Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Negotiation – The Hallmark of NRM Extension

Greg Leach

Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines and Coastal Zone Estuaries and Waterways Cooperative Research Centre. Indooroopilly Science Precinct, Natural Resource Sciences, Block A 80 Meiers Rd, Indooroopilly, Qld, 4068. Email:


Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources and Mines (QDNR&M) have seen extension wither on the vine as a discipline and professional practice. QDNR&M staff have difficulty relating principles and practices of ‘agricultural extension’ with maturing planning, administration and compliance roles with natural resource users and managers in Queensland. ‘Agricultural extension’ founded on traditions of learning and knowledge development for furthering production and viability imperatives in Australia’s primary industries sector, does not equip QDNR&M staff with adequate tools and skills for dealing with the increasingly conflictual decision-making and participation landscape of natural resource management.

This paper presents four different snapshots in Queensland’s NRM decision-making environment that highlight the need for applied research to identify effective participatory negotiation and conflict management approaches and tools. These cases are reflected against contemporary extension, participation, negotiation and organisational change literature. It is evident that prevailing participatory philosophies of ‘cognitive learning leading to practice change’ are stifling effective debate and resolution of strategic agendas and paradigmatic clashes. This is most apparent when long-term staff and community stakeholders with a paradigm of ‘change through learning’ come in contact with a new wave of enforcement professionals in QDNR&M imbued with a paradigm of ‘change through legislation.’ Another key example is the gross assumption by Federal agencies that local representatives in regional bodies possess the requisite skills for effectively and equitably dealing with complex negotiation and conflictual decision-making processes.

Senior management in QDNR&M are now re-engaging efforts to identify effective extension approaches, tools, skills and strategies to deal with these issues, but do they need to look outside the department?

Media Summary

Extension is withering on the vine. However for learning, networking and negotiation processes in natural resource management, extension has a key (albeit adapted) role. How do we design this new role?

Key Words

extension, learning, negotiation, creativity, framing, uncertainty


This paper proposes a process methodology for the advancement of ‘extension’ in the natural resource management arena in Queensland. This is in response to a ‘request’ to advance extension planning within the Department of Natural Resources and Mines. In light of systemic roles and interactions across natural resource management agencies and stakeholders, this request needs to be considered against the wider NRM extension system within Queensland (and perhaps also Australia). This premise is supported by a recent review of extension across Queensland Government (where an Aligning Services and Priorities process has been underway for two years).

The author sees that a deliberate interactive process is required to advance natural resource management (NRM) extension in Queensland. Past efforts in developing NRM extension within the Department of Natural Resources and Mines were not successful. This was due the insular (QDNR&M-centric) approach and assumptions that participatory processes targeting cognitive learning and collective knowledge development would secure management endorsement and enable further development of an ‘Extension Strategy’. It achieved neither. Efforts are made within this paper to reflect upon the origins of NRM extension, difficulties in the ‘New Extension’ process (1999-2000), the ‘request’ to revive extension in QDNR&M, critical factors that are currently influencing this revival, and four snapshots of current cases that are dealing with extension-related issues. Drawing on this context, an exploration of contemporary literature in extension and communicative intervention is then used to develop a process methodology for ‘negotiating NRM extension policy agreements in QDNR&M, and hopefully across NRM agencies and stakeholders in Queensland.’

Setting the Scene for Natural Resource Management Extension

Agricultural Origins

Queensland’s history of natural resource management has been long and eventful with traditional owners shaping the interplay of ecological processes and human interaction over the millennia. Arrival of colonial Europeans in the late 1880s saw revolutionary -and relatively recent- changes to the management of, and pressures upon, natural resource systems and processes. Initial explorers and settlers in the State -and across Australia- interpreted the potential of these resources through their European frames of understanding and endeavoured to implement resource management practices they were familiar with. Systems of governance were advanced to accompany the settlement, development and use of the State’s resources, likewise through west European paradigms and belief systems. As we have witnessed across the divergent landscapes and ecosystems that make up Queensland, these initial development efforts instigated a process of change where adaptation and reformation of these initial management practices was necessary for survival. These change processes continue today.

