From environmental management to organisational strategy development: Using Drivers-Pressure-State-Impact-Response with ECSA

This week, together with Margaret Gold, I facilitated a strategy meeting of the European Citizen Science Association.31520287784_20489a734e At the moment, because a recent lecture in the Introduction to Citizen Science and Scientific Crowdsourcing course that was dedicated to environmental citizen science, the “Driving forces-Pressures-State-Impacts -Responses” (DPSIR) is in the front of my mind. In addition, next week I’ll participate in a workshop about Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) where I would discuss citizen science in another context where DPSIR is a common framework.

However, if you are not familiar with large-scale¬†environmental management, where it is widely used since the mid-1990s,¬† you’re not expected to know about it. It got its critics, but continue to be considered as an important policy tool. DPSIR start by thinking about driving forces¬†– trends or mega-trends that are influencing the ecosystem that you’re looking at. The drivers lead to specific pressures,¬†for example, pollution or habitat fragmentation. To understand the pressures, we need to monitor and understand the¬†state¬†of the system – this is lots of time where citizen science and sensing data are used. Next, we can understand the potential¬†impacts and then think of policy¬†responses. So far, hopefully clear? You can read more about DPSIR here.

I haven’t come across the use of DPSIR outside the environmental area (but maybe there is?). However, as I was thinking about it, as we prepared for the meeting, I suggested that we give it a go as a way to consider strategic actions and work for ECSA. It turns out that DPSIR is a¬†very good tool for organisational development! It allowed us to have a 20 minutes session in which we could think about external trends, and then translate them into a concrete action. Here is an example (made up, of course, I can’t disclose details from a facilitated meeting…). I’m marking positive things, from the point of view of the organisation, as (+) and negative as (-).

Let’s think of a citizen science coordination society (CitScCoSo). in terms of¬†drivers, an example will be “increase recognition of citizen science”, as Google Trends chart shows.¬†Next, there are the¬†pressures¬†which include (-) the growth in other organisations that are dedicated to citizen science and compete with CitScCoSo, which mean that it will need to work harder to maintain its position, (+) increase in requests to participate in activities, projects, meetings, talks etc which will create opportunity to raise profile and recognition.¬†CitScCoSo current¬†state can be¬†that the organisation is funded for 5 more years and have a little spare capacity for other activities. The¬†impacts¬†can be (+) more opportunities for research funding and collaborations or, (-) demand¬†for more office space for CitScCoSo (-) lack of IT infrastructure for internal organisational processes. Finally, all this analysis can help CitScCoSo in¬†response¬†– securing funding for more employees or a plan for growth.

When you do that on a flipchart with 5 columns for the DPSIR element, it becomes a rapid and creative process for people to work through.

As I pointed, a short exercise with ECSA board showed that this can work, and I hope that the outcomes are helpful to the organisation. I will be interested to hear if anyone else know of alternative applications of DPSIR…



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Professor of GIScience, University College London

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