Collaboration as a Tool for Creating Sustainable Natural Resource Based Economies in Rural Areas
Collaborative environmental planning differs from traditional problem solving methods in several critical ways. It goes beyond economics and science, incorporating values and norms. Collaborative planning views problems not as belonging to a single discipline, but rather in a holistic, multi-disciplinary manner. In addition, collaborative approaches focus on the process of problem solving, which means involving all stakeholders--in an effort to produce better solutions.
The collaborative process ensures that all interested parties (stakeholders) have a voice in shaping solutions. This necessitates incorporating various competing interests from the beginning, thus framing problems in a different manner. Allowing stakeholders to participate and contribute their perspectives means that problems are defined differently than if one or two "experts" look at the same situation. It means that solutions are not necessarily defined by the "experts", or agencies, but within and from the community. Currently, we see this practice manifest in many community initiatives and it seems to be spreading. State and federal agencies are participating in collaborative partnerships as well, and the idea of collaborative planning is infusing into the mainstream of policy and planning.
One area of particular interest with regards to collaborative environmental planning is rural resource-based economies. Many of these locales have many inherent features, such as strong ties to the land, that can create a successful platform from which to launch collaborative efforts. Many such communities suffer from resource depletion, loss of economic base, environmental degradation and a host of other resource issues, and face a rather unique situation. These communities depend on the environment in a way urban areas do not. For rural resource-based economies, the environment provides their livelihood and they must change the way that they interact with that environment. These areas must view environmental protection and economic development as one in the same, rather than as two irreconcilable goals. Collaborative environmental planning is using resources which exist within rural communities to create a new problem-solving framework in an effort to create self-sufficiency and positive change.
This paper begins with an introduction to the history and theoretical components of collaborative environmental planning in Chapter Two, and then defines the concept by operationalizing several elements of the model in the subsequent chapter. Chapter Four examines rural communities, specifically the issues many currently face, and how collaborative environmental planning is assisting in the revitalization of faltering resource-based economies. Chapter Five provides an in-depth look at three rural collaborative environmental planning efforts, and the uncertainties and accomplishments of each. The final chapter provides lessons that can be applied to collaborative environmental planning and sustainable rural development.
- Masters Theses