A multi-level commitment process
Regardless of the scale (village, community, region, country…), thanks to the earlier careful strategy design, endogenous commitment towards sustainable changes are always practicable. Be they farmers, local politicians or civil society leaders, participants quickly understand that the Grounded Changes support remains methodological, without alluding any development or society choices, and really let them hand control over to them: from the earliest upstream setting of priority issues, that they identify themselves, to the ‘game’, which is designed so they are able to master and modify every element, and then furthest downstream setting of the strategy to successfully implement their outputs from game.
This is what it really promotes their deep commitment, and even beyond, of those among technicians, experts, and local academics who also aspire to a further empowerment of local people. Drawn together by the same conviction about the ability of the method to shape then operationalize endogenous visions of development, they are getting organized to set up themselves new game workshops, then to shape by their own the most efficient strategies (mobilizing their networks, their allies, their skills…) in order to achieve their game resolutions. This is what explains the large scale impacts (see below).
Operational outputs, as ‘by-products’
Throughout the on-going process some usual participatory plans, charts, formal rules, and other media for territorial and sustainable management are delivered. However, they are considered as contextual and short-term–‘by-products’, as the primary goal of our whole support process is to achieve lasting and endogenous changes in the way land and resources have been collectively used, regulated and managed.
Thus, throughout our past and ongoing Grounded Changes processes there are regularly delivered operational outputs (land uses plan, local charter, sector code, land tenure rules…) which can be embedded into existing development policies. However, it is important to note that in the Grounded Changes approach these contextual outputs are only considered as ‘by-products’, as the building of multi-level momentum is the overriding focus of the whole Grounded Changes approach. Thus, concrete tools and plans have been seen as ‘by-products’ of the primary continuing commitment process.
Impacts at local and national scales fifteen years on
Throughout this ‘self-design’ then ‘self-simulation’ process, participants are engaged in a collective learning-by-doing process, as the simulation process incites them to develop more and more relevant ideas, and progressively design rules, actions, principles and organizations for endogenous territorial management. As endogenous, these outputs have greater chances of lasting, and even, as evidenced by the experiences, of being pushed by the stakeholders themselves up towards the top decision-making levels. Fifteen years later, these evolutions are still in place, both at local and national levels.
The goal of the first implementation, in 1998, was to enduringly empower Senegalese local communities in land management. A method to locally devise land uses rules, called POAS, was tailored to achieve national decentralization policies, and then implemented. This method, including an endogenous design of land management tools (participatory GIS, charters to rule competitive/conflict uses, land uses plan…), got spontaneously reproduced and diffused by the local actors and lasting changes in the Senegalese way of decentralizing land management impacts – both at the local and national level – can be still observed fifteen years on (d’Aquino and Papazian 2014). The POAS method became the official Senegalese approach to local land management, and at the local level, stakeholders even single-handedly managed to set up infrastructures they selected as appropriate during their POAS process (see closed pictures).
In Senegal, in early 2014 the Grounded Changes approach was launched at the national scale to help civil society ensure sound local participation in the enactment of national land tenure reform. Civil society has used the TerriStories® game around the country in different territorial contexts and at diverse scales, but always with a board game at the country scale (in order to help participants focus on policy-level challenges). This widespread and autonomous use has facilitated the emergence of autonomous and lively brainstorming workshops which produced alternative farmer proposals for the forthcoming land reform, called an official Farmers’ Guidelines for Land Reform, which they have shared and debated with experts, and then advocated with decision makers and authorities.
What issues and contexts can be addressed?
Any situation where the challenge is to equally consider the perspectives and knowledge of a diversity of actors (e.g., farmers and herders; local users and experts or decision-makers; producers and consumers; biophysical and social sciences...), and to design, based on this diversity, forms of sharing and managing territories, their natural resources, and the benefits they provide, both at local and global scales.
The Grounded Changes approach and its most suitable tool, the TerriStories game, are, for example, well-suited for these challenges:
- Collective management of natural resources, including issues of land occupancy, use, and ownership.
Improvement of production systems or innovation.
- Organization of sectors or collection basin.
- Any other co-definition of development policies.
- Participatory design and participatory program monitoring and evaluation.
This has been implemented in various parts of the world and across a diversity of cultural contexts, whether for development or research purposes.
- Involvement of local farmers in regulating agribusiness and large-scale investments.
Decentralization of land use, land occupation, and natural resource management.
Integration of local users in the management of natural reserves or their buffer zones.
- Incorporation of climate forecasts into family agriculture strategies.
- Social management of water, watersheds, and hydraulic infrastructure.
- Participatory management of improving livestock routes and pastoral production.
- Participative simulation of the most suitable agricultural insurance options for family farming.
- Participatory foresight on land reform or sector-specific national code (water, livestock, forestry, etc.).
- Participatory rural or urban planning, territorial development.
- Management of land salinization.
- Resolution of conflicts/competition for the use of natural resources.
Study of local knowledge and collective dynamics.
Improvement of participatory approaches.
Evaluation of capacities for integrating innovations.
What organizational modes for adapting to situations of uncertainty (resilience and adaptability): climate, natural resource management, pastoralism, etc.
How to integrate local proposals into standard formats of institutional action (inclusive programs, forms of decentralization, public policies, legislative and regulatory frameworks, instruments of deliberative democracy)?