Harnessing the collective intelligence of stakeholders for conservation


Paper by Steven Gray et al: ” Incorporating relevant stakeholder input into conservation decision making is fundamentally challenging yet critical for understanding both the status of, and human pressures on, natural resources. Collective intelligence (CI ), defined as the ability of a group to accomplish difficult tasks more effectively than individuals, is a growing area of investigation, with implications for improving ecological decision making. However, many questions remain about the ways in which emerging internet technologies can be used to apply CI to natural resource management. We examined how synchronous social‐swarming technologies and asynchronous “wisdom of crowds” techniques can be used as potential conservation tools for estimating the status of natural resources exploited by humans.

Using an example from a recreational fishery, we show that the CI of a group of anglers can be harnessed through cyber‐enabled technologies. We demonstrate how such approaches – as compared against empirical data – could provide surprisingly accurate estimates that align with formal scientific estimates. Finally, we offer a practical approach for using resource stakeholders to assist in managing ecosystems, especially in data‐poor situations….(More)”.

Are Citizens’ Assemblies the Answer to the Climate Crisis?


Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe: “Mathilde Bouyé associate at the Climate Program Of The World Resources Institute: “…the impact of citizens’ deliberation depends on the link to decisionmaking, which varies with each country’s democratic culture. The UK climate assembly informed powerful parliamentary committees, while the French government created a precedent by committing to send the Citizens’ Convention on Climate’s proposals for adoption “without any filter….”

Jan Eichhorn,  Research Director Of D|Part and Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at The University Of Edinburgh: “The climate crisis is so complex that no single action can be the answer to it. However, because of the complexity, formats that can connect otherwise distant actors meaningfully can play a very helpful role. Citizens’ assemblies fit that bill.

If well designed, such assemblies connect expertise with life realities, broaden the horizon of policymakers on what publics may be willing or even excited to consider, and enable publics to learn about options they did not know about. Rather than stoking divisions between people and businesses or between activists and state officials, they can foster common ground and create shared purpose, which is needed to combat comprehensive challenges like the climate crisis….”

Tim Hughes, Director of Involve: “…they are only one way in which people can be—and need to be—involved in decisionmaking. Underpinning citizens’ assemblies are the principles of participation—people being involved in the decisions that affect their lives—and deliberation—people sharing and testing ideas through inclusive and respectful conversations.

It is these principles that we need to build into decisionmaking at all levels of society in order to develop the ideas, energy, and ownership to answer the crisis.”

Mariann Őry,  Head Of The Foreign Desk And Senior Editor At Magyar Hírlap: “Citizens’ initiatives have proven to be effective in reaching a number of goals, but the pressure they can put on stakeholders is not always enough.

It’s not even the most reliable political force: remember that the enthusiasm and momentum of the climate protests has basically vanished since the start of the coronavirus crisis, as if people simply lost interest—though this is surely not the case. A difference can be made on the level of political leaders and, very importantly, on the level of the biggest actors of industry….(More)”.

Saving Our Oceans: Scaling the Impact of Robust Action Through Crowdsourcing


Paper by Amanda J. Porter, Philipp Tuertscher, and Marleen Huysman: “One approach for tackling grand challenges that is gaining traction in recent management literature is robust action: by allowing diverse stakeholders to engage with novel ideas, initiatives can cultivate successful ideas that yield greater impact. However, a potential pitfall of robust action is the length of time it takes to generate momentum. Crowdsourcing, we argue, is a valuable tool that can scale the generation of impact from robust action.

We studied an award‐winning environmental sustainability crowdsourcing initiative and found that robust action principles were indeed successful in attracting a diverse stakeholder network to generate novel ideas and develop these into sustainable solutions. Yet we also observed that the momentum and novelty generated was at risk of getting lost as the actors and their roles changed frequently throughout the process. We show the vital importance of robust action principles for connecting ideas and actors across crowdsourcing phases. These observations allow us to make a contribution to extant theory by explaining the micro‐dynamics of scaling robust action’s impact over time…(More)”.

Social tipping dynamics for stabilizing Earth’s climate by 2050


Paper by Ilona M. Otto et al: “…In this paper, we examine a number of potential “social tipping elements” (STEs) for decarbonization that represent specific subdomains of the planetary social-economic system. Tipping of these subsystems could be triggered by “social tipping interventions” (STIs) that could contribute to rapid transition of the world system into a state of net zero anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The results reported in this study are based on an online expert survey, an expert workshop, and an extensive literature review (SI Appendix).

Our results complement the existing shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs) that are used alongside the representative concentration pathways (RCPs) to analyze the feedbacks between climate change and socioeconomic factors, such as world population growth, economic development, and technological progress. Our results could be useful for exploring possible transformative pathways leading to scenarios that reach net zero emissions by 2050.

