A systems approach to the evaluation of natural resource management initiatives

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Academic Press

Adopting a new paradigm for natural resource and environmental policy that emphasizes continuous change, adaptation and learning demands a new approach to evaluation to enable improvements in the way these initiatives contribute to sustainable resource use. Evaluation is fundamental to identifying change, supporting an adaptive approach that is flexible enough to meet the challenge of change, and enabling learning at individual, community, institutional and policy levels. Based on a consideration of changing approaches to natural resource management (NRM) policy and observations and experiences in the practical assessment of on-the-ground initiatives, the authors develop a set of principles for evaluation in NRM that: (a) addresses evaluation from a systems perspective, (b) links objective to consequence, (c) considers the fundamental assumptions and hypotheses that underpin core policy or program objectives, (d) is grounded in the natural resource, policy/institutional, economic, socio-cultural and technological contexts of implementation in practice, (e) establishes practical and valid evaluation criteria by which change can be monitored and assessed, (f) involves methodological pluralism including both quantitative and qualitative methods to ensure rigour and comprehensiveness in assessment, and (g) integrates different disciplinary perspectives (i.e. social, economic, environmental, policy and technological). The paper develops a systems-based evaluation framework that incorporates these principles and also recognises the multiple levels and nested nature of NRM policy, namely: problem characterisation, policy formulation and intent, program logic, and on-ground implementation. Finally, we demonstrate its utility through application to three contrasting Australian case studies: a community-based Integrated Catchment Management policy implementation; a resource information delivery system; and the development of a Decision Support System. ©2001 Academic Press

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Natural resource management, Systems approach, Environmental policy, Community-based management policy, Ecosystem Governance
Journal of Environmental Management 63(4): 407-423