System Output

(Manage) Deliberation

Introduction to conducting deliberations
Deliberation refers to a specific approach to science, society and policy engagement: a process in which individuals and organisation are open to scrutinising and changing their preferences in light of persuasion (but not manipulation, deception or coercion) from other participants. Deliberation therefore refers to an open process of discussion or exchange of knowledge and ideas. From this perspective, there are a number of opportunities for deliberative processes within the Output Step and these include for example, exploring different mixes of policy measures, exploring technical alternatives and scenario results, particularly the costs and long term benefits and trade-offs of different scenarios. Earlier opportunities for deliberation within the System Approach Framework process have included identifying the policy issue and the feasible options or scenarios during the initial step of the SAF (Issue Identification). 

The following paragraphs provide basic introductory guidelines on science and policy deliberation specific to the Output Step and organising and facilitating a deliberative forum.  The forum refers to some vehicle (e.g. open meeting, hearing, workshop or online space) for enabling a conversation between scientists, policy-makers and the stakeholders of our reference group.

Deliberation is clearly one form of science-society and science-policy engagement and other forms can be pursued depending on the availability of resources and the baseline of existing interactions with stakeholders within the System Approach Framework process. Engagement can take the form of ‘education’ which would relate to the reference group becoming informed of results.  ‘Consultation’ would refer to a process through which the users seek feedback from stakeholders but do not engage in discussion and exchange of ideas. Often computer based aids are used by convenors and facilitators of such consultations. Such Decision Support Tools or Decision Support Systems refer to a wide range of computer-based tools (simulation models, and/or techniques and methods) developed to support decision analysis and participatory processes. A Decision Support System consists of a database, different coupled resource-dynamics and socio-economic models and is provided with a dedicated interface in order to be directly and more easily accessible by non-specialists (e.g. policy and decision makers). Decision Support Systems have specific simulation and prediction capabilities but are also used as a vehicle of communication, training and experimentation. Principally, Decision Support Systems can facilitate dialogue and exchange of information thus providing comprehensive insights to non-experts and support them in the exploration of policy options.

Research focusing on the science and policy integration process stresses that deliberation is the most effective form of science and policy integration to increase social learning and to achieve more useful and innovative approaches to environmental management. When conducting a deliberation process involving the ‘real world’ within the Output Step, it can be worthwhile to build plans for action as much as possible from the following points:

Prepare a deliberation forum

Instructions for preparation of deliberation forum
Although formalized deliberation with a designated ‘Deliberation Support Tool’ (e.g. the KerCoast Deliberation Support Tool) will be introduced here, not all science policy consultations in Coastal Zones will be carried out with a specially tailored deliberation forum and with the help of such tools. In some cases an ICZM initiative already exists within an area, such as an established community forum, a coastal zone council or a small council of ‘experts’ with established rules for deliberations and decision-making.
Nor is it necessary to employ the most advanced deliberation tools in all settings, in many cases a structured discussion with a facilitator and a blackboard/pen and paper (possibly using the frame of the KerBabelTM Deliberation Matrix) can do the job. In other cases computer-based deliberation software can be helpful. In yet other cases the coastal policy-making process can be part of a larger ‘Deliberation Support System’ in a municipality or a province – or be nested in a comprehensive sector cross-cutting E-governance structure. In the case of policy issues with a spatial character, a GIS-based Decision Support System can be advantageous because of the visualization power in these tools.

Therefore these generic instructions for science-policy consultations do not only pertain to the use of a formal deliberation tool, but to all consultation arenas where some form of deliberation takes place.
Also it should be noted that these instructions should be used both for situations where the scientific input is formalized in a comprehensive systems model with social-ecological components - and in situations where the scientific input is more fragmented and in the form of separate reports addressing different sectors in the ICZM Science/Policy theatre. It should also be noted that in all variants of Science–Policy interaction, the existing ‘real world’ institutional and governance structures will be a heavy factor that will always be present, constrain and condition the efforts to constitute an ideal or de-coupled deliberation forum. Both facilitators and reference group will therefore be obliged to find good, working compromises between the ideal and free deliberation format and the practical solutions that can be implemented without too many obstacles and disappointments.

