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Adaptive Assessment of Cumulative Socioeco impacts

Type:   Research publications
Topic:   Cumulative social impacts
Date submitted:   23/07/2015
Member:   Walquiria Felizardo

'Adaptive Assessment' of Cumulative Socioeconomic Impacts (2015), Will Rifkin, Katherine Witt, Jo-Anne Everingham, and Vikki Uhlmann Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, The University of Queensland.

This paper argues for a form of ‘adaptive assessment’ of cumulative socioeconomic impacts of resource development. It employs concepts related to complexity, wicked problems, boundary objects, and adaptive management. The complexity of such an assessment task is illustrated here with examples from a case that the research team has studied for the past three years – four megaprojects totalling $60 billion to produce onshore natural gas in an agricultural area of Queensland, Australia with 40,000 residents.

It argues not for a single method of ‘adaptive assessment’ but for the collection of a set of useful ‘heuristics’, or provisional rules of thumb. These heuristics must be examined in an ongoing way, preferably via participatory processes. These participatory processes can be enabled by use of what are known as ‘boundary objects’. Boundary objects are items – such as statistics on population - that are meaningful to analyst, industry staff person, government official, local resident, and business owner. Each one would view population figures in their own way, but they are likely to share a common understanding of an upward trend, a downward trend, or stable numbers.

Such indicators hold the promise of being able to represent the complex systemic interactions characteristic of cumulative social and economic effects of multiple resource projects in relatively simple, tractable terms. One can select to profile changes in population, housing costs, income levels, and the like to provide an overview of the social and economic impacts of the projects on a town or region. Selecting a compact set of indicators, with the participation and agreements of key stakeholders, limits the number of parameters that they needs to keep track of to recognise trends and trade offs in their region. Agree indicators can thus facilitate easier, broader understanding, and – one hopes – a clearer view of appropriate responses to specific challenges, such as soaring housing costs, as well as clarifying overall planning options.

This paper provides an overview of this line of argument, and it is meant for those seeking to understand conceptual underpinnings. The argument is fleshed out in a forthcoming book chapter. A case study region is discussed below in general terms, with specific data from a 3-year study offered in forthcoming reports and journal articles.



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