALM as a public policy exemplifies ways to facilitate and broaden participation in the co-construction under mobility restrictions.
▶ 111 ◀
Elliff, C.I., M. M. de Andrade, N. M. Grilli, V.M.
Scrich, A. M. Panarelli, A. M. Neves, M. F. Romanelli,
M.T. C. Mansor, O. A. Cardoso, R. Zanetti, A.
Turra. 2021. From In-person to Virtual Engagement:
Adaptations of a Participative Process for Designing a
Marine Litter Public Policy in Brazil. Revista Costas,
3(1): 111-130. doi: 10.25267/Costas0503
¹Oceanographic Institute, University of São Paulo,
²Environmental Planning Coordination, Secretariat
for Infrastructure and Environment of São Paulo
State, Brazil.
3 CETESB - Environmental Company of the State of
São Paulo. São Paulo, Brazil.
4Environmental Education Coordination, Secretariat
for Infrastructure and Environment of São Paulo
State, Brazil.
5UNESCO Chair on Ocean Sustainability, Institute
of Advanced Studies, University of São Paulo, Brazil.
Keywords: Colaborative process, Online, Co-construc-
tion; Stakeholder engagement, Plastic pollution..
Submitted: August 2021
Accepted: October 2021
Associate Editor: Marinez Scherer
Del Compromiso Presencial al Virtual:
Adaptaciones de un Proceso Participativo
para el Diseño de una Política Pública
de Basura Marina en Brasil
From In-person to Virtual Engagement:
Adaptations of a Participative Process for
Designing a Marine Litter Public Policy in Brazil
Carla I. Elli ¹*, Mariana M. de Andrade¹, Natalia M. Grilli¹, Vitória M. Scrich¹,5,
Ana Maria Panarelli², Ana Maria Neves², Maria Fernanda Romanelli², Maria
Teresa C. Mansor¹,², Omar A. Cardoso³, Rita Zanetti4, Alexander Turra¹,5
*e-mail: carlaelli
Marine litter is a transversal issue that affects the envi-
ronment and society in a multitude of ways. As such,
solutions to this problem are complex and demand the
engagement of multiple sectors of society. e São Paulo
Strategic Plan for Monitoring and Assessment of Marine
Litter (PEMALM) is the first public policy of its kind,
seeking to establish indicators and build knowledge to
move towards a plan to combat marine litter in the most
populous state in Brazil. From its inception, PEMALM
has sought to establish a participative construction frame-
work, involving key stakeholders at each step. When the
Covid-19 pandemic struck, the participative construction
process had to be adapted. Here we present and discuss
Vol. 3 (1): 111-130. 2021
ISSN 2304-0963
doi: 10.25267/Costas
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Revista Costas, Vol. 3 (1): 111-130. 2021
the strategies applied in the participatory process of PEMALM to guarantee the remote engagement of stakeholders.
ree participatory milestones were part of the final policy-making process: a first in-person workshop which gathered
stakeholders in a single location, a series of in-person meetings in which the project team travelled to where the stake-
holders are located, and, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, an entirely virtual workshop. Sector participation was found
to be alike for online and on-site events, with higher participation of the public sector, followed by academia, NGOs
and the private sector in both. e adjustments and the adaptive effort placed on the participatory process due to the
Covid-19 pandemic, such as being dedicated and attentive to the needs of attendees, expanding the modes of interaction
and promoting a flexible and light schedule to reduce online fatigue, guaranteed the quality of stakeholder engagement
and participation. e positive accomplishments of the hybrid strategy used in building PEMALM as a public policy
exemplifies ways to facilitate and broaden participation in the co-construction under mobility restrictions.
1. Introduction
Marine litter is a transversal issue that affects the envi-
ronment and society in a multitude of ways. Impacts
go beyond threats to wildlife and ecosystems, affect-
ing human socioeconomic activities, such as tour-
ism, fisheries and navigation, and human well-being
(UNEP, 2016a; GESAMP, 2019, 2020). As such,
solutions to this problem are complex and demand
the engagement of multiple societal sectors, repre-
sented by a diverse range of stakeholders (UNEP,
2016a, 2020; Turra et al., 2020). Global strategies
to face the problem need to identify priority sourc-
es and locations to direct resources (e.g. Alliance to
End Plastic Waste, 2020). e United Nations En-
vironment Assembly (UNEA) has established four
specific resolutions on the topic of marine litter to
guide member states: i) recognizing marine litter as
a global emerging threat; ii) designing strategies to
address knowledge gaps about the issue; iii) defining
a long-term zero vision on plastic entering the ocean
due to inefficient governance; and iv) acknowledging
the need to strengthen coordination and scientific
and technological knowledge (UNEA, 2021).
Still on national and sub-national spatial scales,
there are examples of marine litter combat initiatives
within the Regional Seas Programs of the United Na-
tions Environment Program (UNEP, 2016b). Some
of the Regional Seas conventions and action plans
include marine litter combat programs, such as the
Convention for the Protection of the Marine Envi-
ronment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR), for
countries in the European Union (Marine Strategy
Framework Directive), and USA. However, while
combat plans mention the importance of monitoring
and assessment of marine litter to integrate science
and decision-making, as preconized by GESAMP
(2019), these initiatives are still incipient.
Brazil is among the top 20 countries worldwide
in terms of mismanaged plastic waste and leakage of
plastics to the ocean (Jambeck et al., 2015). Plastics
are the most common type of material found in ma-
rine litter and the inefficient management of solid
waste in urban areas (coastal or not) is an essential
parameter to consider when identifying sources of
marine litter. Moreover, Lebreton et al. (2017) evalu-
ated the top plastic-polluted rivers globally and once
more Brazil was among the top 20 countries listed.
Meanwhile, although a recent global review had not
identified a national policy in Brazil addressing the is-
sue (Karasik et al., 2020), in 2019 a National Marine
Litter Combat Plan (PNCLM, from the Portuguese
acronym) was published by the Brazilian Ministry of
the Environment (Brasil, 2019). Besides significant
implementation gaps, this national plan does not fo-
cus on the construction of an integrated approach
Elli et al.