These are the steps to follow to prepare a deliberation forum
Step 1:
Revise the pre-consultation information that has been gathered for the initiation of the SAF application (Issue Identification and Design Step) about the history of the situation in the coastal zone, about the issues likely to be raised, and re-consider the information about relationships among the reference group that have been noticed throughout the process, and about the concepts and language used by different parties. Before beginning any interviews or focus groups communication, the facilitator should collect sufficient background information on the current (total) coastal context, as this might have changed since the upstart of the SAF. In some cases it may provide enough information by carrying out a desktop mapping exercise without the need for interviews or focus groups.
Step 2:
Use information from the prior steps to determine who could and who should participate in a deliberation forum. Use the ‘snowballing’ technique. It might be necessary that facilitators assure some stakeholders that participating in the interview of the Issue Identification phase in order to define the policy issue does not require them to participate in a subsequent collaborative process.
Step 3:
Consultation preparation: Based on the scenarios shown in the Stakeholder Forum, consider if a few dimensions seem more important than others and prepare an initial list of what the policy options for the deliberation forum will be. Ideally all policy options on which the scenarios were based should be classified in terms of their varying relevance and importance in relation to the tackled policy issue so that they upon request can be entered into the deliberation at a later stage.
Step 4:
Consultation preparation: For each policy option, define how the reference group members relate to each other and to the option. In the techniques developed in the Issue Identification lies the identification of the relationships between and among stakeholders, and stakeholder relationships to the policy issues. This mapping methodology is focussing on the big issues before zooming in on key issues. It is important to see this as the first step in a collaborative process to reach a collective decision (a policy) which can improve the situation in a particular coastal zone. To achieve this, it is important to choose a diverse range of knowledgeable stakeholders who together can muster the insights needed to give a complete picture of the complexity of the coastal context.
Watch out: this has already been the basis for the Stakeholder Forum. Ideally you are now continuing the process with the same or similar group of people.
From the list of stakeholders and policy makers, the facilitator can now choose a ‘short-list’ of reference group members (not too many) for the first-round of deliberation. As a minimum the forum should include representatives from: a) government agencies, b) private enterprise and c) public-interest groups. Before the deliberation starts it is necessary to check the list of stakeholders for comprehensiveness and to validate it against the real world situation.
Step 5:
Consultation preparation: Prepare crucial questions for the opening stages of the deliberation forum – either as interviews or as focus groups. Prepare both ‘primary questions’ – open ended opening questions – and “secondary questions” that can draw out more details from a complex theme. Decide the time, date, location and estimated duration of the deliberation process and – if possible – prepare a list of questions to be raised, or at least a list of themes to be covered.
Step 6:
Invitation to deliberation forum: The convenor must invite participants by explaining again the purpose SAF approach, the selection of participants, this step of the process, that of the deliberation process between stakeholders over issues and scenarios, of the assessment process and how the information will be used afterwards. In the invitation; also introduce the facilitator, the convenor and the assessor and their background and mandate. The convenor and the assessor can be the same, but it is crucial that the person maintains neutrality and confidence with the stakeholders. The invitation should also promise confidentiality – and include an ‘informed consent form’. Finally the invitation should motivate the participants to keep on partaking in a collaborative process where everyone carries a responsibility for the collective result.
Step 7:
Prepare for the post-consultation analysis of findings beforehand: Be prepared to group the responses into typical categories (use both coding and triangulation). It is usually best to categorize according to the activities stakeholders are engaged in, or their sector; and to classify stakeholders according to their function, rather than their legal status. If possible, prepare to generate maps that can be used to present the information from the Stakeholder-Policy Mapping the different methods for preparing those maps are provided in Issue Identification and Design Step. In most cases, sufficient information is available in order to generate these maps before the deliberation starts. However, it is important to check during the deliberation forum that these maps are precise and comprehensive and that they really catch the diversity and range of ideas/interests/opinions represented among the stakeholders in total. It is important to keep this diversity and the variety of opinions for as long as possible into the deliberation process and thus make the variations in interests and in the positions understandable for the participants in the collaborative process of policy-making.

