Unveiling the Complexity: Recap of SMARTLAGOON’s second participatory system dynamics modeling workshops.
In May’s second week, SMARTLAGOON successfully conducted the second series of participatory systems dynamics modeling workshops. The week proved to be highly productive and engaging, yielding important insights. The results are being analyzed and will serve as a foundation for upcoming participatory activities scheduled for autumn 2023.
SMARTLAGOON is an interdisciplinary project addressing environmental, economic, and social challenges in Spain’s Mar Menor Lagoon and Campo de Cartagena watershed. WP4 focuses on participatory system dynamics modeling to build a systematic understanding of the region’s socio-ecological and socio-economic dimensions. The project involves workshops to explore stakeholders’ perspectives from various sectors, including environmental, agriculture, fishing, tourism, regional government, and national government.
The second set of workshops
The second round of workshops took place in the Murcia region between 10. and 16. May 2023, organized by the Norwegian Institute for Water Research – NIVA (WP4 lead) and VIELCA (local partner). The SMARTLAGOON team members from NIVA were Isabel Seifert-Dähnn, Mahla Rashidian, Line Barkved, Valentina Tartiu, and Max Nawrath, and from VIELCA Pablo Blanco Gómez and Marckbyn Rodríguez Vélez.
We used Systems Thinking and Group Model Building to validate and refine the causal loop diagram (CLD) from the first workshop series on sustainable management in the region. Each workshop lasted around three hours, with an average of six participants from each sector engaging in open discussions. In the first workshop series, we observed that some participants held multiple roles, such as being farmers and members of an NGO or working as researchers in specific sectoral areas like fisheries, agriculture, or tourism. Therefore, we strategically grouped participants in this set of workshops to enhance their cross-sectoral expertise and interests and foster more in-depth discussions. Workshops with regional and national governments were postponed due to upcoming local and national elections and their busy schedule in May and July 2023.
Getting ready for the workshop!
Each workshop started with a short introduction to the exercises, including ensuring informed consent by the participants. Then there was time for some initial individual work to get started.
Interactive group model building
We began the workshops with a brief presentation on the SMARTLAGOON project and the system dynamics modeling process. This served as a refresher for returning participants and an introduction for new attendees. We introduced important concepts like polarities and feedback loops and allowed participants to ask questions. The exercises started with examining CLDs developed based on inputs from the first series of workshops and supplemented with additional information from literature and reports. A short storyline accompanied each loop in the CLDs to facilitate the refinement process. Participants individually read the storylines and then discussed in groups whether the dynamics displayed in the CLDs were, from their perspective, accurate or needed changes. The second exercise involved discussing questions prepared by the research team focusing on the CLDs and sector dynamics. Participants received a handout with the CLDs, loop storylines, and questions a week before the workshop to enable them to reflect in advance.
The workshop primarily focused on hands-on work with the CLDs.
Conclusions for this round of workshops and the way forward
We have made substantial progress with the causal loop diagrams (CLDs) in our ongoing pursuit of exploring the complexity and dynamics relations among different practices in the Mar Menor region. These diagrams, developed through stakeholder workshops and supplemented with evidence from the literature, have provided insights into the region’s challenges and potential solutions. The way forward will be:
Stakeholders’ revision and feedback: To ensure the CLDs remain accurate and relevant, we are planning an additional round of revision in collaboration with stakeholders. This process will involve seeking written feedback, conducting interviews, and hosting discussions during the upcoming workshops scheduled for autumn 2023. By actively involving stakeholders, we can incorporate different perspectives and enhance the validity of the CLDs.
Discussions during the breaks.
Transitioning to stock and flow diagrams (SFDs): Our research team is simultaneously working on converting the CLDs into SFDs, the basis for the simulation model. This transition involves populating the CLDs with real data and equations, which are mathematical representations that describe the behavior of dynamic systems over time. This will enable us to conduct more quantitative analyses of the socio-ecological and socio-economic system dynamics.
Integration with SWAT and QWET models: We are also excited to explore integrating the system dynamics (SD) model with the soil and water assessment tool (SWAT) and quantitative water-energy transport (QWET) models developed in WP2. Collaborating with the SMARTLAGOON consortium and combining these models might improve the overall potential sustainable solutions assessment.
The next set of workshops will take place in the Mar Menor region during the autumn of 2023.