▶ 113 ◀
across the federative levels in Brazil (e.g. state and
municipalities) and, alone, the actions preconized in
this policy cannot address the issue holistically and
provide solutions at a local level.
Within this context, the state of São Paulo took the
lead and began working towards its own marine litter
combat plan in 2019, starting with a monitoring and
assessment strategy (sensu GESAMP, 2019) to first
diagnose and understand this complex reality at a
subnational scale. e São Paulo Strategic Plan for
Monitoring and Assessment of Marine Litter (PE-
MALM, from the Portuguese acronym), launched in
January 2021 (PEMALM, 2021), is the first public
policy of its kind in the country, seeking to collec-
tively establish indicators and build knowledge to
move towards a plan to combat marine litter in the
most populous state in Brazil.
PEMALM offers a general overview of the impor-
tance of the ocean and threats of marine litter; a de-
scription of the coastal area of the state of São Paulo,
which includes a mosaic of environmental protection
areas contrasting with intense urban and infrastruc-
ture development; a history of initiatives related to
marine litter from a global to a local perspective, em-
phasizing state programs and policies that have ad-
dressed the issue (such as the Baixada Santista Inte-
grated Solid Waste Management Plan, the Verão no
Clima Project, and the Lost Fishing Gear at Sea Proj-
ect); the developmental stages of the plan; suggested
indicators to monitor and assess the generation, ex-
posure and effects of marine litter; and, finally, criti-
cal aspects for the implementation of PEMALM and
next steps (figure 1). Moreover, PEMALM integrates
the São Paulo State Solid Waste Management Plan
(SIMA, 2020), which provides specific short, medi-
um and long-term goals for the implementation of
this public policy within the context of broader ma-
rine litter related goals.
From its inception, PEMALM has sought to estab-
lish a participative construction framework, involv-
ing a diverse set of key stakeholders during each step
of its design. A multi-level mode of construction,
promoting collaboration between representants of
different sectors of society (e.g. government bodies,
private institutions, non-governmental organizations
and academic researchers) promotes opportunities
for social learning, aiding to overcome the challenge
of addressing such a complex environmental prob-
lem (Pahl-Wostl et al., 2007; Berkes, 2009). Besides,
knowledge integration in participatory processes can
result in different outcomes than sectoral groups
working separately (Xavier et al., 2018), which is es-
sential in building broad public policies. us, the
bottom-up and multi-sectoral design to build this
public policy was intended to promote the develop-
ment of social capital, i.e. a value of trust generated
by social networks to facilitate individual and group
cooperation (Brondizio et al., 2009), within social
learning conditions, among stakeholders involved
with the issue of marine litter. us, a collaborative
design towards the diagnosis of the problem and
compilation of data may support and outline a more
implementable and efficient strategy for combating
marine pollution.
Several in-person activities had been foreseen to
contribute to the construction process and launch of
PEMALM. However, when the Covid-19 pandemic
struck, the ongoing process had to be adapted to keep
its purpose as a participative construction and not be
mischaracterized as a bureaucratic top-down policy.
Social distancing measures restricted the planned ac-
tivities for knowledge exchange between team mem-
bers and stakeholders. is was considered a risk to
the success of the co-construction process, given that
personal activities are seen as essential for knowledge
integration and social learning processes (Newig &
Fritsch, 2009). Several strategies were used to over-
come such limitations. us, the aim of this study
was to present and discuss the strategies applied in
adapting the design process of PEMALM to guar-
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Revista Costas, Vol. 3 (1): 111-130. 2021
antee stakeholder engagement and participation in a
new virtual scenario. We highlight the obstacles tack-
led and outcomes achieved in keeping to the timing
and quality of the participatory process. To the best
of our knowledge, there are no other examples in the
literature reflecting on the adaptation of participative
processes for the construction of public policies from
in-person to virtual engagement. us, the lessons
learned from our experience may shed light into ways
to broaden and strengthen remote participatory pro-
Figure 1. General structure and content of the São Paulo Strategic Plan for Monitoring and Assessment
of Marine Litter (PEMALM).
Elli et al.
▶ 115 ◀
2. Materials and methods
PEMALM took on a participatory action research
approach (Chevalier & Buckles, 2019) and was de-
veloped by partners at the São Paulo Secretariat for
Infrastructure and the Environment (SIMA) and the
Oceanographic Institute of the University of São
Paulo (IOUSP), within the context of the UNES-
CO Chair for Ocean Sustainability. is public sec-
tor-academia partnership has promoted important
dialogues between policy and science regarding solid
waste management and its connection to coastal and
marine environments in the state of São Paulo.
In 2018, a five-year cooperation agreement was es-
tablished between SIMA and the UNESCO Chair
for Ocean Sustainability. e aim is that the two or-
ganizations support each other combining technical,
operational, academic, and scientific efforts in areas
of common interest. is included collaborating in
the development of a chapter entirely dedicated to
marine litter in the most recent update of the São
Paulo State Solid Waste Management Plan (SIMA,
2020), and reaching a state-wide marine litter com-
bat plan, after defining monitoring and assessment
strategies to diagnose this issue in the region. is
agreement therefore strengthens and supports the
development of evidence-based policy (Pinheiro,
us, a working group was established to meet
these demands, providing the necessary institution-
al framework for state employees to dedicate work
hours towards the goals. is marine litter working
group congregates 25 people from SIMA, IOUSP, the
Environmental Company of the State of São Paulo
(CETESB) and the Basic Sanitation Company of the
State of São Paulo (SABESP), of which 11 members
(five from SIMA, five from IOUSP and one from
CETESB) formed a focus group to lead the project.
Funding was provided by the Norwegian Embassy
through the Norwegian Development Programme
to Combat Marine Litter and Microplastics (Project
No. BRA-18/0034) and mediated by the Brazilian
Biodiversity Fund (FUNBIO) for the maintenance of
human resources at the UNESCO Chair for Ocean
Sustainability and to finance materials, services and
events during the 18 months that it took to complete
the construction process of PEMALM.