Throughout the vast majority of Queensland’s landscapes, agriculture quickly became the primary land use practice. In order to meed the knowledge, skills and adaptation needs of resource managers -farmers and graziers- the Queensland Government was charged with the responsibility of delivering educational services, and increasingly did so through agricultural extension programs. The primary imperative of agricultural extension has been to advance the production of agricultural commodities for State -and National- revenue as well as the underlying viability and sustainability of agricultural enterprises. In Queensland extension services were located within and delivered by State Government agencies with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries being the care-holder of agricultural extension programs, projects and professionals since the 1930’s (Nolan 1995). Through the last two decades however, the (potential) role of extension has diversified as the (international) political natural resource management agenda has crystallised, eg. Kyoto Protocol and Agenda 21 (West Norwich Environmental Project 1999), Global trends and problems (World Resources Institute 1999) and Sustainability Targets (United Nations 2002). Also a number of significant research undertakings and program initiatives that have been released for wider public scrutiny in Australia have been changing the institutional and social environment in which extension is (potentially) situated, eg. National NRM Policy (National Natural Resource Management Task Force 1999), National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (Commonwealth of Australia 2003) and the National Heritage Trust Extension (Commonwealth of Australia 2003).

QDNR&M is Born - Advancing Extension Thinking and Practice in the ‘New Extension Framework’

In 1996 the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was formed from land resources section of the Department of Primary Industries and the then Department of Lands, the land administration agency. (Note: DNR merged with the Mines portfolio in 2000 to become QDNR&M). In 1996 DNR was charged with the planning and administration of natural resources in the State through interacting with Government, industry and community stakeholders through a variety of mechanisms to achieve responsible and sustainable NRM outcomes. One of the (inherited) mechanisms to achieve this was through the delivery of extension programs. As the new department settled into its role however, there was a three-year ‘lag phase’ in which strategic planning and direction in extension was neglected.

At the end of 1998 a meeting of concerned managers and ‘extension’ practitioners initiated the ‘New Extension’ process, in which a working group of nine extension practitioners conducted a participatory learning and knowledge development process to advance a ‘new’ position on what extension is for the department and for NRM. In November 2000 a New Extension Framework was ready for endorsement and implementation across QDNR&M as a collection of principles and philosophies underpinning ‘the way QDNR&M staff do business.’ This framework was the result of interviews, focus groups, interactive meetings -involving over 300 people- and synthesis by the working group. Feedback to all levels of the department was iterative throughout the whole development phase.

The New Extension Framework was not endorsed however by QDNR&M senior management for further development and implementation (much to the surprise of the working group and a considerable number of staff). This was due to the fact that the strategic agendas of at least two of the senior QDNR&M executives ultimately opposed New Extension as it was presented to them. Their own specific agendas had not been actively sought by members of the extension strategy working group, and consequently the New Extension Framework was not reflexively adapted to suit.

New Extension advocated practice change through cognitive learning processes in a participatory environment. This did not sit well with the senior executives’ interpretation of the maturing role of QDNR&M in serving planning and compliance needs. Another reason for the non-endorsement was that New Extension was developed in somewhat of an QDNR&M tunnel and, while the steering group for the process was composed of interagency extension stakeholders, it did not draw strong linkages with DPI, EPA and other agencies dealing with overlapping NRM governance and practice change issues. A further reason for non-endorsement was a personality clash between a key proponent in the QDNR&M Executive and senior members of the working group.

Key learnings from this were that the New Extension process did not adequately engage and negotiate with the key decision-makers in QDNR&M to establish what they saw as the NRM extension environment and the requirements of NRM extension within that. Nor were processes of conflict resolution and relationship development considered for resolving the differences of interpretation, understanding and values that ultimately halted progress. Therefore the adaptation of the New Extension Framework did not meet the collective needs of ‘all’ internal NRM stakeholders.

Changing Agendas & Directions in Public Policy – Extension services for NRM public or private?

Also in November 2000, Marsh and Pannell observe at a national scale that gradual policy change in the 1990’s compelled State departments involved with agriculture, primary industries and natural resource management across Australia to review their roles and re-structure their business functions. This affected the nature of the services they were prepared to provide and the ways that those services were delivered. These changes resulted in increased private sector participation in delivery of agricultural extension services and a cutback within public agencies. These historic Government providers of agricultural extension programs however, still regard them selves as providers, “although the services provided have changed and in some cases they are moving rapidly towards becoming coordinators” of extension services and encouraging broader delivery through partner organizations and the private sector (Marsh and Pannell, 2000).

