Incorporating Stakeholder Perspectives in Scenario Development

  • Andrew Allan
  • Michelle Lim
  • Emily J. Barbour
Open Access


The incorporation of stakeholder views is integral to ecosystem service research from initiation to completion. Creating a clear link between research outputs and stakeholder needs places emphasis on stakeholder-identified issues and priorities and helps develop intervention recommendations that are relevant to local users of delta ecosystem services and national decision-makers. Stakeholder mapping is used to identify relevant institutions and local partners prior to one-to-one interviews and workshop participation. A range of interlinked issues, challenges and uncertainties across the social, economic and environmental landscape of Bangladesh are defined and used to develop trends under three future narratives: Business As Usual (BAU), More Sustainable (MS) and Less Sustainable (LS). Maintaining the involvement of stakeholders is a challenge, but provides a major benefit for integrated and credible analysis.

10.1 Introduction

The incorporation of stakeholder views is integral to the research from beginning to end and served a number of critical functions. Creating a clear link between research outputs and stakeholder needs was identified as an early priority giving stakeholders tangible input to and ownership of modelling and scenario processes. This component of the research places particular emphasis on stakeholder-identified issues and priorities to develop intervention recommendations that are relevant to both local users of ecosystem services and national decision-makers. For example, efforts to understand the reality of how legal, institutional and policy frameworks can mediate the translation of ecosystem services to benefits (see Chaps.  2 and  4) were driven in large part by stakeholders identifying key issues of interest during the early stages of the research.

A highly structured approach was accordingly adopted to ensure the ability to respond to stakeholder priorities and knowledge and ensure that stakeholder expectation of findings were realistic. In addition to the manifest need to match stakeholder needs with research capacity, the views of stakeholders are also integral to the scenario development process described in Chap.  9. This chapter describes the stakeholder engagement process as well as the first two stages of the four-stage scenario development process (see Fig. 10.1), identification of key issues and development of scenario narratives.
Fig. 10.1

The stages in scenario development highlighting the focus of this chapter

10.2 Stakeholder Mapping

Before elaborating further on the scenario development process, some background should be given regarding the rationale and methods used for incorporating stakeholder views. The increased use of stakeholder analysis in natural resource management reflects recognition of the extent to which stakeholders can influence the decision-making process (Prell et al. 2009). The identification, analysis and engagement of stakeholders are therefore central components of the research. Networks of stakeholders were identified through interviews and stakeholder workshops involving government officials, local project partners, experts (e.g. academics) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Stakeholders were identified by way of an extensive mapping process (principally based on a snowball approach (Reed et al. 2009)). Additional stakeholders were identified at the more localised level (i.e. in the project case study areas in the Khulna and Barisal divisions). This process was bolstered through enhanced engagement with a small number of key stakeholders whose interests aligned most closely with the project from the perspective of use and uptake, data provision and cross-sectoral relevance. It became clear that for the mutual benefit of both the project and a small number of these key stakeholders, a more formal relationship would be preferable, and this resulted in the Water Resources Planning Organisation (WARPO) becoming a formal project partner and the establishment of a strategic alliance with the General Economics Division of the Planning Commission of the Government of Bangladesh.

Representatives from round 60 institutions were actively involved in the engagement between the project and relevant institutions across multiple scales in Bangladesh. Initially, this engagement primarily took the form of formal one-to-one interviews and latterly through more widely attended workshops.1 The range of stakeholders who were contacted by project partners and who chose to participate included the following:
  • National government officials in a range of Ministries, the portfolios of which relate to ecosystem services and human well-being (e.g. Planning Commission; Ministry of Agriculture, WARPO)

  • Relevant non- and inter-governmental organisations at the international level (e.g. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), International Organisation for Migration, Global Water Partnership, CARE)

  • UN organisations, multi- and bi-lateral donor agencies (e.g. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Health Organisation (WHO), World Food Programme (WFP), World Bank, Asian Development Bank)

  • National NGOs, research groups and subject experts, including representatives from academic institutions (e.g. BRAC and BRAC University, WildTeam, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI))

  • Key informants, that is, those whose social/institutional positions give them specialist knowledge about other people, processes or happenings that is more extensive, detailed or privileged than ordinary people (Payne and Payne 2004)

The extent of engagement varied according to the relevance of individual stakeholders to the research: some agreed to individual interviews with a view to identifying the main issues of concern and others to attending the series of workshops that were held during the latter half of the research period.