During the initial phases of constructing the plan,
it was important to: i) survey the scientific knowl-
edge produced about marine litter in the state of São
Paulo, in every approach available; and ii) identify
stakeholders related to marine litter in the state of
São Paulo. Meetings were held with the marine lit-
ter working group to catalog and engage all relevant
stakeholders involved with this subject in the state
of São Paulo. ese stakeholders were then contact-
ed and requested to provide new names to the list,
following the snowball methodology. From the pool
of over 400 stakeholders mapped, 100 were initially
prioritized based on their potential to produce, host
and/or evaluate data on marine litter in the state.
ese actors were distributed across the public sector,
private sector, third sector, academia and associations
of the civil society.
Stakeholders were then invited to attend the activ-
ities planned to co-construct the public policy. ese
activities included two workshops and bilateral meet-
ings (figure 2), all originally planned to be held in
person. With the Covid-19 pandemic, this format of
activity was suspended, leading to the adaptation of
the second workshop to an online format that could
still allow successful interactions among stakeholders.
e following sections detail the framework of each
participatory milestone/activity within the strategy
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Revista Costas, Vol. 3 (1): 111-130. 2021
Figure 2. Macrostructure of activities and number of participants in which stakeholders of the São Paulo Strategic Plan for the
Monitoring and Assessment of Marine Litter were involved during the development of the project. Number of participants in the
in-person activities are represented by human icons, while participants in the online workshop are represented by computer screens.
I Workshop
e first participatory interaction took place at the
I Workshop of the project, held in December 2019
at the Oceanographic Institute of the University of
São Paulo, located in the state capital of São Paulo.
Only prioritized stakeholders were invited to attend
the workshop, due to restrictions in room size and fi-
nancial costs. Stipends were made available for those
who required financial assistance to attend (i.e. cost
of travelling to São Paulo and accommodation) and
thereby, a broader and more representative participa-
tion was assured.
e objectives of this workshop were to: i) ex-
change knowledge and experiences among partic-
ipants and foster discussions and reflections about
marine litter; ii) understand and debate the main
public policy concerns (sensu GESAMP, 2019) in-
volved in the issue; iii) develop conceptual maps re-
garding information about impacts, environmental
compartments and pressures related to marine litter;
iv) identify data and information that are relevant,
connecting stakeholders and institutions that could
produce them.
During this two-day event (total of 15 hours of ac-
tivities scheduled during mornings and afternoons),
keynote talks took place presenting the global, re-
gional and local context of marine litter, strategies
and initiatives currently underway in São Paulo, and
the proposed structure of the plan. Stakeholders were
divided into small working groups (10 to 12 people
Elli et al.
▶ 117 ◀
randomized by the sector they represented) based
on the following policy concerns listed in GESAMP
(2019): tourism, food security, human health and
well-being, navigation, fisheries and aquaculture, an-
imal welfare, and biodiversity.
In each working group, a moderator stimulated
discussions to capture participants’ perceptions (fig-
ure 3) regarding the policy concern, how the subject
can be affected by marine litter in the state of São
Paulo (considering the size of litter, the environmen-
tal compartment it occupies - shoreline, seafloor,
surface and water column, and biota - and differ-
ent pathways of impacts - ingestion, entanglement,
deposition/floating, dispersion of exotic species,
leaching of substances (sensu GESAMP, 2020)), and
what activities and processes can potentially generate
Figure 3. Structured blackboard designed for the I Workshop of the São Paulo Strategic Plan for Monitoring and Assessment of
Marine Litter. Orange cards represent activities that can potentially generate marine litter; green cards refer to the size of litter
(macro or microlitter); blue cards to the environmental compartments occupied by the material (coastline, water surface/column,
seafloor, biota); yellow cards to the impact pathways of marine litter (ingestion, entanglement, deposition/floating, leaching,
dispersion of species); and white cards are perceptions about marine litter and the policy concern of the working group. All persons
portrayed in this photograph were consulted and granted the right to use the image for this purpose.
marine litter in the area, based on a list provided by
DOALOS/UN (2021).
ese discussions demanded active engagement
from attendees. Inputs from the groups were collect-
ed in a standardized way for all working groups and
the discussion continued the next day. An important
aspect of this in-person workshop was the extra time
given for networking among stakeholders - most of
whom would have few opportunities to meet other-
wise. Before leaving, participants were asked to fill
out a satisfaction survey in which they indicated pos-
itive and negative aspects of their experience in the
workshop and gave suggestions for the next events.
To register this step and inform the stakeholders
that did not attend the event, videos covering the
workshop and presenting the project were produced
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Revista Costas, Vol. 3 (1): 111-130. 2021
(PEMALM, 2020a) and shared with the network
afterwards, along with an executive summary of the
workshop (PEMALM, 2020b) and the results ob-
tained from all working groups.
Bilateral meetings
Two months after the I Workshop, in February
2020, stakeholders were gathered again for a series
of in-person bilateral meetings, involving the project
team and network. Using a different strategy from
the I Workshop, the meetings were now decentral-
ized, scheduled in four different locations, covering
the southern, central and northern coasts and the
capital of the state of São Paulo. is decision was
made to decrease the distance faced by many partic-
ipants in the first gathering (more than 300 km in
some cases) and facilitate a broad participation from
all stakeholders, since they are spread along the dif-
ferent regions of the state.
e invitation to this second interaction moment
was extended to the wider network of stakeholders
that had not been initially prioritized. e main
objective of the bilateral meetings was to assess the
expectations and demands from the network of
stakeholders towards the structure of the plan. e
meeting was planned for three hours of group discus-
sions and activities. An overview of the construction
process until that moment was presented, followed
by an ice-breaker activity in which each participant
informed what core value should be considered into
the plan, completing the schedule with the main
brainstorming activity of the meeting. During the
brainstorm, participants were encouraged to think of
inputs for the structure of the plan, according to four
categories: i) what the plan must have; ii) what con-
tent would be desirable to have in the plan; iii) what
could be done regarding the strategies of the plan;
and iv) what is beyond the scope of the plan or that
cannot be done at the moment (figure 4).