Over the last four years the rate of change in the nature of public services and the Government’s political stance and role in service delivery has accelerated. Agriculture as a fiscal category in the State budget has continued to lose the importance that it may have once held and a number of trends have broadened the view of where effort needs to be focused for the achievement of sustainable NRM outcomes. High priority public good extension activities continue to be provided free to clients. However extension activities with a higher component of private benefit -mostly in agriculture- increasingly move towards fee-for-service or external funding (eg. Research and Development Corporations). The associated risk with this is that internal resource reallocation within agencies has reduced the number of extension officers in Government. Also the increased dependence on non-based funding has reduced flexibility to respond to emergent public-benefit activities. A further assumption, largely driven by economists and economic theory, was that the market would also adapt to fulfil certain extension roles throughout rural and regional Queensland (and Australia).

From personal experience the author has observed that many staff within QDNR&M, and other NRM agencies in Queensland propelled this belief through countless conversations as well as in organisational planning and practice. Many told that extension was ‘old hat’ and increasingly the province of the private sector. An illustration of this perspective is the intranet website for internal use by QDNR&M staff. In 2000, as the New Extension process gained momentum and the interest in extension was growing, the New Extension Framework document and other associated materials were accessible through a hyperlink on the front page of Intranet, the internal website. When QDNR&M staff opened their network account on the computer they had direct access to New Extension. After the non-endorsement of New Extension, the Intranet front page was restructured. Now to access New Extension material, QDNR&M staff members needed to drill down four separate levels that bear little logical resemblance to the intended functioning and scope of the New Extension Framework.

The ‘Request’ – The Need for NRM Extension Resurfaces

In the two years following the non-endorsement of New Extension, the author made contact a number of times with the leader of compliance planning in QDNR&M. This General Manager led a steering group within the department charged with the development and implementation of a compliance strategy and chaired another management group to oversee compliance processes across business groups. When queried about the compliance-extension relationship he indicated that this was one of several institutional positioning problems of the compliance ‘movement’ in QDNR&M. In late 2002 he agreed that something needed to be done to structurally and conceptually position compliance in the department. A meeting was planned and held in March 2003 (please see below) and it was at this meeting that managers ‘requested’ a review of the New Extension Framework and some strategic planning in extension in the context of the QDNR&M’s increasing planning and compliance role. It was identified that the current strengthening of the enforcement end of compliance is working well, however a strategic need to consolidate approaches taken by separate business groups for achieving voluntary compliance is emerging. This request was endorsed by the Integrated Resource Management Executive in August 2003 with a proposal to advance this extension planning process through the Regional Services Board on November 18th, 2003.

QDNR&M – Natural Resources and Mines

Working toward and achieving sustainable natural resource management in Queensland is a complex human undertaking. For its part in addressing this challenge, QDNR&M has discrete planning and compliance responsibilities that are set within a framework of extensive legislation and policies. From the corporate plan the department’s key role in influencing sustainable NRM practice is through consultative development and then administration of this legislative and policy framework. QDNR&M’s major strategy in achieving this is through taking a partnership approach with community, to developing and implementing policy andplanning frameworks and providing natural resource information, monitoring and evaluation services. Actions are underway to build new collaborative arrangements and developing models for community engagement that will allow landholders greater participation in the management of natural resources across Queensland Regions (QDNR&M 2002).

QDNR&M also sees that understanding and cooperation is needed between everyone involved in natural resource management in Queensland to deliver the lasting solutions sought by all stakeholders. To achieve this understanding and cooperation, social processes that are suitable and adaptive for divers NRM decision-making situations, are essential (QDNR&M 2002). For some staff in the department, this is the charter of extension and an extension strategy in QDNR&M (Ham 2000). This view however is somewhat contested.

As QDNR&M’s role and legislative and policy base becomes more firmly established, the focus of extension has become more targeted. As well as maintaining its education and awareness traditions, extension in QDNR&M needs to increase its emphasis on process management to facilitate stakeholders fulfilment of legislative planning requirements, and also on influencing and contending the practices of resource managers that are not compliant with legislation and policy. These compliance and planning roles are covered below.

Compliance/education role:

A key priority for QDNR&M is to achieve integrated regulatory compliance outcomes in relation to vegetation, water and land legislation. In meeting this, QDNR&M recognises that compliance is not just enforcement but needs to be addressed through a suite of inter-related activities ranging from extension/education and communication through assessment and monitoring to investigation and enforcement. It is building an enhanced capacity in each of these areas. QDNR&M needs to maintain its capacity across the broader compliance ambit. It therefore needs to retain and make best use of extension staff, but continues to reduce funding and recruitment efforts in this area.