Content and procedure necessary for preparing deliberation using KerCOASTS Deliberation Support Tool
If you as facilitator choose to use the formal Deliberation Support Tool (software) for the consultations, you will need, in addition to the preparations carried out above, to prepare a number of additional steps. You will need to get familiar with the tool and run some ‘dry runs’ to master the details of how to use the tool in a social setting. Participating in an offered training session is strongly advised. It is also advised that the facilitators are familiar with the theoretical grounding for the deliberation matrix technology and that you can explain this to the participants in the deliberation forum. The basic idea is that of communicative rationality: sensible solutions can be reached when deliberation is free and when only the power of the arguments makes you change your opinion, not other power relationships. Describing this frame is probably necessary to gain acceptance among the reference group for using such a deliberation tool in a specific ICZM context.

Before inviting the reference group to participate in a deliberation supported by the KerCOASTS Deliberation Support Tool, you should carry out the following steps:

Step 1 Design a new debate
The facilitator has to decide a title of a new debate and to define the context of the Deliberation Matrix creation, i.e. whether it is a particular study site, whether it is a more general debate over coastal issues, whether it is a generic debate etc. For later reference and to give others access to the debate, the debate also has to be described within the toolbox. Finally the debate parameters have to be identified and defined beforehand.
Step 2 Choose the debate parameters
This needs a decision on whether the debate is participative or not and whether the debate shall be open or close. Most of the time, a deliberation will be kept open as long as it is not finished.
Step 3 Select the different axis
The Tool gives the deliberation forum the opportunity to debate along three axes: the first dimension, the second dimension and the third dimension. For each of these dimensions, one can choose between “Actor”, “Scenario” and “Issue” (called respectively stakeholder, regulatory option and sub-issue above). The most practical way to use the Tool is to assign one axis to actors, one to scenarios and one axis to issues, but you have to decide which names (and 8 letter acronyms) to use for each of these categories beforehand. In order to rename one of the axes, you can choose “other” and write the new name in the box.
Step 4 Choose colours corresponding to each vote
Choose e.g. from GREEN for Good/Agree to RED for Bad/Disagree. Change the heading of the answers if you decide that other responses are most appropriate.

These are sufficient preparations to build your Deliberation Matrix. After submitting, you can refine the presentation menu for the matrix to suit the composition of the deliberation forum. For the same debate it s possible to create many deliberation matrixes – and you have to think through which of these you will really need to include in a particular session.

Deliberate with Decision Support Tools or Systems

Overview of Decision Support Tools or Decision Support Systems
The terms Decision Support Tools or Decision Support Systems refer to a wide range of manual or computer-based tools (simulation models, and/or techniques and methods) developed to support participatory processes and decision analysis. A Decision Support System can consist of a database, different coupled eco-dynamic and socio-economic models and can be provided with a dedicated interface in order to be directly and more easily accessible by non-specialists (e.g. policy and decision makers). Many Decision Support Systems also have specific simulation and prediction capabilities, but are mainly seen as vehicles of communication, training and experimentation. Principally, a Decision Support System can facilitate dialogue and exchange of information, thus providing insights to non-experts and support for them in the exploration of policy options.

We commonly distinguish between the following categories of deliberation or decision support tools/systems:

Communication-driven Decision Support Systems
Communication-driven Decision Support Systems are support systems where more than one person is working on a decision making or policy making task that is shared with others. The communication can be conducted with manual aids, e.g. “Post-it® notes”, or different forms of more or less advanced computer based systems for registering, storing and aggregating individual opinions and changes in these opinions as the communication/deliberation process advances
It is important that the graphical features of a Decision Support System support the communication between stakeholders with different backgrounds. Therefore visual aids in Decision Support Systems also become more and more important when audiences are composed not only by policy makers but also by citizens. Communication capabilities that help in fostering public participation are particularly developed in Deliberation Support Tools. For instance Group Decision Support Systems that support collaborative decision making. 

Knowledge-driven Decision Support Systems
Knowledge-driven Decision Support Systems provide specialized problem solving expertise stored as facts, rules-in-use, practical procedures, or in similar structures. A multidisciplinary team involved in the analysis of a coastal problem/issue can use such praxis-based knowledge to establish a common language and think in a joint and structured way. Criteria, objectives and constraints about the problem thus become more explicit through the whole process of development and application of a Decision Support System.

Data-driven Decision Support Systems
Data-driven or data-oriented Decision Support Systems emphasize access to and manipulation of a database or time series of internal community or company data and, sometimes, external data. The practical application of a database management system for decisions to allow the organisation, to facilitate easy and ordered access to otherwise raw data and to facilitate: integration of different type of knowledge (e.g. local and expert knowledge), disciplines and perspectives in the development of effective and sustainable coastal policies.