Following a similar dynamic input system used
in the I Workshop, all ideas were written on paper
cards and placed within their respective categories on
Figure 4. Contributions received during one of the bilateral meetings carried out regarding the structure of the São Paulo Strategic
Plan for Monitoring and Assessment of Marine Litter. Each card (regardless of colors) represents one idea or input from partici-
pants, which were organized in four categories: i) what the plan must have; ii) what content would be desirable to have in the plan;
iii) what could be done regarding the strategies of the plan; and iv) what is beyond the scope of the plan or that cannot be done at
the moment, while the words written directly on the board (right) represent core values.
Elli et al.
▶ 119 ◀
a board, creating a landscape of contributions. Like-
wise, a short video was produced to showcase the
format of the meeting (PEMALM, 2020a) and an
executive summary was made available online (PE-
MALM, 2020c).
II Workshop
A second and final workshop had been planned to
take place in April 2020. However, with the pandem-
ic and consequent social distancing measures adopted
in the state of São Paulo, the strategies initially pro-
posed for this moment had to be completely restruc-
tured. Before moving forward in the planning stage,
the stakeholder network was consulted via email re-
garding their interest and availability in taking part in
a potential virtual event. Ongoing online communi-
cation strategies (email, project website and YouTube
channel) became more central in the project’s efforts
to guarantee the flow of information and stakehold-
er engagement. Weekly newsletters were sent out to
keep the network informed about changes and adap-
tations underway, as well as other topics relevant to
the group. e website (PEMALM, 2020b,c,d) and
YouTube channel (PEMALM, 2020a) were kept up-
e II Workshop was postponed to August 2020
and was held entirely through online platforms (fig-
ure 5). e objectives of the workshop were to: i)
validate the set of monitoring and assessment indi-
cators jointly developed for the strategic plan; and
ii) validate the structure proposed for a draft of the
final plan.
All stakeholders (approximately 400 individuals
and institutions) were invited to participate. Seek-
ing to increase engagement, an animated video was
sent as an invitation by email (PEMALM 2020a).
e schedule for the workshop included two live
webinars, held via the videoconferencing platform
Figure 5. Screenshot of the Google Classroom platform used for the II Workshop of the São Paulo Strategic Plan for Monitoring
and Assessment of Marine Litter (A); example of one of the validation forms used for the indicators proposed (B); screenshot of a
scene of the first video, explaining the use of the online tools (C).
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Revista Costas, Vol. 3 (1): 111-130. 2021
Zoom, on the first and last days (only synchronous
activities of the workshop). ese live moments of
interaction were recorded and planned to welcome
and acknowledge participants, explaining the activ-
ities planned, and to show preliminary results at the
end of the week. Google Classroom was the main
platform used to receive participant input regarding
the asynchronous activities proposed. To avoid ex-
clusively simultaneous interactions during the work-
shop, which could hinder participation, a series of
four short, animated videos (less than 10 minutes
each) were prepared to explain the validation process
of the indicators proposed and the structure of the
plan (PEMALM, 2020a).
e first video introduced the participants to the
schedule and objectives of the workshop, explain-
ing the importance of participatory monitoring
and assessment of marine litter and presenting the
groups of indicators defined for the strategic plan
(i.e. namely indicators regarding the generation of
marine litter, exposure to marine litter, and effects
of marine litter). Each subsequent video detailed a
specific group of indicators. e narrative for each
of these videos included a short introduction to the
workshop, an explanation of what the given group of
indicators represents, an example using a common
item of marine litter (e.g. single-use plastic items, cig-
arette butts, fishing gear), and orientation on how to
contribute to the validation activity.
During each day of the week, from Monday to
ursday, a new video accompanied by its respective
validation activity was released on Google Classroom
at 9 am. is way, participants had autonomy to
choose to dedicate a couple of hours a day to the
workshop or access previously released materials in a
single day. is allowed a friendly and flexible inter-
face for general explanations that could be accessed at
the most convenient time for each participant.
e workshop organizers took turns on call to re-
spond to questions from participants through the
Google Classroom forums and by email. Moreover, a
WhatsApp messaging group was set up with the pur-
pose of informing participants about new activities
and other important information. A satisfaction sur-
vey was delivered after the event ended and includ-
ed questions about the accessibility of the materials
used in the workshop and, similar to the I Workshop,
what participants thought was positive about the
event, what was negative and suggestions for future
3. Results
All stakeholder interaction activities successfully
reached the goals set, providing the necessary input
to advance in the development of PEMALM. Fig-
ure 6 summarizes participation in all three moments,
showing the representativity of each sector. e fol-
lowing subitems further explore these and other re-
sults obtained during the I Workshop, bilateral meet-
ings and II Workshop.
I Workshop
Eighty stakeholders registered for the event, which
represented the full capacity of the venue chosen.
In total, 79 participants attended the workshop, of
which 49.4% represented the public sector, 26.6%
were from Non-Governmental Organizations
(NGOs), 13.9% were from academia, 5.1% repre-
sented the private sector and another 5.1% identified
Elli et al.
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Figure 6. Percentual participation of different sectors (public sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, private
sector and other) in each interaction moment (I Workshop, bilateral meetings, II Workshop) during the participative constructive
process of the São Paulo Strategic Plan for Monitoring and Assessment of Marine Litter.
as being part of other categories of stakeholders (e.g.
public-private associations, independent stakehold-
ers). A full list of participants is available in the tech-
nical report of the workshop (PEMALM, 2020b).
Despite the orientation of full two-day participa-
tion in the workshop, some participants were unable
to do so because of work commitments, mostly in
other cities. Even with some absences, all working
groups were productive in their discussions.