Integrated NRM Planning, Property Management Planning and the State Rural Leasehold Land Strategy,

QDNR&M has targeted integrated natural resource management planning on a catchment or landscape basis for some time. Extension officers have been providing education and information services to local community groups or stakeholder representatives, rather than the more traditional one-on-one “farm-gate” approach. There is however an increasing emphasis on having landholders demonstrate their performance through the preparation of Environmental Management Systems, Property Resource Management Plans and similar document records. This is particularly so under the State Rural Leasehold Land Strategy. QDNR&M’s role is foreseen as interacting with industries for documenting best management practices, to set standards for performance, to provide landholders with access to information resources and training for those who need to upgrade their planning skills. Extension staff will be required to refocus efforts for this.

As the Pendulum Swings – Compliance is QDNR&M’s New Need for Extension

This section provides a snapshot (through the authors eyes) of how extension is now resurfacing in QDNR&M. Separate Extension Strategy and Compliance Strategy initiatives existed and proceeded for over two years (1999-2001) as unlinked activities in QDNR&M without management recognition that they should necessarily be strategically and conceptually interdependent. Maturing legislation through 1999-2003 meant that it was not clear how compliance and extension should be linked. One result of inaction and non-linkage of the Extension and Compliance Strategies was the counterproductive outcome of neither strategy being endorsed by the Executive Management Group for further implementation.

Your author maintained contact with the General Manager of the Water Industry Compliance business group (as mentioned above) in his role as the chair of the Compliance Steering Committee in QDNR&M to enquire as to the progression of the Compliance Strategy and its linkage to extension. His interest in this issue increased through 2002 as Stephen Robertson, the Minister for Natural Resources applied a rising level of political pressure asking QDNR&M to meet its legislative enforcement and administrative responsibilities. The General Manager agreed to fund a participatory negotiation project involving the key departmental staff that manage, plan and implement compliance programs and processes. He also agreed that negotiations would be most effective if they could occur at several levels; at the regional scale, where Regional Compliance Coordinators endeavoured to help plan and organise compliance actions at their respective centres; between business groups separately planning and undertaking compliance activities, and; at a senior management level to help coordinate integrated compliance approaches across QDNR&M. A key suggestion for progressing these negotiations was a senior level managers meeting to establish a position on the structural, conceptual and processual levels of compliance in the department.

The meeting was conducted 26-27th March 2003 and involved key managers ‘responsible’ for compliance. The key decision from the meeting was that a Compliance Unit would be set up in QDNR&M. The managers identified that to in order to support the development of this compliance unit key needs were; to review available resources; a training plan; role classification for compliance officers; extension (including education and communication) planning and strategy development; and a compliance strategy document. Your author was given the responsibility (and opportunity) of coordinating action in the extension planning and strategy development task. To progress this challenge promptly key managers were then interviewed to begin to develop a picture of extension in QDNR&M.

Management Perspectives - Applying Extension to QDNR&M Business in 2003 and Beyond

A number of senior managers including Deputy Director generals, Executive Directors and General managers were interviewed to identify their individual strategic agendas for extension. Together they see that the Extension Strategy in QDNR&M needs to;

  • develop clear examples of how extension applies to particular departmental business.
  • target the benefits of dealing with NRM issues now rather than later
  • be an effective tool that conveys hard facts and views thereby enabling understanding and practice change
  • facilitate voluntary compliance in line with the purposes of legislation
  • focus science outcomes related to legislation as a means to enabling ‘voluntary’ change
  • be canvassed as a proactive process that works with existing structures (groups using group processes)
  • link with current issues like the Leasehold Strategy (Resource Plans, Land & Water Management Plans), Reef Plan and other key legislation
  • target processes that staff are familiar with to do core ‘high-priority’ business
  • help transition some staff on low-priority business onto higher-priorities
  • be supported by a program of awareness building, training and skills development
  • identify ‘extension resources’ within QDNR&M also external to the department

In terms of contextualising extension in QDNR&M the following influencers and factors were also mentioned in these interviews;

  • The NRM power dynamic in the community is critical - QDNR&M relationship is changing, with Government effectively devolving some power, responsibility and resources to community, but retaining the mandate for compliance against legislation.
  • Extension in QDNR&M applies to internal as well as external change processes

Following this a literature review was then conducted to identify contemporary thinking on extension (particularly related to NRM). Below is the first instalment from this review.

What is Extension?