Document-driven Decision Support Systems
Document-driven Decision Support Systems manage, retrieve and manipulate unstructured information in a variety of formats, both paper and electronic. They thus allow a wider source of “data” and can thus be more “robust” in many difficult policy decision processes. Specific techniques can be integrated in these kinds of Decision Support Systems to help in the selection of “What is best/ what is good enough?”. For instance multi-criteria analysis for the evaluation, benchmarking and ranking of different options identified in coastal development scenarios. Optimisation models integrated in Decision Support Systems can thus help to identify the best among multiple generated alternatives.

Model-driven Decision Support Systems
Model driven Decision Support Systems emphasize access to and manipulation of a statistical, financial, optimization, or simulation model. Model-driven Decision Support Systems use data and parameters provided by users to assist decision makers in analyzing a situation; they are not necessarily data intensive. Thus a model can itself be a Decision Support Tool, and if it is simple enough, it can be a tool that is also directly usable for stakeholders and rights-holders. When such model-driven Decision Support Systems contain optimization and simulation capabilities they can help in the analysis of possible trade-offs and conflict resolutions within a set of alternative options through the development of “What if…?” scenarios. It can thus be used to empower coastal citizen groups without them depending heavily on scientists.

Spatial-based (GIS) Decision Support Systems
The use of GIS in Spatial Decision Support Systems allows for the definition of place-specific ecosystem and socio-economic maps that help in the multi-criteria analysis of the problem at hand. GIS components helps both managers and stakeholders in the visualisation of location of measures and impacts, and it can uncover overlaps and border problems. It can also facilitate more exact problem assessment by providing important information for the allocation of coastal infrastructures.

E-governance type discussion support tools
Whilst e-Government has traditionally been understood as being centred around the delivery of government services to citizens through Information Communication Technologies (or ICTs) (Portals etc), e-Governance is understood to extend the scope by including citizen engagement and participation in governance. As such, following in line with the OECD definition of e-Government, e-Governance can be defined as the use of ICTs as a tool to achieve better governance. One goal of e-governance is greater citizen participation. Through the internet, people from all over the country can interact with politicians or public servants and make their voices heard. Blogging and interactive surveys will allow politicians or public servants to see the views of the people they represent on any given issue. Chat rooms can place citizens in real-time contact with elected officials, their offices or provide them with the means to replace them by interacting directly with public servants, allowing voters to have a direct impact and influence in their government. So far e-governance has thus mainly been used as a means to increase the element of “direct democracy” in connection with election campaigns. Its use as deliberation or discussion support tool has therefore been limited.

Deliberate in a KerBabelTM Deliberation Matrix framework
Coastal zone issues are characterised by complex science-policy problems. These coastal challenges of ‘(un)sustainability’ can be articulated, across their social, economic, environmental and institutional aspects, in a great variety of ways. This is the complex societal context in which we reflect on science and knowledge as a resource for new visions of sustainable coastal futures and collective pursuits of well-being. Choosing a deliberative approach, the aim is to involve stakeholders in demonstrating the nature of the problem and allow crafting new alternatives.

The KerBabelTM Deliberation Matrix is a methodological framework for including policy/stakeholders in the SAF – particularly in the initial phase of Issue Identification and in the final deliberation phases during the Output Step. The purpose of the Deliberation Matrix is to facilitate stakeholder involvement and deliberation processes by providing a multi-stakeholder multi-criteria deliberation framework.
The methodology behind it is grounded in theoretical and empirical developments on social choice theory. The basic idea is that of “communicative rationality”: sensible solutions can be reached when deliberation is free and when only the power of the arguments makes you change your opinion, not other power relationships.
In practice, the social choice problem is presented along three dimensions: stakeholder categories, sub-issues (to the main policy issue under discussion) and regulatory options in order to structure a sustainability problem in a deliberative perspective. These three dimensions can be represented using the Deliberation Matrix also called the “Cube”. Each stakeholder is then invited to express his opinions over each combination of sub-issues and regulatory options.