In the satisfaction survey, participants indicated
having enjoyed the organization and kind reception
(n = 35); the exchange of experience with peers and
networking (n = 32); the promoted engagement (n
= 32); the diversity of sectors and perspectives in
the workshop (n = 27); and the dynamic method-
ology used (n = 14). On the downside, participants
felt there could have been more stakeholders from
the legislative and judiciary sectors (n = 5); the event
could have been longer (n = 5); and that lack of spe-
cific personal knowledge (i.e. deeper understanding
of the impacts of different types of litter on various
policy concerns, such as microlitter on navigation)
hindered the support on some subjects (n = 4). Sev-
eral suggestions for future events included increasing
the use of digital tools (n = 6); keeping the network
connected (n = 5); and sharing the results of all work-
ing groups (n = 4).
Bilateral meetings
A total of 54 stakeholders participated in the bilateral
meetings, of which 40.7% were from the public sec-
tor, 35.2% were from NGOs, 11.1% from academia,
9.3% represented the private sector and 3.7% identi-
fied as other categories of sectors (e.g. public-private
associations, independent stakeholders). Fifty-five
percent of these participants were also present at the
I Workshop, demonstrating continuous engagement
and contributions towards the construction of this
public policy, at the same time also revealing the will-
ingness of new participants to join the process. A full
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list of participants is available in the technical report
of these meetings (PEMALM, 2020c).
Regarding the description of values mentioned by
participants, the most common words used were:
effectiveness, participatory, transparency, represen-
tativeness, responsibility, applicability, accessibili-
ty, and citizenship. As for the most relevant topics
to be addressed in PEMALM, participants showed
great interest in clear objectives, simple indicators
and a unified and reliable database. Other import-
ant aspects mentioned were the need for efficient
communication, commitments from institutions to
participate in monitoring programs, and guarantee-
ing constant updating of the plan. Participants also
agreed that this was not the moment to consider
marine litter combat actions or elements that are al-
ready present in the São Paulo State Solid Waste Plan
(SIMA, 2020). Unlike with the workshop approach,
satisfaction surveys were not applied for participants
at these meetings.
II Workshop
During the period between the original date for the
II Workshop (April 2020) and the week in which
it was in fact carried out (August 2020), the team
designed a new virtual experience for the participa-
tory process, taking into account the feedback from
stakeholders in the previous events, which valued
networking opportunities, materials to support dis-
cussions and a more diverse set of participants. All
responses received (n = 55) in the stakeholder con-
sultation were positive towards the online format
for the event. A full list of participants is available
in the technical report of the workshop (PEMALM,
A total of 101 stakeholders registered for the II
Workshop, of which 42.4% were from the public
sector, 26.3% from NGOs, 21.2% from academia,
5% from the private sector and 5% identified them-
selves as being from other categories (e.g. public-pri-
vate associations, independent stakeholders). How-
ever, only 75 registered participants accessed the
Google Classroom platform and just over half of
these contributed actively in all workshop activities
(i.e. validation of the plans structure and monitoring
A forum platform within Google Classroom was
used consistently by participants throughout the
week, primarily to comment on the videos provided,
express general opinions on the subject, address tech-
nical issues with the platform, and to interact with
organizers and other participants.
Regarding the satisfaction survey, 12.5% of re-
spondents reported they were not able to access all
materials posted to the platform and almost all com-
ments received about the event were positive. More
specifically, attendees were pleased with the format
of the event (n = 17); including the audiovisual ma-
terial and guidelines provided for activities (n = 11);
the flexibility of the program (n = 5); the equality
in treatment and opportunity for all participants to
present their opinions (n = 4); the fact that the event
was not cancelled (n = 4); and the objectivity and
agility in responses from the organizers (n = 2). Par-
ticipants were displeased that the group could not be
together in person for the event (n = 8), thus decreas-
ing the level of interactions including the opportu-
nity to discuss the activities and learn with peers (n
= 2). As suggestions, attendees indicated that more
group activities would be beneficial (n = 3); that fu-
ture events could also run over a week-long period
(n = 2) and could have a hybrid format (online and
in-person) (n = 2); that the discussion forums be-
come a continuous structure for sharing results (n =
2); and that the materials produced could be made
available for educational purposes (n = 2).
Elli et al.
▶ 123 ◀
4. Discussion
Integrated coastal management requires a broad and
holistic approach to the issues that affect the coastal
zone. Initiatives to combat marine litter have strug-
gled with fragmented governance in the source-to-
sea continuum (Granit et al., 2017). Working to-
wards surpassing this obstacle, the topic has been
increasingly internalized in policies in the state of
São Paulo regarding public planning, environmen-
tal conservation, and citizen education. For example,
the São Paulo State Coastal Zone Management Plan
(PEGC) includes a Coastal Ecological Economic
Zoning (ZEEC) instrument, which is responsible
for monitoring and information systems and inte-
grating sectors and institutions in search of solutions
for coastal issues including marine litter (PEMALM,
2021). Moreover, the São Paulo State Solid Waste
Management Plan describes intended actions to de-
velop a São Paulo State Marine Litter Combat Plan,
which should be aligned with eventual municipal sol-
id waste management plans, municipal marine litter
combat plans, the São Paulo State Sanitation Policy,
the São Paulo State Water Resources Policy, includ-
ing Watershed Plans, the PEGC, municipal master
plans, among others (SIMA, 2020). As preconized in
PEMALM, it is essential that the tendency for sec-
torizing policies be interrupted and that we recognize
the co-responsibility of institutions and policies to
face the problems at hand (PEMALM, 2021).
Within this context, and recognizing the value of
a participative construction process, maintaining the
level of quality required to develop PEMALM under
a setting that did not allow face-to-face interactions
was a sizable challenge. However, the current format
of in-person workshops, meetings and conferences
has been under scrutiny over recent years, though
with slow advances in terms of use of technology
to improve remote participation (Sarabipour et al.,
2020). e Covid-19 pandemic forced an accelera-
tion in finding alternatives, which can now be treated
as lessons-learned for future event formats and, spe-
cifically, participatory processes.