…Various types of tipping processes can be differentiated in the literature. Many authors refer to critical thresholds , a notion closely related to the metaphor of a “butterfly effect”. Other processes related to tipping dynamics include metamorphosis, where a rapid loss of structures of one sort occurs simultaneously with the development of new structures, as well as cascades driven by positive feedbacks in processes occurring simultaneously at smaller scales.

The social tipping dynamics of interest for this study are typically manifested as spreading processes in complex social networks of behaviors, opinions, knowledge, technologies, and social norms, including spreading processes of structural change and reorganization. These spreading processes resemble contagious dynamics observed in epidemiology that spread through social networks. Once triggered, such processes can be irreversible and difficult to stop. Similar contagious dynamics have been observed in human behavior, for example in assaultive violence, participation in social movements, or health-related behaviors and traits, such as smoking or obesity..(More)”.

France asks its citizens how to meet its climate-change targets


The Economist on “An experiment in consultative democracy”: “A nurse, a roofer, an electrician, a former fireman, a lycée pupil, a photographer, a teacher, a marketing manager, an entrepreneur and a civil servant. Sitting on red velvet benches in a domed art-deco amphitheatre in Paris, they and 140 colleagues are part of an unusual democratic experiment in a famously centralised country. Their mission: to draw up measures to reduce French greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, in line with an eu target that is otherwise in danger of being missed (and which the European Commission now wants to tighten). Six months ago, none of them had met. Now, they have just one month left to show that they can reinvent the French democratic process—and help save the planet. “It’s our moment,” Sylvain, one of the delegates, tells his colleagues from the podium. “We have the chance to propose something historic.”

On March 6th the “citizens’ climate convention” was due to begin its penultimate three-day sitting, the sixth since it began work last October. The convention is made up of a representative sample of the French population, selected by randomly generated telephone numbers. President Emmanuel Macron devised it in an attempt to calm the country after the gilets jaunes (yellow jackets) crisis of 2018. In response to the demand for less top-down decision-making, he first launched what he grandly called a “great national debate”, which took place a year ago. He also pledged the creation of a citizens’ assembly. It is designed to focus on precisely the conundrum that provoked the original protests against a rise in the carbon tax on motor fuel: how to make green policy palatable, efficient and fair.Already signed up?…(More)”.

Wisdom of stakeholder crowds in complex social–ecological systems


Paper by Payam Aminpour et al: “Sustainable management of natural resources requires adequate scientific knowledge about complex relationships between human and natural systems. Such understanding is difficult to achieve in many contexts due to data scarcity and knowledge limitations.

We explore the potential of harnessing the collective intelligence of resource stakeholders to overcome this challenge. Using a fisheries example, we show that by aggregating the system knowledge held by stakeholders through graphical mental models, a crowd of diverse resource users produces a system model of social–ecological relationships that is comparable to the best scientific understanding.

We show that the averaged model from a crowd of diverse resource users outperforms those of more homogeneous groups. Importantly, however, we find that the averaged model from a larger sample of individuals can perform worse than one constructed from a smaller sample. However, when averaging mental models within stakeholder-specific subgroups and subsequently aggregating across subgroup models, the effect is reversed. Our work identifies an inexpensive, yet robust way to develop scientific understanding of complex social–ecological systems by leveraging the collective wisdom of non-scientist stakeholders…(More)”.

Twitter might have a better read on floods than NOAA


Interview by By Justine Calma: “Frustrated tweets led scientists to believe that tidal floods along the East Coast and Gulf Coast of the US are more annoying than official tide gauges suggest. Half a million geotagged tweets showed researchers that people were talking about disruptively high waters even when government gauges hadn’t recorded tide levels high enough to be considered a flood.

Capturing these reactions on social media can help authorities better understand and address the more subtle, insidious ways that climate change is playing out in peoples’ daily lives. Coastal flooding is becoming a bigger problem as sea levels rise, but a study published recently in the journal Nature Communications suggests that officials aren’t doing a great job of recording that.

The Verge spoke with Frances Moore, lead author of the new study and a professor at the University of California, Davis. This isn’t the first time that she’s turned to Twitter for her climate research. Her previous research also found that people tend to stop reacting to unusual weather after dealing with it for a while — sometimes in as little as two years. Similar data from Twitter has been used to study how people coped with earthquakes and hurricanes…(More)”.

Are these the 20 top multi-stakeholder processes in 2020 to advance a digital ecosystem for the planet?