A key source for answering this question may come from a reference not yet published. Leeuwis with Van den Ban (2004 in press) believe that the challenges of today (eg. collective resource management, multi-functional agriculture) require new forms of coordinated action and cooperation among stakeholders in agriculture and natural resource management that transcends the provinces of traditional extension. The past has seen extension thinking and activities targeting individual decision-making and technology adoption processes, predominantly in agriculture (Leeuwis with Van den Ban 2004). But times are changing.

Some authors observe that the role of agriculture as the primary function of natural resources in rural society is moving to include different interests such as rural dwellers, tourists, nature conservationists, environmentalists and the like. They also see that the use of space (and resources) is becoming increasingly contested (Lengkeek 1997 in Leeuwis with Van den Ban 2004). Others notice that the role of society itself is also changing with the government moving to be a facilitator of local and regional initiatives and citizens taking increasing ownership and responsibility of them (Giddens 1984).

Leeuwis with Van den Ban (2004) also reflect that extension of the past has long been accused of trying to advocate ‘pre-defined solutions’ for highly diverse and often relatively complex social and natural conditions. As they rightfully document there are many studies that have widely criticised these aspects of extension programs and organisations, and have identified the need for solutions and indeed innovations that are carefully adapted to local social and agro-ecological conditions.

In summary Leeuwis with Van den Ban (2004) propose that to deal with these social issues and critiques, extension needs to place greater emphasis on collective processes complete with realities of diverging interests, different perspectives and agendas as well as conflicts. Thereby they maintain that extension needs to rethink what it is all about and what type of professionals (and agencies) are needed to shift the emphasis to social learning, negotiation, conflict resolution and organisational development. As Forester claims, we need ‘deliberative practitioners’ that are not just personally reflective learners but are in fact ‘politically deliberative’ and work eye-to-eye with interdependent and yet opposing parties in the midst of inequalities of power and political ‘voices’ (Forester 1999).

So in line with this thinking, what lessons might we learn from some current activities that QDNR&M is involved in, both in the organization itself and with community? Following are four cases from which some interpretations and learnings in this respect are drawn.

4 Snapshots of NRM Business – Informing NRM Extension

Case 1 - Scenario Planning for RWUE Continuation

The Rural Water Use Efficiency program is a multi-agency partnership where industry, research, Government and community stakeholders have worked together for four years in a collaborative working arrangement. RWUE has been commonly regarded as a successful industry-agency partnership model where extension services have been very proficient. NRM extension was coordinated and delivered by the non-Government industry partners themselves in collaboration with the State NRM agencies. As the funding arrangements for RWUE were drawing to a close in 2002, the program management team -located in QDNR&M- decided to plan and implement an interactive and participatory process where all stakeholders could be involved to collectively plan the future of the program. To do this RWUE investigated a number of process/methodology options before agreeing to coordinate a Scenario Planning Exercise as a structured forward-looking process to negotiate future directions for a refunded program. Your author offered to run this as a participatory negotiation process.

The RWUE group saw scenario planning as a structured process that would take a future oriented positive approach to dealing with current tensions. It was recognised that Scenario Planning has the capacity for advancing collective agreement on a desired future, then working back from this projected ideal to identify issues and tensions that need to be addressed in the current situation/environment. Rather than dealing with current conflicts and differences up front, scenario planning provides conflicting parties with a safe conceptual (and physical) environment in which to connect pragmatics with creativity. Your author coordinated the planning and implementation of the Scenario Planning workshop and contracted Liz Mellish to facilitate the day. Members of the RWUE group saw her appreciative enquiry approach as a positive support for identifying this common future ground for RWUE partner agencies and stakeholders. At the workshop it was identified that four different scenarios should be explored to investigate how interagency relationships might work. Following this workshop, your author coordinated a scenario planning working group with members from key RWUE partners in industry, different government agencies and educational institutions. This group took each of the four identified scenarios and developed a plausible story, using common parameters (givens) that could be expected to definitely occur in the future, and drawing differences from the critical uncertainties relevant to respective directions. The overall outcome was that participating agencies supported the ‘partnership-scenario.’ RWUE was therefore re-funded for a further four years.


1. The use of such tools and methodologies for negotiation and decision making requires facilitation support and process management skills (NRM extension)

2. When a facilitator uses Scenario Planning as a tool it is an effective method of moving negotiations beyond current tensions and uncertainties to focus on future ideals (in similar contexts/situations)

3. Scenario Planning needs to be facilitated and managed through to a conclusion but include iterative feedback to participants of the initial (high energy) meeting – it was counterproductive not to re-engage this wider group and inform them of outcomes as the scenario planning process progressed and invite their comment and input once scenarios were developed

4. Initially, the use of Scenario Planning for deciding RWUE’s future was not effectively negotiated with the Business Manager, other managers and RWUE partners, therefore ongoing support was limited beyond the re-funding decision. Contingency plans for each scenario were left unfinished.