Conferences are important events for professional
growth, where new information is gained, new con-
tacts are made and a wide range of skills are honed
(Oester et al., 2017). However, while this much is
also true for participatory processes, the objective of
this type of interaction goes beyond that of a confer-
ence. ese processes are a fundamental step when
breaking the traditional top-down mode of govern-
ing and building public policies or programs (Newig
& Fritsch, 2009). ese interactions must be de-
signed so that attendees have room for knowledge
exchange and for realizing the importance of par-
ticipating in the co-construction process of policies
(Kim et al., 2018) and to be protagonists in changing
their local realities (Grilli et al., 2021), which brings
specific challenges. Workshops have been a pre-
ferred approach to discuss policy, as the face-to-face
interaction in a group sets a favorable scenario for
deliberation (Robert, 2004), especially when facilita-
tors provide a welcoming environment and equalize
power imbalances among participants (Grilli et al.,
2021). is poses the question: what is the impact
to a participatory process if traditional face-to-face
interactions are not possible?
In the present case study, we presented three strat-
egies to engage stakeholders in different gatherings
with the purpose of building a public policy for ma-
rine litter: first, congregating stakeholders in one lo-
cation for an intensive two-day workshop; second,
conducting a series of bilateral meetings in which the
organizers travelled to where the stakeholders were
based; and third, organizing an online workshop
held over the course of one week. Each event pro-
vided essential input that has been incorporated into
PEMALM, such as an understanding on the most
▶ 124 ◀
Revista Costas, Vol. 3 (1): 111-130. 2021
relevant impact pathways caused by marine litter in
São Paulo (PEMALM, 2020b), what values should
be reflected in the final document (PEMALM,
2020c), and which would be the suggested gener-
ation, exposure and effects indicators listed in the
plan (PEMALM, 2020d), in addition to the over-
all trust-building exercise they all represented. Based
on the feedback received from participants and the
results obtained from each interaction, we consider
all events successful regarding their proposed objec-
tives and in maintaining the desired level of qual-
ity. Regarding stakeholder participation, the results
show that the proportions of sectors present were
similar among all three events. Representatives from
the public sector had the highest participation in all
events, followed by NGOs and academia.
Having a diverse group collaborating towards solu-
tions for marine litter is essential. As stated by Vince
and Hardesty (2016), to reduce the global problem
of plastic pollution in the ocean, holistic and inte-
grated approaches must be implemented, combin-
ing scientific expertise, community participation
and market-based strategies. However, guaranteeing
stakeholder engagement is a challenge, especially
regarding the uncertainties in bridging community
inputs and management decisions (Dichmont et al.,
2016). ese were major concerns when having to
restructure the strategy designed for the development
of PEMALM. Moreover, the process of co-construc-
tion can be considered as important - if not more
important - than the outcome itself. Multisector
knowledge exchange in its many forms of interaction
(i.e. translation, transfer, exchange or co-production)
has been shown to promote social learning in coastal
management (Xavier et al., 2018) and is certainly a
key missing piece when trying to tackle marine litter.
e present study is, to the best of our knowledge,
the first to present and reflect upon the adaptations
and quality of a public policy participatory action re-
search process to an online format. Many participa-
tory processes have been interrupted and postponed
for long periods due to the pandemic, such as the
elaboration and/or revision of the integrated coast-
al management plans of the Orla Project in Brazil
(DOU, 2020), with yet unknown consequences.
Another public policy regarding marine litter that is
under development in Brazil is the Action Plan to
Combat Marine Litter in the State of Pernambuco.
is construction process is being held in an entirely
virtual format, with webinars transmitted in the of-
ficial YouTube channel of the Secretariat of Environ-
ment and Sustainability of Pernambuco, and support
from the TerraMar Project of the Brazilian Ministry
for the Environment and German Corporation for
International Cooperation GmbH (GIZ) (SEMAS,
While not equivalent, there are some parallels that
can be made regarding the pros and cons of adapt-
ing conferences. For example, Counsell et al. (2020)
discuss important advantages in holding an online
conference: reduced CO2 emissions, lower cost to
organizers and participants, reduced health risks,
increased accessibility (considering a variety of rea-
sons that can make travel unfeasible for attendees),
flexibility in conference program and, in the case
of recorded sessions, possibility to access talks and
presentations with auto-translation subtitles or tak-
ing pauses. In the present case study, which goes be-
yond promoting an online conference but turns to a
policy-making process, the main limitations of the
in-person events regarded the capacity of the venues
and exclusive dedication to the event needed for full-
time participation. ese limitations were greatly
overcome with the online workshop and a flexible
schedule. However, only about half of participants
registered in the II Workshop actively engaged in the
activities proposed. us, online participatory pro-
cess events must take into consideration the risk of
lower adhesion of attendees due to other demands
and distractions, particularly in a home-office set-
Elli et al.
▶ 125 ◀
ting, and that participation stems significantly from
personal interests.
Having to travel to attend the I Workshop was
a setback for some stakeholders, even with the op-
tion of a small stipend for expenses. e coastline
of the state of São Paulo extends over roughly 880
km (CETESB, 2018), making day trips to attend
a workshop unfeasible to many. is problem was
surpassed with the bilateral meetings and even more
so with the online event, for some groups. Here, we
can point out that participatory processes over large
territories or involving different countries can benefit
from including an online aspect to their engagement
strategies. However, vulnerable groups, such as tra-
ditional communities, and independent stakeholders
may have important limitations regarding access to
virtual resources, infrastructure for good quality par-
ticipation and familiarity with online tools. is was
a major constraint that could not be overcome when
adapting to virtual processes, in our case represented
by traditional fisheries interest groups.