Paper by David Jensen, Karen Bakker and Christopher Reimer: “As outlined in our recent article, The promise and peril of a digital ecosystem for the planet, we propose that the ongoing digital revolution needs to be harnessed to drive a transformation towards global sustainability, environmental stewardship, and human well-being. Public, private and civil society actors must take deliberate action and collaborate to build a global digital ecosystem for the planet. A digital ecosystem that mobilizes hardware, software and digital infrastructures together with data analytics to generate dynamic, real-time insights that can power various structural transformations are needed to achieve collective sustainability.

The digital revolution must also be used to abolish extreme poverty and reduce inequalities that jeopardize social cohesion and stability. Often, these social inequalities are tied to and overlap with ecological challenges. Ultimately, then, we must do nothing less than direct the digital revolution for planet, people, prosperity and peace.

To achieve this goal, we must embed the vision of a fair digital ecosystem for the planet into all of the key multi-stakeholder processes that are currently unfolding. We aim to do this through two new articles on Medium: a companion article on Building a digital ecosystem for the planet: 20 substantive priorities for 2020, and this one. In the companion article, we identify three primary engagement tracks: system architecture, applications, and governance. Within these three tracks, we outline 20 priorities for the new decade. Building from these priorities, our focus for this article is to identify a preliminary list of the top 20 most important multi-stakeholder processes that we must engage and influence in 2020….(More).

The wisdom of crowds: What smart cities can learn from a dead ox and live fish


Portland State University: “In 1906, Francis Galton was at a country fair where attendees had the opportunity to guess the weight of a dead ox. Galton took the guesses of 787 fair-goers and found that the average guess was only one pound off of the correct weight — even when individual guesses were off base.

This concept, known as “the wisdom of crowds” or “collective intelligence,” has been applied to many situations over the past century, from people estimating the number of jellybeans in a jar to predicting the winners of major sporting events — often with high rates of success. Whatever the problem, the average answer of the crowd seems to be an accurate solution.

But does this also apply to knowledge about systems, such as ecosystems, health care, or cities? Do we always need in-depth scientific inquiries to describe and manage them — or could we leverage crowds?

This question has fascinated Antonie J. Jetter, associate professor of Engineering and Technology Management for many years. Now, there’s an answer. A recent study, which was co-authored by Jetter and published in Nature Sustainability, shows that diverse crowds of local natural resource stakeholders can collectively produce complex environmental models very similar to those of trained experts.

For this study, about 250 anglers, water guards and board members of German fishing clubs were asked to draw connections showing how ecological relationships influence the pike stock from the perspective of the anglers and how factors like nutrients and fishing pressures help determine the number of pike in a freshwater lake ecosystem. The individuals’ drawings — or their so-called mental models — were then mathematically combined into a collective model representing their averaged understanding of the ecosystem and compared with the best scientific knowledge on the same subject.

The result is astonishing. If you combine the ideas from many individual anglers by averaging their mental models, the final outcomes correspond more or less exactly to the scientific knowledge of pike ecology — local knowledge of stakeholders produces results that are in no way inferior to lengthy and expensive scientific studies….(More)”.

Global Fishing Watch: Pooling Data and Expertise to Combat Illegal Fishing


Data Collaborative Case Study by Michelle Winowatan, Andrew Young, and Stefaan Verhulst: “

Global Fishing Watch, originally set up through a collaboration between Oceana, SkyTruth and Google, is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing responsible stewardship of our oceans through increased transparency in fishing activity and scientific research. Using big data processing and machine learning, Global Fishing Watch visualizes, tracks, and shares data about global fishing activity in near-real time and for free via their public map. To date, the platform tracks approximately 65,000 commercial fishing vessels globally. These insights have been used in a number of academic publications, ocean advocacy efforts, and law enforcement activities.

Data Collaborative Model: Based on the typology of data collaborative practice areas, Global Fishing Watch is an example of the data pooling model of data collaboration, specifically a public data pool. Public data pools co-mingle data assets from multiple data holders — including governments and companies — and make those shared assets available on the web. This approach enabled the data stewards and stakeholders involved in Global Fishing Watch to bring together multiple data streams from both public- and private-sector entities in a single location. This single point of access provides the public and relevant authorities with user-friendly access to actionable, previously fragmented data that can drive efforts to address compliance in fisheries and illegal fishing around the world.

Data Stewardship Approach: Global Fishing Watch also provides a clear illustration of the importance of data stewards. For instance, representatives from Google Earth Outreach, one of the data holders, played an important stewardship role in seeking to connect and coordinate with SkyTruth and Oceana, two important nonprofit environmental actors who were working separately prior to this initiative. The brokering of this partnership helped to bring relevant data assets from the public and private sectors to bear in support of institutional efforts to address the stubborn challenge of illegal fishing.

Read the full case study here.”