University of the Azores, Portugal
Marine SABRES team members from the University of the Azores (Ana C. Costa, Andrea Z. Botelho, Nuno V. Álvaro, Manuela Parente, Maria A. Ventura, Daniela Casimiro and José Azevedo) were involved in the stakeholder’s engagement in Azores archipelago, from 27 to 31 March 2023. This joint work with the HUFOSS team was made to collect the opinion of the multisectoral stakeholders for the Macaronesia research site in the São Miguel and Terceira islands . The team employed an informal, active, and constructive public participation process, with the aim of sharing interests and concerns related to Nature, Economy, and Society. The Azores archipelago wetlands and marine corridor were represented by joint a stakeholder group that are headquartered in different islands.
Nineteen stakeholders from the private sector, administration, NGOs, science centres and researchers were invited and participated in the survey (12 in São Miguel and 7 in Terceira Island). Environmental NGOs and fishing organisations, maritime tourist operators and governmental bodies were all represented in the interviews and workshops.
Stakeholders were first asked to talk about their focus work, highlighting their expectations and concerns about ecological, economic, and socio-cultural aspects in their marine and coastal environment and community. Then, the Marine SABRES team selected words based on the main topics referred to by the stakeholders. Magnetic cards with selected words were made available for the stakeholder to reorganize as they want on a white magnetic board. Following a Fuzzy Cognitive Modelling” (FCM) approach — a research method for gaining insights into stakeholders' perceptions towards some issue or topic — stakeholders were asked to interconnect the words on the board and give a score of influence (negative or positive) to connections between the topics. The methodology applied with this innovative approach had a high level of acceptance by the participants. A full range of answers was given, and the reorganization of the topics was diverse. Still, in a first look all stakeholders had a common vision related to the needs and concerns regarding the environment.
In the workshop, the stakeholders also participated in a closed survey that consisted of a structured questionnaire covering six domains, or master categories: 1) ecosystem structure and function, 2) ecosystem services, 3) socio-economic aspects, 4) sociocultural values, 5) governance aspects, and 6) pressures. During the survey, stakeholders are asked to rank the elements, from their own point of view, following a Likert scale from 0 (not present) to 5 (extremely important). They were surprised when in the end, they noticed to have answered around 150 questions just by playing with topic cards in a short period of time.
Stakeholder engagement was a big success in the Azores archipelago, reflected by the number of participants, but also by the interest they had in being informed about the results of the project.