10.3 Identification of Key Issues

An iterative approach was adopted to identify key issues of concern for stakeholders. This includes a review of relevant literature (i.e. academic papers, government legal and policy documents and available grey literature) and a series of workshops and unstructured interviews with national level stakeholders and other key informants. As shown in Table 10.1 (and further discussed in Allan et al. 2013), this process revealed the breadth of issues that needed to be addressed to effectively assess ecosystem service provision and human well-being. These represent a range of interlinked issues, challenges and uncertainties across the social, economic and environmental landscape of the study area.
Table 10.1

Key biophysical and socio-economic issues of importance as identified by stakeholders



Food security


Human-wildlife conflict

Riverbank erosion and sedimentation

Human-induced challenges to flow/freshwater availability


Changes in livelihoods

Freshwater availability

Barriers to accessing ecosystem services in the Sundarbans

Unpredictability of weather


Extreme weather events

Shrimp vs. crop

Location of biggest embankments (sea dykes)/coastal defence

Upstream/international issues


Availability of land


Table 10.1 summarises the key issues, based on a synthesis and categorisation of issues identified in the literature, which also overlap those of stakeholder opinion. Issues identified in the literature that were not seen as priorities by stakeholders were therefore omitted from the list. Many stakeholder concerns mirror issues identified in the literature and underline the challenge of managing complex social-ecological systems. At this stage, the issues reflect the views of stakeholders and should not be taken to be a comprehensive and exhaustive categorisation of all the issues that may relate ecosystem services to livelihoods.

10.4 Scenario Development Process

The rationale for adopting a scenario-based narrative approach of possible (and plausible) futures is that this allows responses to environmental and social changes over time to be explored in a way that addresses the significant levels of uncertainty. It also helps facilitate the integration of the views of stakeholders with the scientific findings, as well as their engagement in the assessment process.

In order to fully enable the connection between stakeholder priorities and the available modelling capacity, two separate stages are required: (i) to qualitatively describe what the future might look like at the scenario time horizon and (ii) to translate these qualitative descriptions into the quantitative form required by the numerical models. This section outlines the process adopted with respect to the first of these (the later stages are discussed in Chap.  9). The approach adopted was inspired by the shared socio-economic reference pathways (SSPs) approach (Arnell et al. 2011; O’Neill et al. 2012). Based on this, three socio-economic scenarios were developed for Bangladesh and coastal Bangladesh as devices for engaging with stakeholders: (i) Less Sustainable (LS), (ii) Business As Usual (BAU) and (iii) More Sustainable (MS). BAU was defined as the situation that might exist if existing policies were to continue and development trajectories proceed along similar lines to the previous 30 years or so, irrespective of whether or not this in itself is sustainable. LS and MS are alternative trajectories that are broadly less or more sustainable than BAU. This scenario elaboration approach effectively produces what Arnell et al. (2011) call ‘extended SSPs’ as it takes what is a global approach unsuited to direct application at the national level and, through the addition of more locally relevant characteristics, facilitates the downscaling of the SSPs. It also allowed the stakeholder issues of concern to be projected up to 2050, on the basis of the climate projections that used in the research (see Chap.  11).

In order to better facilitate the integration of stakeholder concerns with the development of scenario narratives, the issues were categorised into broad groups and further elaborated in accordance with stakeholder views as expressed at the first stakeholder workshop. This produced a consolidated list (see Table 10.2) that was used as the basis for downscaling.
Table 10.2

Factors considered in the downscaling of socio-economic pathways for the development of local scenario narratives


Livelihood issues

Physical change


Land use

Extreme weather events

Food security

Crop types/diversification


Access and availability

Excessive and unplanned use of fertilisers

Frequency of natural disaster

Household equity



Food prices

Natural resource management



Changes in livelihoods (e.g. crop to shrimp)

Riverbank erosion and sedimentation


Local elite

Coastal defence

Coordination (sectoral and geographical)

Barriers to accessing ecosystem services in the Sundarbans





Lack of participation and marginalisation of the poor

Implementation and enforcement of regulations




Each of the resulting issues was categorised and, during a workshop held on 22–23 October 2013, broken down by participants into more than 100 separate elements. The meeting was attended by a total of around 35 people, representing donor organisations, government ministries and academic or sectoral experts across a wide spectrum of disciplines. Once agreement (consensus or majority agreement) was reached on the breakdown of each of the issues and categories, the groups were asked to assess the extent of the expected improvement or deterioration over time, using a scale from ‘+’ to ‘+++’, with ‘+’ being slight and ‘+++’ being strong (and with ‘no change’ comprising a seventh element of the scale). The result was a detailed and internally consistent matrix of how the participants believed society in the Ganges Brahmaputra Meghna (GBM) delta would look like in 2050 considering (i) existing policy direction within Bangladesh; (ii) trends over the previous 35 years; (iii) factors influencing the likelihood of these trends continuing for the next 35 years; (iv) externally imposed boundary conditions with respect to freshwater, temperature, storminess and sea-level rise; and (v) relevant international and global influences.