Another important difference in organizing the
online workshop was the way stakeholders were in-
vited to participate. With several team members and
stakeholders changing to a home-office setting, it
was not possible to call key-stakeholders (since peo-
ple did not have access to their work telephones) to
guarantee that they received their invitation to the
II Workshop and to emphasize the importance of
their presence. While email is a generally accepted
form of professional communication, talking directly
over the telephone was considered more suited for
time-sensitive issues and allowed particular emphasis
over the message delivered.
Considering the PEMALM construction as an on-
going process, the online event was held at a mo-
ment when stakeholders were already aware and ac-
tive within the project. erefore, the level of success
of the II Workshop cannot be dissociated from the
previous in-person activities held. While none of the
events were conducted in a hybrid online/in-person
format, we can consider that the participatory pro-
cess as a whole was hybrid, which allowed exploring
different opportunities.
It is important to note that changing the planned
format of the event also represented an additional
and important effort for the organizers. Investigat-
ing which online platforms would suit our needs and
learning how to operate them was also time-consum-
ing, similar to what was experienced by Counsell et
al. (2020) for a conference. Despite the challenge,
it was paramount that we try to concentrate our
activities in only a few platforms to guarantee that
participants would not feel overwhelmed and be de-
motivated to participate. Moreover, “zoom fatigue”
(Wiederhold, 2020) was another concern, especial-
ly considering the multiple demands the network of
stakeholders were undoubtedly under.
All engagement strategies had their advantages and
disadvantages. However, as indicated by Counsell et
al. (2020), when adapting conferences to an online
format, it is important to retain the key components
such as talks, workshops, networking opportuni-
ties, and other social events. While all experiences
of participation in scientific conferences may not be
applicable to participative processes, it is important
to identify which main aspects are particularly valu-
able either in-person or online for better stakeholder
engagement. Some positive aspects that were com-
mon among all three strategies presented here were
investments in communication before, during and
after each interaction, activities designed to attend
the objectives proposed for each event (e.g. building
narratives to represent impact pathways of marine
litter in different compartments, clustering inputs
into similar categories to organize contributions, ed-
ucational videos illustrating examples of parameters
that should be monitored and assessed), and being
dedicated and attentive to the needs of attendees.
Even social events were adapted with the inclusion of
▶ 126 ◀
Revista Costas, Vol. 3 (1): 111-130. 2021
a musical activity during the closing webinar of the
online workshop.
Good practices on stakeholder engagement are
essential components of participatory processes and
crucial to the means of reaching effective and inclu-
sive decisions (Talley et al., 2016; GEF, 2018). is
is even more impactful in a period of intense change
and urgent calls for action, where collaboration is
most needed. Although challenging, the benefits of
investing in multiple modes of interaction and en-
couraging an active network far outweighs the time
and financial costs associated with re-adapting the
scenario to ensure stakeholder participation.
e Covid-19 pandemic compromised the previ-
ously planned activities for the development of the
PEMALM participative processes, but it did not
prevent them from happening. e redesign of col-
laborative and engagement approaches presented
and reflected here illustrates the potential of a virtual
platform as a tool for the co-construction of public
policies. Hybrid strategies, be them a single work-
shop allowing in-person and online participation or a
series of sequential interactions that begin in-person
and transition to a virtual format, seem to balance
the benefits of both methods and can be a way for-
ward in broadening participation in this type of pro-
cess, without compromising its quality. We expect
these formats will become increasingly more popular
and accessible, bringing new challenges and opportu-
nities to policy making.
5. Conclusion
PEMALM is the first document of its kind in Brazil
and it is at the forefront of new approaches for the
development of public policies built in a participato-
ry way for the monitoring and assessment of marine
litter. In addition, the initiative has recruited, formed
and strengthened a network of stakeholders who pro-
duce information on the topic and represent a group
able to guarantee the sustainability of a monitoring
proposal. In a social isolation setting, adapting the
participative process, the stakeholder engagement
and the co-construction of a public policy for ma-
rine litter was a challenge that sprouted positive ac-
complishments and lessons learned. We incorporated
adaptations of methods and approaches to reorient
working conditions in order to meet common objec-
tives and promote the advancement of knowledge on
the marine litter pollution subject.
6. Acknowledgements
e São Paulo Strategic Plan for Monitoring and As-
sessment of Marine Litter results from a partnership
between the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (Funbio),
the UNESCO Chair on Ocean Sustainability, the
Institute of Advanced Studies (IEA) and the Ocean-
ographic Institute (IOUSP) of the University of São
Paulo, and the Secretariat for Infrastructure and the
Environment of the State of São Paulo (SIMA). is
project received funding from the Norwegian Em-
bassy through the Norwegian Development Pro-
gramme to Combat Marine Litter and Microplas-
tics (Project No. BRA-18/0034). We also thank the
Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e
Tecnológico (CNPQ) for the scholarship grant to AT
Elli et al.
▶ 127 ◀
(Proc. 310553/2019-9); the Marine Litter Working
Group; Projeto GerminAção for their work in au-
diovisual production for the project; and especially
to the network of stakeholders that participated in
this process.
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In this research, we explored a practical case of policy design workshop in South Korea to gain empirical findings and insights for future policy design workshop. We found that design can engage young adults in the policy workshop process, which in turn can lead them to feel a sense of self-efficacy and social responsibility in policy participation. We also found there remains limitations in the deliberative process, motivation for sustainable participation and shared vision setting. These limitations, on the other hand, indicate under-explored areas of which design has not yet been considered. We discussed unique features of policy context that presented grounds for limitations, and proposed design criteria and opportunities in designing policy workshops.
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A major activity in the life of an academic is the professional conference. It is common knowledge that this is a place to present your research, but what about other benefits of attending a conference? Online surveys were distributed to delegates of the 3rd and 4th International Marine Conservation Congresses (IMCCs), with respondents' (n = 100) feedback including that the congresses provided useful new information that will aid: (1) their research (58%); (2) in-the-field conservation (29%); (3) conservation communication (46%); and (4) conservation and management policy making (45%). They also reported gaining new techniques (56%), skills (64%), and novel ideas (70%) to further their research/careers. Nearly all (91%) gained new contacts that improved their research, in-the-field conservation, science communication, and/or conservation policy making. Two thirds (64%) gained ideas, contacts, and/or lessons could lead to publications. Over a third (39%) gained new ideas, contacts and/or lessons that led to grant proposals, and 36% gained contacts that led to funding. A conference is not just an avenue for a scientist to present their research to the wider community, but it can be an important venue for brainstorming, networking and making vital connections that can lead to new initiatives, papers and funding, in a way that virtual, online meetings cannot. This is why conferences matter.