Case 2 - ASAP Natural Resource Information

The ASAP (Aligning Services and Priorities) process is an initiative of Queensland Government to review the services that public sector agencies deliver, in order to ensure they are aligned with the priorities that the Queensland Government is seeking to achieve for the community. ASAP also aims to investigate whether the services delivered Queensland Government meet the needs of the community, provides "value for money" and allows greater flexibility in the allocation of resources to meet emerging priorities (ASAP 2003).

Your author was involved in ASAP II and III (rounds two and three) in the cross agency project Information for Natural Resource Assessment and Planning. The primary aim was to identify cost efficiencies and synergies in the natural resource information environment across Queensland State and Federal agencies.

Your author coordinated and led a working group in the ASAP III stage between June and December 2002 and invited members to consider ASAP as a negotiation landscape. The group agreed to develop a negotiation plan for enabling participatory decision-making processes in this environment. This negotiation plan would outline key actions for interacting constructively with other stakeholders and negotiating new funding and organisational arrangements where potential inefficiencies existed. Using negotiation theory (Lewicki 2001, Parker 2002) your author decided to develop a process proposal as a basis for negotiating the project methodology within the group. Working with the General Manager for Resource Policy in QDNR&M (who has a background and keen interest in complex multi-stakeholder negotiation processes) a negotiation proposal and action plan for the working group was developed. The working group was not eager however, to consider the negotiation plan due to its complexity, the fact they had not been involved in the planning process, its idealistic and obviously long-term outlook, as well as the potentially high resource requirements for effective negotiation processes. The group decided instead to use an accepted project planning methodology (LogFrame) as the front-end of the negotiation process, due to its simplicity, minimal time commitment, and the concern of working group members that they did not have negotiation skills, etc.


1. Process facilitators/managers should not assume when stakeholders or members in a working group discuss and agree to develop a plan for negotiating outcomes, that they are all meaning the same thing

2. Discussion about the decision-making (negotiation) approach in multi-stakeholder complex situations does result in critically reflective consideration of what might be effective processes for dealing with conflictual decision-making ‘trajectories’

3. The working group preferred an accepted ‘off-the-shelf’ process methodology for conducting ‘negotiations’ rather than commit themselves to extra case-specific planning and unknown further commitment of resources. They did request however, process management and facilitation support

4. Inadequate commitment to planning an interactive negotiation process in this case was due to concern about skills, capacity and confidence. NRM extension professionals and skills were needed here

5. When facilitating development of a negotiation plan in a working group it may be advantageous to involve a senior advocate of participatory negotiation processes (e.g. Allan Dale) to provide experienced advice and also help build support/enthusiasm

Case 3 - Compliance planning in QDNR&M

Contact was made with a State Compliance Coordinator (SCC), and the four Regional Compliance Coordinators (RCC’s) to progress the QDNR&M compliance meeting (mentioned above). All of these officers have law enforcement backgrounds. The SCC in particular took great interest in planning this meeting and saw it as a strategic means to progress his own agendas in compliance, and indeed his career. The SCC and RCC’s had been trying to find an avenue through which to influence, from their own particular enforcement paradigms, the compliance approach of the department. These five officers participated in the planning group for the meeting and largely influenced its intentionality to focus on negotiating the structural solutions for progressing compliance (without considering the cultural changes that would be required to meet these structural roles). The Compliance Coordinators believed that negotiations should be consultative and that pre-determined options should be the focus of decision making, rather than an organic process of plan-making in an ‘open space.’ In planning and delivering this meeting it became apparent that the SCC and RCC’s paradigmatic approach to practice change was based on legal positions – change and responsible natural resource management is led by the law. There is no space for negotiation!! At meetings with these officers they explicitly rejected negotiation within the department as well as with natural resource managers as being an effective means to enabling ‘responsible’ NRM practice change.

Learnings –

1. QDNR&M Managers show great willingness to support high pressure short-term needs like a politically exposed compliance/enforcement backlog, but see extension as a more systemic long-term strategic need for departmental functions. Managers therefore respond well when NRM extension proactively adapts its role to meet current needs (eg. to achieve voluntary compliance)

2. Compliance coordinators-staff are adversarial in their approach to ‘learning’, ‘negotiating’, decision-making and planning processes. In line with authors on negotiation, ‘compliance’ NRM extension staff may need to match the negotiation styles of compliance coordinators-staff (Parker 2002).