The list of issues was elaborated in far greater detail than had been expected and effectively downscaled the BAU scenario to the study area context. In effect therefore, the considerable effort required to elucidate each of the 100 or so elements constituted a downscaling of the SSP approach to a national context in a way that was considered credible by the cross-sectoral group of stakeholders present and maintained internal consistency. Unfortunately, it was not possible to undergo the same process for the other two scenarios due to time limitations, and adjustments had to be made, as discussed in the next section, during the next (narrative) stage in the scenario development. The completed matrix for BAU is shown in Table 10.3 .
Table 10.3

Completed matrix for the Business As Usual (BAU) scenario from the workshop on 22–23 October 2013

Natural resource management

Food security





 Freshwater ↓ +++

 Ingress salinity ↑

 Mangrove ↓ +

Flow dynamics/riverbank erosion and sedimentation

 Mech: Accretion ↑ +

 Erosion ↑ +

 Water logging ↑ ++ and flooding ↑ ++

Land use

 Land use change rate ↑ ++

 Rice production ↓ +

 Shrimp production↑ +

 Floodplain fisheries ↓ +++

Coastal defence

 Infrastructure ↑ +

 Maintenance/rehabilitation ↑ +

 Mangrove/forest ↓ +

Impact of extreme weather events

 Asset damage ↑ ++

 Loss of life ↓ ++

Conservation effort ↑ +

 Biodiversity ↓ +

Management (local involvement) ↑ +

Availability and access

 Rice (area) ↓ +

 Rice (yield) ↑ +

 Others (area) ↑ +

 Others (yield) ↑ +

 Storage ↑ ++

 Household storage↑ +

 Market access ↑ +

 Farmer knowledge↑ +

Water security


  Quality ↓ ++

  Quantity ↓ ++

  Predictability ↓ +++

  Accessibility ↑ +


 Food habit ↑ +

 Pricing (% income)↓+

 Protein ↑

Agriculture production systems/R&D

 Efficient Fertiliser use ↑ +

 R&D/ technology↑ ++

 Crop diversification ↑+

 Subsidies ↑ +

 Wheat production ↑ +

Household equity

 Intra- ↑ +

 Inter-↓ +

Market dynamics

 Role of intermediaries ↓ +

 Information technology (price information e.g. mobile phones) ↑ ++


 Shift in traditional practices



 Net migration (urban: rural ratio) ↑++

 Outmigration from project area ↑ ++

 Push ↑++

 Pull ↑+++


 Infrastructure↑ +

 Communication ↑++


 Community ↑+

 Urban (formal)↑++

 Urban (informal/slum) ↑+

 Water: Sanitation ↑+

Changes in livelihoods

 Diversification ↑ ++

Utilisation of ecosystem services

 Availability/Access ↑

 Private sector:

  Community↓++ (access ratio)

  Private/community ↓++



 Water borne ↑+

 Vector borne↑+

 Zoonotic ↑+

Frequency and intensity of disasters


 InFl DM ↑+

 Disaster risk reduction +climate change adaptation↑++

 Access to natural resources/ecosystem services ↑+

Coordination and collaboration (sectoral and geographical) NRM benefits the most, (2 livelihoods 3) food security

 Sectoral: ↑+


  Transboundary ↔

  Bangladesh ↑+

Power structure/conflict

 Conflict ↓

 Inter-sectoral (e.g. fisherman vs. farmers) ↓+

 Intra-sectoral ↓++

 Power structure ↔

Human and financial capacity/awareness/extension agents

 Human and financial capacity ↑ + (likely to have most impact on pollution, NRM ↑+)

 Awareness ↑ ++

Local government empowerment ↑+

Implementation and enforcement ↑+

Law and Order/security (dacoits/pirates)

