Stakeholder Participation Assessment Framework (SPAF): A theory-based strategy to plan and evaluate marine spatial planning participatory processes
Although stakeholder participation is transversal to other steps of the Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) process, its recognition and adoption is context dependent. Considering that MSP plans need to be periodically evaluated, not only in relation to their outputs and outcomes, but also through an analysis of the processes used to achieve the results, criteria to evaluate participation throughout the whole process are needed. However, a robust and comprehensive assessment framework focused specifically on participation is not available up to date. Therefore, this study proposed an assessment for such operational analysis in order to support assessment of consequences related to the participatory strategy chosen (e.g., increased social acceptance). A Stakeholder Participation Assessment Framework (SPAF) was developed and divided in two phases: Phase I based on key theoretical aspects ‘why, who, when and how to engage stakeholders’, as well as on criteria for costs (these five criteria were divided in 15 sub-criteria, and instructions based on social science knowledge to analyse each one were given); and Phase II in which a list of questions about participatory consequences can be addressed based on specific criteria of the first phase and stakeholders' feedback. SPAF can be used not only to evaluate MSP planning cycles but also to plan meaningful participatory processes; therefore, contributing to strengthen MSP processes and to promote more horizontal and integrated ocean governance approaches.