Common ground

The ‘Common Ground’ project ran in the Eastern IFCA District in 2016-17 with the objective of developing and further testing the Community Voice Method, particularly to actively deepen emphasis on the values that connect people to place and guide thinking on how management approaches and measures reflect, support or impact on local values.

We created a film to engage a wide range of local people and set the scene for them to get stuck in to conversations about the use, values and benefits of the coast and sea in Suffolk, Norfolk and Lincolnshire. among diverse and sometimes disparate local stakeholders in the IFCA district. People came along to workshops to explore what connects them to their coastal and marine resources and discuss key issues the felt need to be addressed and think about what needs to be done to address these issues.

The workshops resulted in some wonderful conversations about what really mattered to people in the area. We found that some of the key things were a healthy natural environment; quality livelihoods that not only assure income, but that are also well regarded by the community and which sustain natural resources; maintaining the quality of life on the coast and traditional culture and community.

People worked together to identify a wide range of issues they felt needed to be addressed. These included the need for better information guiding management and for fair and effective regulation, monitoring, and enforcement. People were keen to see fishing sustainability and viability assured into the future and improved communication and trust between regulators and the community. There was also a sense of a need to improve understanding of environmental issues and to protect the environment.

The next challenge was thinking about how these big issues could be tackled and which of these actions were things the IFCA may have the resources and remit to address. An analysis of over 200 actions people suggested revealed that action in certain areas could help address a range of issues. These included a focus on improving local communication, engagement and networking; increasing the resources and capacity of the Eastern IFCA; addressing illegal and unregulated fishing; increased education and outreach and more research; There were also a number of suggestions of specific regulations which would be beneficial.

This project created a collectively informed framework that Eastern IFCA is able to draw on in decision-making about ways of working to address priority issues in management of marine resources in their district. These outputs have been deliberated by stakeholders and grounded in a shared understanding and appreciation of the many different ways that people use and value their marine and coastal assets. Common Ground took a systematic, transparent, research-based approach to engagement and deliberation which gives Eastern IFCA confidence that the outputs are indicative of the views and values of the wider community, though we acknowledge that there is always more to learn and this initiative could not hope to capture and express every view held in the communities in the District. It has however been an opportunity for the IFCA to actively demonstrate their commitment to listening and taking community views into account.

Because the IFCA staff engaged fully with the project and actively participated in all aspects of planning and delivery, it provided an opportunity for professional skill sharing and development across the whole collaborative team. This sets them in good stead to build on what was learned through Common Ground and continue and broaden the conversation, applying new ways of working, with a more diverse and connected network of stakeholders. Rather than being a completed piece of work, this project represents the beginning of a process and both MCS and Eastern IFCA are keen to explore opportunities for continued collaboration.

Acknowledgements

The Common Ground project was a collaborative project led by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) working with Community Voice Consulting, the Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (EIFCA), and local stakeholders. The project was funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

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