Although resting on the same methodology, two options for the use of this framework are available to the user. You can represent and record the deliberation results using the online KerCOASTS Deliberation Support Tool – to be found on Another option is to use the same framework for analysis to structure the discussion, not using software, but a blackboard or pen and paper along with colours or “Post-it® notes” to help distinguish the opinions of the different stakeholder groups.
The general methodology for using the KerBabelTM Deliberation Matrix is the same and is explained below. More details for using respectively the Deliberation Support Tool and the paper version are given when pending.
The final choice towards one or the other option strongly rests on the general context of the deliberation (e.g. relationships and trust among the group) as well as on the facility the stakeholders -and the facilitator- have for working with computers. Anyway, you will see that opting for this Deliberation Matrix framework can be of help for the stakeholders to understand how beneficial structure and robustness are to help deliberate on the future of their complex coastal system.

Click here to open the KerCOASTS website

Facilitate deliberations using the KerBabelTM Deliberation Matrix as a structure and as a Tool
The figure below presents as a flow diagram the five steps used for deliberation facilitation, along with the corresponding structuring in the Deliberation Matrix -also known as the “Cube”- and the KerCOASTS Deliberation Support Tool.

Step 1 and 2: preparing the deliberation
A) General preparation
Revise the pre-consultation information that has been gathered for the initiation of the Isse Id and Design Step about the history of the situation in the coastal zone and about the issues likely to be raised, reconsider relationships among stakeholders that have been noticed throughout the process as well as the concepts and language used by different parties. Before beginning any interviews or focus groups communication, the facilitator should collect sufficient background information on the total coastal context (which has ideally already been done in order to do the presentation of the scenario results). In some cases it may provide enough information by carrying out a desktop mapping exercise without the need for interviews or focus groups.
B) Preparation for a robust structuring
Assess the relevance of each sub-issue that is associated with your key issue. The purpose of this assessment is to identify a limited number (3-5) of sub-issues in order to facilitate a clear focus on the critical elements that could be raised by the stakeholders. For the sub-issues that you want to consider write a small text explaining what these precisely entail. Write a descriptive text for each regulatory option as well (3 would be a reasonable number but up to 5 is manageable). If these regulatory options are the subject of simulation model runs, this is a unique opportunity to write down the narrative associated with the regulatory option. Identify clearly which members belong to the stakeholder groups you have categorised.
C) Preparation for using the “Cube”
This step only pertains if you as facilitator choose to use the KerCOASTS Deliberation Support Tool. You need to technically master this Deliberation Matrix software to be able to use it in a deliberation setting with your stakeholders. It is thus necessary to do some “dry runs” with the Tool e.g. create a debate, set up a new matrix with the chosen axis precisely defined etc. More details on this can be found below.

Step 3 to 5: conducting the deliberation
A) General preparation
You need to be ready to clearly spell out to the stakeholders the interest of focusing on a sub-issue-regulatory option pair. The purpose here is to allow them to express and justify their opinion, explain the role of knowledge and science in the formulation of this opinion, and maybe express needs for more science, be it supplementary simulation model runs, new models or totally different science. Two key “opinions” are of interest during the Output Step:

  1. Opinions expressing the inability to express an opinion due to a lack of desired knowledge;
  2. Differing opinions from different stakeholder groups that might be reconciled by a clearer understanding of how the system is working.

These ‘opinions’ belong strongly to the science and policy integration world. It is quite important that you regularly, in the course of the deliberation, keep track of changes and progress towards some sort of agreement between the stakeholders regarding the various sub-issue-regulatory option pairs.
B) Preparation for a robust structuring
In order to achieve what is described above, it is wise to prepare for each stakeholder a table where all the sub-issues form the rows and regulatory options form the columns, the cells being blank and sufficiently big for the stakeholders to write their opinion within the cells, using text or a colour code e.g. from GREEN for Good/Agree to RED for Bad/Disagree (see illustration below). This table will be accompanied by the text describing the sub-issues and the regulatory options. Stakeholders will need to be able to read this text while working on the tables.

Example of Implementation (Click on tumbnail for full version):

C) Preparation for using the “Cube”

If you choose to use the KerCOASTS Deliberation Support Tool, prepare yourself for a real time voting exercise with stakeholders, by means of the debate and matrix that you have created in the course of steps 1 and 2. You can opt for other alternatives using this methodological framework. You can for instance draw on the software for an initial representation, let the stakeholders vote and express opinions using the paper based table and enter their vote afterwards within the DST in order to help represent where they stand. You can also choose not to enter at all into the software and gather all completed tables on a blackboard to allow comparison.

