Structuring international development decisions: confronting trade-offs between land use and community development in Costa Rica
For more than half a century, research and practice in international development has focused on improving the quality of life of people living in developing regions of the world. Recently, researchers, practitioners, and policy makers have recognized the need to blend insights from experts and community stakeholders in development decisions. Research in the decision sciences tells us that these kinds of multiparty and multiattribute decisions are extremely challenging. However, recent experience using structured decision-making (SDM) approaches suggests that the quality of both expert and stakeholder input, and resulting decisions, can be improved by ensuring that people address a series of basic principles relating to identifying objectives and their associated attributes, estimating the consequences of proposed actions, and directly confronting trade-offs that arise during the evaluation of management alternatives. In this paper, we provide an overview of SDM and then discuss a research initiative aimed at applying the approach to a pressing international development problem in rural Costa Rica: management of the lucrative but also environmentally destructive pineapple industry. The objectives of this research were twofold: First, we sought to help inform policy decisions by eliciting land management preferences regarding the pineapple industry from people living in communities surrounding plantations. Second, we evaluated the effectiveness of the SDM approach in a developing community context.