Working together: collaborative decision making for sustainable Integrated Coastal Management (ICM)


Community involvement and genuine engagement with citizens is an important, integral element of the Systems Approach Framework (SAF). The SAF provides a structure for an Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) process using a multidisciplinary approach that integrates environmental, social and economic viability and well-being. An assessment of the SAF and its application with respect to citizen engagement and participation uncovered two main issues: (i) the implications of engaging stakeholders have not been fully understood and are still not an integral part of the SAF ICM process; and (ii) the need to include validation. This article sets out to address these issues. It explores the paradigm shift in government-citizen interaction that moves from a management “outputs”-based approach to a more collaborative partnership approach focused on “outcomes”. This shift necessitates a more robust public participation framework that is timely, iterative and genuinely inclusive. Without community and stakeholder “buy-in” it is difficult to achieve the behavioural change necessary to achieve sustainability. Engagement considerations should be addressed from the outset and throughout the process to the “Implementation” and “Monitoring and Evaluation” steps. Furthermore, this paper identifies the need to move beyond these steps to include validation in the SAF, especially when dealing with highly complex issues. In this way, citizens take ownership of the issue(s), participate in identifying solutions and strive to maintain sustainable development. This paper provides the necessary input to how the SAF can integrate credible public participation for outcomes that are more successful and lead to greater sustainability and improved social capital.

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This work was partly funded by the BONUS BALTCOAST project. BONUS BALTCOAST has received funding from BONUS (Art 185) funded jointly from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration, and from the Baltic Sea national funding institutions, InnovationsFonden, Denmark and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany (BMBF 03F0717A).

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Correspondence to Christina Gillgren.

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Gillgren, C., Støttrup, J.G., Schumacher, J. et al. Working together: collaborative decision making for sustainable Integrated Coastal Management (ICM). J Coast Conserv 23, 959–968 (2019).

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  • Systems Approach Framework (SAF)
  • Science-policy integration
  • Public participation
  • Stakeholder interactions
  • Collaborative decision-making
  • Validation