Three main complementary ways to interpret the Deliberation Matrix results exist -whether it is represented in the DST or on paper:

Actually, each of these interpretations implies focusing on one dimension, layer or “slice” of the “Cube”, represented in the Deliberation Support Tool, the compared judgements being gathered in a rectangular array of cells.

During the deliberation process, stakeholders express opinions on regulatory options, using the sub-issues as criteria to compare them. Listening to each stakeholder’s perspective concerning those regulatory options make us discover the diversity of points of views (and their coherence). The resulting dialogue between stakeholders along this deliberation process possibly opens the door to change of minds. The social learning that can take place when comparing opinions is thus a dialogue on their acceptability as alternatives.

Click here to read more about the use of DSTs in coastal contexts

Deliberation without using software based DST or DSS

General information on consultation and analysis without using software based DST
Although formalized deliberation with a designated Deliberation Support Tool (KerCOASTS DST) has been tested within the reference project of SPICOSA, in the real world the fact is that not all science-policy consultations in coastal zones can be carried out with the help of such tools.
In some cases an ICZM initiative already exists within an area, such as an established community forum, a coastal zone council or a small “council of experts” with established rules for interventions, hearings and decision-making. Here it may be easier and more useful to utilise these groups directly for the policy issue mapping and science consultation exercise.
In some cases a Maritime Spatial Planning Process will already be in progress – maybe as part of the implementation of the
EU Integrated Maritime Policy or other frameworks or directives. As the maritime environment is both 3-dimensional and fluid, such spatial planning might be founded on a systems based approach akin to the SAF approach, and even on an ecosystem approach as one of the intentions in the new Common Fisheries Policy.

The European Commission has issued a 10 points roadmap for such spatial planning which is intended to facilitate a more rational use of the maritime space; this should be checked before embarking on a consultation process in a situation where Marine Spatial Planning is taking place.

Spatial planning usually means more involvement of local and regional governance institutions, and less dominance of sectoral agencies. In that respect the very idea of “integrated” can imply an opening up the policy making process so that less goes on behind the closed doors of sector management and sector policy making. Regional and local government is usually closer to stakeholders and organised interests than national and union level policy makers, thus the distinction between stakeholders and policy-makers becomes less clear when spatial maritime planning becomes an important part of the overall governance process. This is however in line with the long term objectives of the EU Integrated Maritime Strategy, where stakeholders are intended to be more part of integrated maritime governance. In these processes, GIS-based Decision Support Systems are increasingly being applied.

Such a closer integration of stakeholders in maritime – and coastal – governance has several consequences which it is important to be aware of when conducting a science-policy consultation: When it becomes less clear when the participants are stakeholders and when they turn into policy-makers, it also becomes more difficult to present the stakeholder relations to various issues as final attachments to a systems model. Social science teaches us that the human nature is such that stakeholders, as policy makers, might see other scenarios, solutions and coalition potentials than they do as stakeholders. Thus a science policy consultation might easily assume the character of a political game where some stakeholder strategies are saved for later use in a ‘closer to decision’ phase of the governance process.

It is also important to be aware that so-called stakeholder platforms – formed to unify diverse stakeholder interests - can conceal important differences that can later surface in the political processes themselves. The broader such stakeholder platforms are, the more real differences are likely to be hidden. Therefore it is crucial for the science-policy consultation that a minimum amount of social science based analysis of the interests of the various stakeholders is undertaken when a formal Decision/Deliberation Support Tool or System is not applied. Guidelines for such analysis of the objective interests of important coastal actors and of the institutional arrangements (including property rights) constituting these, are explained in some detail in the Issue Identification and Design Step of the SAF- process.

With only a modest level of formalization, it is still possible to conduct a meaningful science-policy consultation process. We have for instance seen before how a “manual” deliberation process can be conducted, using the same theoretical framework as the KerCOASTS Deliberation Support Tool. However, at a consultation meeting, more demands are put on the natural scientists to explain the workings of the conceptual model in understandable language. And more demands are also put on social scientists to observe and analyse the real interests of various stakeholders and policy makers – and to expose these in common – or public – arenas.