Author Archives: MIT Environmental Policy and Planning
What lessons are to be learned from stakeholder engagement in transportation planning when broad efforts to engage fall short of actual public consultation?
In “Whose Opinion Matters: Lessons from a Stakeholder Engagement Process for Penang, Malaysia” Dr. Minal Pathak conducted an evaluation of the ongoing stakeholder engagement process for the transport master plan in Penang, Malaysia. Proposed funding for the plan’s estimated 11 billion USD cost – involving highways, roadways, LRT, monorail, a BRT network, and electric trams – was through reclamation of three islands along the Penang coast. Concerns about the plan raised by stakeholders range from high costs, environmental impacts, effects on fisheries, and aesthetic and heritage considerations. Key issues with timing, strategy and communication in the engagement process have contributed to various stakeholders’ continued opposition to the project. Dr. Pathak’s evaluation draws out recommendations for a more effective stakeholder engagement process that can be applied both within Malaysia and beyond.
Griffin Smith (MCP2) spent the summer in Salt Lake City, Utah, working with the Environmental Dispute Resolution Program in the S.J. Quinney College of Law – University of Utah and the Environmental Planning Center at the The University of Utah. He mediated consensus-building efforts in underserved areas in the Mountain West. In particular, he focused on a rural Utahan community, helping it develop a regional plan, incorporate climate change projections into its efforts, and develop resiliency against other emerging challenges. As part of this, he supported community conversations about climate risks facing the vulnerable region around Zion National Park and piloted and tested climate communication methods. He also researched affordable housing policies for such gateway and amenity communities. He turned this work into a teaching roleplay for students learning about collaboration. In addition, he created a framework for a state civility initiative to restore and build civil politics and discourse in the state. Griffin’s work this summer builds off his previous work mediating conflicts at the Consensus Building Institute and studying public and environmental policy at MIT.
Please join us in congratulating Dr. Kelly Heber Dunning, DUSP PHD Alumna ’16, on the announcement of her new role as Senior Fisheries Assessment Manager at the London-based MSC – Marine Stewardship Council. Her new position will draw on skills gained during her time as a collaborator with the Science Impact Collaborative, where she built skills in negotiation and dispute resolution in multi-stakeholder processes, practiced the use of best available science to generate policy, and as a pioneer DUSP student collaborator with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
Fisheries management is a complex, multi-stakeholder process where livelihoods, ways of life, food security, culture, ecosystem health and sustainability are all linked. Heber Dunning hopes that her work as part of the team at MSC will help to bring even more of the world’s fisheries into the category of “sustainable fisheries.”
Heber Dunning’s new position builds upon her doctoral dissertation research, “Communities of coral : an institutional and ecological analysis of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services in Southeast Asia.” In her dissertation, she examined how differing models of ecosystem service management and biodiversity conservation efforts affected not only the marine habitats targeted for protection but also the geographically proximate communities’ social and economic welfare. To read more about Heber Dunning’s work click here. And keep an eye out for her forthcoming book based on this research through Anthem Press.
As part of a vast network of successful DUSP Alumni, Heber Dunning welcomes questions from DUSP students and alumni on pathways to careers in human dimensions of natural resources, specifically in the marine affairs world.
As shorelines shift due to storms, sea level rise, and subsidence, how are communities deciding if they should relocate or redesign?
DUSP Alumna, Carri Hulet (MCP ’13), spearheaded an effort by the Consensus Building Institute to enable coastal communities to consider the consequences of their adaptation or migration choices and thoughtfully engage in difficult conversations. The product of her efforts can be found at the newly launched website, climigration.org.
Additional information about the Consensus Building Institute can be found here.
The fight against gentrification is never-ending; therefore, it takes a certain type of momentum to achieve groundbreaking changes. There are environmental justice (EJ) organizations working in various parts of the United States that have been able to achieve this momentum. Genea Foster, MCP’ 16 uses case studies of Boston, Oakland, Portland, Austin, San Francisco and Brooklyn to generate a deeper understanding of the success and impact of the anti-gentrification campaigns of environmental justice organizations. She has determined how community-led initiatives are making a difference and why they are taken seriously by developers and gentrifiers in their respective cities. Through coalition-building, partnerships, community engagement and cooperative economics, EJ organizations have been able to make progress.
Genea highlights a number of ways that planners can learn from these case studies to prevent gentrification in the cities where they work. Download her thesis to learn more about these innovative EJ organizations.
The 2000 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) law signed by President Bill Clinton called for a $7.8 billion dollar 30-year effort to restore the Everglades. Implementation was hindered in a number of ways, mainly lawsuits and stakeholder disagreements. Eleven years after CERP was implemented, a new coalition, led by the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, initiated the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEEP). Devon Neary MP’16’s thesis evaluates CEEP. Devon argues that this plan successfully integrates certain mitigation measures and emphasizes resiliency as well.
If you are interested in learning more about ecosystem resilience, make sure to download Devon’s thesis here.