3. Working and negotiating in adversarial compliance situations may require distributive negotiation tools and skills to deal with this conflictual decision-making landscape – NRM extension staff need to be trained how to use these alternative theoretical approaches

4. Organisational actions targeting compliance planning have been quite insular (QDNR&M centric) and may benefit through involving wider stakeholders (eg. Regional Bodies and other agencies) in planning and deciding on complementary roles and functions and necessary interventions for achieving compliance in Queensland. Process management skills are needed to achieve this.

Case 4 - Negotiation + Decision Support Systems in the New Regional Arrangements for NRM Decision-Making in Queensland

In recent years individual community members and agency staff with an interest in NRM have used a variety of planned and unplanned processes to make decisions and progress regional NRM business. Patterns and styles of interaction have developed among NRM stakeholders. The new NRM regional arrangements and processes being instituted throughout Australia under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality however, may present a huge challenge for some community and regional representatives as well as agency staff. Many of these stakeholders have not participated in negotiating planned directions/projects across State agencies, community bodies and other key stakeholders. This highlights a gap where the current skills, capacities and negotiation experience of Regional Body (and Government) staff may not be well matched to the needs of dealing with complex and conflictual decision-making environments. Difficulties in complex and conflictual decision-making issues are already being experienced in some regional bodies such as the Condamine Alliance (Drysdale 2003)

As supported by the Regional Group Collective in February 2003, negotiation and multiple criteria decision-making principles and tools are needed at different levels in the regional NRM decision-making system. These will help resolve issues of; inclusive and equitable, representative participation across different sectoral interests; decision-making in the context of complex NRM issues; conflicts of opinion, and; identification of, and agreement to trade-offs (Leach and Lawrence 2003). The aims of the project ‘Identifying Effective Negotiation Principles and Practices, and Decision Support Systems for Natural Resource Management in Queensland’ are to develop negotiation skills and capacity in the new NRM Regional Arrangements. Examples of the ‘expressed’ need to further develop negotiation capacities are;

  • The Fitzroy Basin Association and the Qld Murray Darling Committee have a large strategic need to improve negotiation skills and tools for dealing with ongoing decision-making and business. Effective change management process tools are needed for dealing with community opposition to the new arrangements and a lack of trust in some processes and Regional Body staff (Drysdale 2003).
  • The Mackay/Whitsunday’s Regional Body have a strategic need for a process that develops negotiation capacities that is timely (responsive to emerging issues), very applied, practical and transparent…and not too complex (Carpenter 2003).
  • The Desert-Channels indicated that like some other regions they are just getting started with planning and target setting. They see that negotiation and decision-support will be an emerging need through this process (Chuk 2003).

This project has been supported for implementation by key stakeholders within the regional arrangements however because it is statewide, novel and outside current funding arrangements. As organisational roles are settling into place this project’s slow start-up has ironically been an illustration of problematic decision-making by multiple stakeholders.

Key Learnings

1. Regional Bodies see a need to develop negotiation and decision-making capacities for dealing with complex decision-making processes, but see the need for process facilitators to support this

2. The administration and decision-making system in the NRM regional arrangements may have issues itself with the way issues are initiatives are negotiated – May need process manager support

3. Regional Bodies are now advertising for extension officers for different roles. Now is a good time to identify process management skills and needs (such as negotiation) for these extension officers

4. Regional Bodies are responsive to interventions to build negotiation and decision-making capacities

So where does this leave us? It seems that QDNR&M has specific roles for compliance and planning for NRM extension as well as some process management, learning and multi-stakeholder negotiation functions within the organisation and in wider roles with community. Process management and learning roles are also apparent across agencies and Regional Bodies. Interestingly, interviews with QDNR&M managers (above) failed to highlight these multi-stakeholder facilitation and process management roles of extension!!

Let us now examine the outcomes of the review of extension in Queensland Government under the same Aligning Services and Priorities initiative as in Case 2 above.

Considering Extension across Qld Government - Systemic Influences on Extension Service Provision for NRM Outcomes

Government agencies have recently defended the need for change with calls for greater efficiency and effectiveness of services (such as extension) provided by the public sector. A trend towards privatisation appears related to the declining relative importance of agriculture in the economy, budget pressures on governments, as well as the increasing influence of economists’ theories and prescriptions within government (Marsh and Pannell 2000). In line with this thinking, the Aligning Services and Priorities initiative (late 2002/early 2003) targeted extension in DPI, QDNR&M and EPA as key areas for potential overlap and/or inefficiencies as well as significant reform.