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Plastics in the marine environment have become a major concern because of their persistence at sea, and adverse consequences to marine life and potentially human health. Implementing mitigation strategies requires an understanding and quantification of marine plastic sources, taking spatial and temporal variability into account. Here we present a global model of plastic inputs from rivers into oceans based on waste management, population density and hydrological information. Our model is calibrated against measurements available in the literature. We estimate that between 1.15 and 2.41 million tonnes of plastic waste currently enters the ocean every year from rivers, with over 74% of emissions occurring between May and October. The top 20 polluting rivers, mostly located in Asia, account for 67% of the global total. The findings of this study provide baseline data for ocean plastic mass balance exercises, and assist in prioritizing future plastic debris monitoring and mitigation strategies.
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Current approaches to environmental protection and development on land, along rivers and coastal zones, and in marine environments are struggling to effectively promote sustainability. This is partly due to limited understanding of how ecosystems are linked, and partly due to fragmented governance and management arrangements in the continuum from source to sea that hinders cooperation and strategic overview across connected systems. Meanwhile, the key flows that link ecosystems are being altered by climate change and by an intensification of human activities, which are also expanding offshore where management regimes are typically weak or non-existent. This paper presents a conceptual framework to guide the design of future initiatives aimed at supporting green and blue growth in source-to-sea systems. It includes a taxonomy of key flows, elements to guide analysis and planning and a common framework for elaborating a theory of change. Assembling a governance baseline and engaging stakeholders are critical elements in the approach. The conceptual framework builds on recent experiences of pro-sustainability action in source-to-sea systems around the world, and the paper applies the theory of change framework to selected case studies in order to develop further insights.
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We distill complex frameworks for stakeholder engagement into five main principles that scientists and natural resource managers can use in planning stakeholder engagement efforts. Many natural resource management professionals, including practitioners and scholars, increasingly recognize the need for, and potential benefits of, engaging stakeholders in complex decision-making processes, yet the implementation of these efforts varies wildly, reflecting great methodological and conceptual diversity. Given the dynamic and diverse natural resource management contexts in which engagement occurs and the often significant stakes involved in making decisions about natural resources, we argue that stakeholder engagement would benefit from a theoretical framework that is both agile and robust. To this end, five essential elements of stakeholder engagement are evaluated and organized to form the Five-Feature Framework, thereby providing a functional and approachable platform with which to consider engagement processes. Aside from introducing and developing the Five-Feature Framework, we apply the framework as a measure to evaluate the empirical case study literature involving stakeholder engagement in natural resource management in an effort to better understand the obstacles facing robust and genuine engagement in natural resource management. Our results suggest that the most basic principles of engagement are often absent from stakeholder engagement projects, which confirms the need for a functional framework. The Five-Feature Framework can be used to plan flexible, adaptable, and rigorous engagement projects in a variety of contexts and with teams that have varying backgrounds and experience. By virtue of its simplicity and functionality, the framework demystifies stakeholder engagement in order to help natural resource professionals build opportunities for collaborative decision-making and integrate citizen values and knowledge into complex management issues.
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Plastic pollution in the marine and coastal environment is a challenging restoration and governance issue. Similar to many environmental problems, marine plastic pollution is transboundary and therefore the governance solutions are complex. Although the marine environment is unlikely to return to the condition it was in before the "plastic era," it is an example of an environmental restoration challenge where successful governance and environmental stewardship would likely result in a healthier global oceanic ecosystem. We argue that a holistic, integrated approach that utilizes scientific expertise, community participation, and market-based strategies is needed to significantly reduce the global plastic pollution problem.
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Stakeholder engagement is important for successful management of natural resources, both to make effective decisions and to obtain support. However, in the context of coastal management, questions remain unanswered on how to effectively link decisions made at the catchment level with objectives for marine biodiversity and fisheries productivity. Moreover, there is much uncertainty on how to best elicit community input in a rigorous manner that supports management decisions. A decision support process is described that uses the adaptive management loop as its basis to elicit management objectives, priorities and management options using two case studies in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. The approach described is then generalised for international interest. A hierarchical engagement model of local stakeholders, regional and senior managers is used. The result is a semi-quantitative generic elicitation framework that ultimately provides a prioritised list of management options in the context of clearly articulated management objectives that has widespread application for coastal communities worldwide.
The interconnectedness of ecosystems and the integration of policy and society are relevant aspects of integrated management grounded in knowledge exchange practices. Such processes may also promote social learning, the joint and collaborative knowledge to tackle environmental problems. Thus, understanding knowledge exchange is an additional strategy to promote and understand social learning. This article analyzed a knowledge exchange process related to the elaboration of a proposal for the spatial delimitation of a marine protected area in Brazil, a developing country. By combining process observation and geographical information system tools, proposed areas and criteria for delimitation elaborated by different groups of stakeholders (non-scientists and scientists), separately and in an integrated discussion, were compared and used to test the hypotheses that integration under a knowledge exchange process can bring substantive changes in the outcomes of a management process, and that knowledge exchange processes can promote social learning. Results showed that the integration of different knowledge led to results that none of the groups reached in separate discussions, such as the identification of new areas, delimitation of an area of influence and new criteria for delimitation. Changes in knowledge, the framing and reframing of the processes, understating system complexity and social context were observed, which indicates that knowledge exchange promoted social learning. Additionally, the criteria used to support the delimitation proposals in the studied area can be applied to other marine protected areas in other contexts, and the methods used to guide the discussion can be adapted to other issues.