Tools

The MIT Science Impact Collaborative team employs a range of tools and approaches in our work. These include (click on each for more information):

Stakeholder Engagement – Engaging stakeholders is critical to resolving disputes and making decisions at the intersection of science, politics and policy. The MIT Science Impact Collaborative has designed and tested a number of new ways of bringing parties together for productive problem-solving.

Joint Fact-Finding – Scientific and technical data too often becomes the focus of disputes. The MIT Science Impact Collaborative’s approach to joint fact-finding enables parties to collect and analyze credible scientific and technical information. This can then be used to answer specific questions and generate creative solutions when trade-offs have to be made.

Collaborative Adaptive Management – Uncertainty necessitates an approach to natural resource management that involves careful monitoring and evaluation and policy adjustment in light of new information. The MIT Science Impact Collaborative promotes adaptive management that allows stakeholders to participate on a continuing basis.

Role-Play Simulation Exercises – Exercises allow both stakeholders and researchers to explore emerging situations, tools and approaches for tackling them, and potential solutions in a low-cost, low-risk environment. The MIT Science Impact Collaborative regularly uses role-plays with groups for their own learning and reflection, to foster change, and to advance our research.

Mediated Multi-Party Dispute Resolution – Most public policy questions require multiple stakeholders to address multiple issues. Professional neutrals, or mediators, can help groups work together by offering unbiased procedural support. Effective mediation is at the heart of what the MIT Science Impact Collaborative does.

Scenario Planning – Scenario planning produces a range of predictions or forecasts. Instead of betting on a single estimate of what the future holds, scenario planning generates a “portfolio” of possible futures. With multiple estimates in hand, it is a lot easier to identify actions or public investments that are likely to “work” under a range of possible circumstances. Integrating scenario planning into actual public decision-making is difficult. The MIT Science Impact Collaborative is trying to identify the best ways of doing scenario planning.

Participatory Action Research – The MIT Science Impact Collaborative puts a premium on involving the communities with which it works in every aspect of research design and practice. Unlike traditional social science, we do not believe that researchers must remain at arms length from the communities they are studying. Quite the opposite. We subscribe to the notion of Participatory Action Research (PAR). This is an emerging approach to applied social science research that presumes that the “outside” researchers and the “inside” communities must collaborate to define the questions that need to be answered, the best way to gather and analyze data, and co-create whatever findings emerge. For more information please visit the PAR at MIT website.

Facility Siting Credo – Faculty associated with the MIT Science Impact Collaborative have helped to resolve facility siting disputes that are often triggered by a not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) response from communities and stakeholders likely to be impacted. By consulting with the right groups before siting decisions are made, engaging stakeholders in joint fact finding (assisted by a professional neutral), and seeking to compensate or protect those who might be adversely affected, we have been able to produce negotiated siting agreements. The principles involved are summarized in the Facility Siting Credo.

Water Diplomacy Framework – Efforts to manage scarce water supplies or transboundary water resources often lead to intractable conflicts. Traditional Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) does not seem to work very well in these situations. The MIT Science Impact Collaborative’s approach to managing water networks is built on the notion that good science alone cannot provide the answers. The Water Diplomacy Framework (WDF) shows how to integrate environmental, social and political concerns, and the involvement of stakeholders in a negotiated approach to the management of water systems.