The Idea of Evaluating Marine Spatial Plans

“I never said it would be easy. I only said it would be worth it.”
Mae West (1893-1980)
American actress, singer and playwright

Learning to Plan and Planning as Learning

Planning is often described as a learning process, and learning to plan is one of the intangible benefits of starting a MSP process.

Performance evaluation is not simply a matter of measuring outcomes. Often a more subtle evaluation is needed. The type of evaluation needed depends on our assumptions about planning, its function, or purpose. Therefore, MSP plans should be evaluated, not only by their outcomes, but for how they improve the understanding of decision makers and stakeholders about present and future problems they face and the opportunities that planning presents to deal with problems in the present to avoid them in the future. When planning increases this understanding, it performs its role, irrespective of outcomes. Plans perform their role if and when they help decision makers make sense of their situations, and so they need to be evaluated in this light, as well as final outcomes.

Video: Charles Ehler on why MSP is needed

  • Why do we need MSP?
  • Oceans are not the same everywhere; MSP addresses this reality in its approach
  • MSP is a tangible, pragmatic approach that people can understand and relate to

How Will You Recognize “Success”?

“Successful” MSP has often been defined in practice as simply the adoption of a management plan (an output) or the implementation of new spatial management actions (also outputs). Occasionally meeting the objectives and targets of the management plan is the definition of success, that is producing real outcomes: sustainable fishing, safe navigation, reduced user conflicts. According to a recent analysis of 16 marine spatial planning examples in practice (Collie et al, 2013) undertaken by an Ecosystem Science and Management Working Group for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), successful MSP is defined along a continuum. Most American plans, e.g., Massachusetts and Rhode Island, consider success to be the adoption of the plan, while meeting the objectives of the management plan denotes success in many European marine plans i.e., the plan is not an end in itself but a process to meet objectives and produce results.

Video: Eric Olsen on benefits of MSP

  • Ecosystem-based management is a good idea, but how do you implement it?
  • MSP uses “space” as a frame for putting EBM into practice
  • MSP shows how ecosystem components, including humans, use space in different places and ways
  • It identifies conflicts among the uses of space
  • It is neither pro-development or pro-conservation

Why focus on performance evaluation of MSP?

Performance monitoring and evaluation moves beyond the traditional input–output focused evaluation, and, when used effectively, helps stakeholders and decision makers focus on and analyze outcomes or results. Inputs and outputs tell little about the effectiveness or efficiency of a marine spatial plan. While traditional input-output evaluation approaches remain an important part of the chain of performance evaluation, it is the outcomes that are of most interest and importance to governments and stakeholders.

Building and sustaining performance evaluation capabilities is not an easy task. It requires continuous commitment, champions, time, effort, and resources. There may be many organizational and technical challenges to overcome in building these systems. Political challenges are usually the most difficult. And it may take several attempts before the system can be tailored to evaluate a marine spatial plan effectively. But it is doable. And it is certainly worthwhile in light of the increasing demands for, and conditions attached to, demonstrating good performance.

Good performance evaluation also builds knowledge by enabling governments and organizations to develop a knowledge-base of the types of plans and their management actions that are successful—and more generally, what works, what does not, and why. Evaluation also help promote greater transparency and accountability, and may have beneficial spillover effects in other parts of a government or organization. In short, there is tremendous power in measuring performance (Kusek & Rist 2004).

Video: Heitze Siemers on the new EU directive (regulation) on MSP

  • The EU has passed a Directive in 2014 that will require all 23 of its Member States that have a coastline to develop a marine spatial plan by 2021
  • By 2016 each Member State must establish national authority for MSP
  • The Directive also requires Member States:
    • to implement MSP processes
    • to coordinate across national boundaries
    • to deal with land-sea interactions and
    • ensure public participation and the review and revision of plans on a regular basis
  • The result will be more more effective and efficient management of the marine environment

Go back to About this Guide or continue reading Step 1: Preparing to Evaluate