Fisheries ↑++

 Unauthorised inputs (pesticides, fertiliser, etc.) ↓+

 Piracy ↔

Lack of participation and marginalisation of the poor

 Participation ↑ ++

 Marginalisation ↓++

Role of NGOs/civil society/private sector/farmers’ assn., public organisations

 NGOs/CSO ↑+

 Private/corporate/entrepreneurs ↑++

Transparency/access to information/accountability

 Transparency ↑+

 Access to information ↑++

 Accountability ↑+


Land management/zoning and distribution

 Land management ↑+

 Zoning ↑+

 Distribution ↔

Transboundary (India, China)

 Water ↓++

 Trade ↓+


 Central ↑+

 Local ↑+

Maintenance of existing infrastructure ↑+

Rules and regulations ↑ + and local level policy ↑ +, local courts ↔

Service delivery efficiency ↑+

Key: ↓, expected deterioration; ↑, expected improvement; +, slight; ++, stronger; +++, strong

10.5 Scenario Narratives

In order to translate the rough categories shown in Table 10.3 into the modelling efforts, they first had to be converted into a credible and representative narrative that could draw each element together in a more digestible format. A detailed narrative description was prepared to represent the detailed elaboration of the BAU scenario, with additional provisional narratives prepared by the project team for LS and MS, based on reasonable extrapolations of the BAU exposition. These three narratives were then presented at a further, larger workshop in May 2014. The main objective of the workshop, which was attended by 100 people, was to critically assess these detailed scenario narratives. The narratives needed to be stress-tested for credibility, internal consistency and for consistency between themselves—especially as only the BAU narrative was based on stakeholder-derived information. The narratives re-framed the multitude of elements that were detailed in the first workshop (Table 10.3) into six categories: (i) land use, (ii) water, (iii) international cooperation, (iv) disaster management, (v) environmental management and (vi) quality of life and livelihoods. A coherent story was then developed by combining local, regional and global drivers and highlighting their impact for Bangladesh, and more particularly the study area in the south-west of the delta. This produces a greater alignment between the breadth of the matrix and the individual elements of the modelling and survey frameworks within the project.

Attendees were presented with a copy of the draft consolidated scenario narratives, and then split into three representative groups, mixing the diverse sectoral interests present. Each group was allocated one of the scenarios and given instructions (and some background) on how they should interpret the document and what they should do with it. Reports from the groups were made in plenary, consisting of identifying problems in their respective scenarios, highlighting potential policy or management interventions, and identifying barriers to policy implementation.

The scenario narratives stood up well to the sustained critical assessment of 100 experts. Many comments were made, and these were incorporated into the revised (and final) version of the narratives (see Appendix to this chapter). There was a generally lower level of consensus at the second stakeholder workshop than the first, although groups were still able to produce critical evaluation that was broadly agreed to by their members, and this level of disagreement could be explained simply by the fact that there were almost three times as many people present at the second meeting.

10.6 Conclusions

There was a great deal of value in conducting the scenario development in the manner described. Focusing on the elaboration of the BAU scenario during the initial stages allowed for better understanding of stakeholder views on the baseline situation current in Bangladesh, through reflection on both existing and recent historical trends. Stakeholders were often pleasantly surprised that they were able to maintain their involvement from the interview stage and then on to the workshops. This continuity provided evidence that the project was serious in taking their views into account. There was a general level of acceptance on the part of those attending workshops that the approach being taken was credible and was addressing the correct issues, even though there might be a strong element of disagreement over potential solutions or the magnitude of the problem. Over the duration of the project, it became clear that the credibility of research outputs was increased significantly by the fact that stakeholder views and inputs had been integral to each successive stage from the identification of the key issues right through to the modelling.

What also became clear was that availability of time was an issue for stakeholders, both from the perspective of project members trying to achieve too much within the limited time available during workshops but also because of the length of time that stakeholders were involved. In retrospect, the amount of information that stakeholders were expected to read and absorb was unrealistic: the narratives are complex documents of around 1,500 words each. This requires a considerable commitment on the part of stakeholders, who derive no other benefit from the process than the opportunity to discuss issues in a forum with others from outside their immediate sphere of contact, and the hope that they might acquire a greater understanding through the research outputs. Other alternative approaches may perform better—for example, by establishing a standing stakeholder expert group who could comment on technical detail, perhaps in return for a fee reflecting the degree of commitment needed—but it was not possible to follow these through in this project .


  1. 1.

    A full list of the stakeholders, along with details of their attendance at project meetings, is available at


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Allan
    • 1
  • Michelle Lim
    • 2
  • Emily J. Barbour
    • 3
  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of DundeeDundeeUK
  2. 2.Adelaide Law SchoolUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.School of Geography and the EnvironmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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