In March, five DUSP master in city planning students, Sam Jung (‘17), Alaa Mukahhal (‘17), Insiyah Mohammad (‘17), Carey Dunfey (‘17), and Anna Doty (‘17), attended RES/CON Global Resilience Summit in New Orleans. RES/CON is the premier annual international conference on the practice of successful resilience and disaster management in an evolving global environment. Held along the Mississippi River in New Orleans at the Ernest N Morial Convention Center, the conference draws experts from a variety of fields who work on resilience and disaster issues across the country. As attendees, we sat in on panels ranging from issues related to the future of the National Flood Insurance Program to rural economic sustainability, from financing resiliency measures to transforming city systems. We connected with city planners in the private and public sectors, chatted with recent DUSP grads, and heard insight from emergency managers working in diverse sectors across the country. We left feeling inspired by the talented and dedicated practitioners working tirelessly in this field and excited by the prospect of being able to contribute to creating solutions to resiliency and disaster management challenges faced by cities big and small.
The day before the conference, we were able to attend and receive certification of attendance for a day-long training on Community Resilience offered by the University of Hawai’i’s National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC). This workshop, lead by two Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) facilitators, provided us with insight into the basics behind building community resilience: preparation and planning; absorption; recovery; and adaptation. Through interactive workshops, we worked in teams with other participants, some of whom had been working in the resiliency field for over 10 years. In one of these workshops, we split up into groups and were given a map of an unknown city in the U.S. with demographic, geographic, and social information, as well as a disaster scenario (e.g. hurricane, earthquake, drought, etc.). After identifying community assets, we worked together identifying the most vulnerable areas, assessing the potential impact, and developing long term preparation plans and short term emergency response measures. In our analyses, we raised questions about what additional pieces of information were necessary to understand vulnerability in that context. Here, we realized the importance of community capacity in all resilience work, recognizing the value of stakeholder engagement in not only preparing and planning for disasters, but also in ensuring that communities can adapt and bounce back from any setbacks.
Over the next two days at the conference, we learned from a diverse set of practitioners in the emergent field of climate resiliency, experiencing first hand the importance of framing climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies as localized issues with transnational implications. As a multi-scalar and multi-disciplinary challenge, resilience should be considered a framework for planning, rather than a singular planning challenge. As such, resiliency needs to be built into budgets; it requires inter-agency collaboration and integration into all aspects of physical and economic planning.
During the NDPTC training we attended, one of the facilitators emphasized that resilience is indeed about working proactively, understanding risks, and adapting. However, he stressed that resiliency, most importantly, is about learning. It’s a long-term process that ensures community engagement at multiple scales, from individuals to businesses, community groups, and municipal governments. When we think of resiliency, we tend to think of hard assets, like infrastructure, hospitals, homes, and schools. However, to develop sustainable and adaptive plans, planners and resiliency managers must engage the “soft assets” like human capital. Several resiliency practitioners have raised that the most difficult aspect of their jobs is to engage and sustain community stakeholders in meaningful ways through preparedness (non-disaster) years. Human capital is one of the most important assets that cities have for preparation for disaster emergencies. Spending time and money on preparation strategies and hazard mitigation yields fewer losses and greater savings post disaster. These concerns underscore the need for long lasting community engagement strategies in resiliency planning.
Hannah Payne, MCP’16, compared the way sixteen cities have tried to engage the public in climate adaptation planning. She identifies three common approaches: 1) including the public in the formulation of broad adaptation strategies, 2) educating the public about climate risks, and 3) promoting collaborative problem-solving for specific climate resilient projects. According to Hannah’s findings, the third approach is the least used. More important, cities are really struggling to implement even the first two less ambitious approaches. In some cases, cities have postponed any commitment to a participatory and inclusive approach to adaptation planning. Hannah has identified the most common barriers that cities have overcome.
To read the complete stories of what has happened in these cities and Hannah’s recommendation you can download her thesis here.
As young people begin transitioning into adulthood, they need to make a number of important choices. Will they try to improve their education? Can they find a job? Where will they live? The way they answer these questions will have a lot to do with the progress they make in their lives. There are people who decide to go back or stay in places that limits their opportunities. Hurricane Katrina destroyed many cities across the US, leaving neighborhoods even deeper in poverty and more disadvantaged than before. In such conditions, it seems like it should be easy to determine the factors they take into account in deciding where to move next. However, these decisions turn out to be quite complicated. Tatjana Trebic MCP’16, studies the cases of 53 low-income mothers between the ages of 19 to 29 to understand how these women made choices and trade-offs during and after the reconstruction of their neighborhoods. Based on her analysis, Tatjana creates a framework to identify the constrains that planners should keep in mind in trying to serve low-income emerging adults in the US. For example, for many young mothers, neighborhood safety competes with social network support when deciding to stay or go back to an old neighborhood. By understanding more about these kinds of tradeoffs regarding neighborhood choice, planners and policy makers will be better equipped to prioritize social services versus other institutional support for these vulnerable groups.
To see Tatjana’s framework, make sure to download her thesis here.
In the past few years, cities have experienced devastating effects of climate change. The physical impacts of major weather events have spurred cities to look for ways of minimizing risks and disruption. Competitions are being used to encourage innovative design, increase public awareness and gain support for investment in resiliency projects. Catie Ferrara, MCP’ 16, uses the federal competition to analyze three such competitions in New Jersey municipalities. None actually received any financial support to implement the ideas that emerged from their competitions. While all three efforts appeared to have some positive effects (such as cross-boundary collaboration and increasing awareness of the problem), politics and limited local capacity made it hard to get anything built. Catie provides practical proposals to overcome these challenges. If you’d like to read more, you can download her thesis here.