This review identified that the Queensland Government’s role in delivering extension services for natural resource management is being influenced by changes in how the State, industry and community interrelate in decision-making, planning and administrative activities. A number of systemic changes are listed below;

  • More integrated whole-systems approaches by Government, R&D (research and development) and industry stakeholders – with increased application of ‘systems thinking’
  • Increasing (expectation of) involvement by community and industry stakeholders in the design and evaluation of services
  • Regionalisation - Repositioning funding arrangements and responsibilities between levels of Governance -Federal, State, Regional and Local- to increasingly devolve decision-making and investment to the regional level as lead by NAP and NHT2
  • Increasing need to integrate services to meet user needs rather than administrative convenience
  • Implementation of the ‘Funder-Purchaser-Provider’ model within state government agencies
  • Changing cost structures - cost-recovery, cost-sharing, and out-sourcing
  • Increasing level of partnerships between Government and non-Government sectors for service delivery
  • Growing accessibility and capacity of new and emerging technologies for improved communication, learning and interactive decision-making
  • Increasing demand for resource managers to demonstrate of environmentally responsible practice (consumer expectation and legislative requirements such as property management plans)

These characteristics and trends in Queensland’s NRM decision-making environment provide the context for the inclusive and participatory processes and systems of governance that are emerging (particularly in regions). In light of these more systemic trends, there are a number of key issues that have been mounting for some time specifically in the extension discipline;

  • Dubious long-term/sustained benefits from extension projects and initiatives – inadequate or non-existent evaluation and accountability measures
  • Poor historic collaboration or partnerships across Government, private, non-Government, industry and community sectors in the delivery of extension services
  • Continuing dominance of transfer-of-technology model in the institutional arrangements in rural research, development and extension (RD&E) – now need to now focus on capacity building
  • Perpetuation of the ‘silo syndrome’ which permeates RD&E institutional arrangements – centralised or divisional structure rather than a regional focus to extension services
  • Extension has a bad name - diminishing belief in the value and relevance of extension for supporting and achieving desired practice change
  • Questionable ‘extension program’ planning skills and capacities within the NRM stakeholder environment (Letts 2003)
  • Poor linkage, ambiguity and overlap in new initiatives such as the community engagement strategy, the service delivery strategy, the communication strategy, etc.

Specific contexts for ‘extension’ in Queensland’s NRM agencies in 2003

Within Queensland public sector agencies, the role of public sector extension officers and the models for the provision of extension services vary considerably. With the State’s regional NRM governance arrangements (in line with NAP and NHT2), a number of regional bodies are beginning to employ ‘extension officers’ and their roles and functions are currently evolving. Also a number of agri-business, agri-industry and merchandising outlets have been employing interactive officers who conceivably may be labelled as extension workers (Price 2003)

Following is an outline of some of the key directions Government extension actors are taking in Queensland. As well as identifying the compliance and planning roles for extension in QDNR&M, the ASAP review identified the following roles for NRM extension in EPA and DPI;

EPA – Environmental Protection Agency

Extension officers have also been identified as having the key skills to progress the agency’s involvement in delivering projects that meet EPA’s role in achieving Government priorities, eg. sustainable catchment partnership projects, nature conservation on private land as part of the State Rural Leasehold Strategy. EPA maintains that its extension service is the key area with the on-ground experience to facilitate achievement of the State and Commonwealth Governments’ biodiversity objectives. Paradoxically however, changes in the use of extension staff in the agency, the number employed and their potential demand are being experienced. Many externally funded extension positions expired in June 2003 and reduced the extension effort, much of which operated in partnership with Government. Externally funded Bushcare and Coastcare Coordinators, for example, were lost from the agency’s extension network in June 2003 due to discontinued funding. Likewise, former NatureSearch Coordinators have been integrated into broader roles to meet existing extension needs. These events, among others, have reduced the capacity of the extension network within EPA. Remaining extension officers are expected to pick up additional duties in relation to supporting the regional arrangements under NHT2, as well as support of the NatureSearch and Land for Wildlife programs.

DPI priorities relevant to extension

The Agency for Food and Fibre Sciences (AFFS) and Rural Industries Business Services (RIBS) are the main business groups directly involved in extension services for NRM outcomes within DPI. Also the Animal and Plant Health Services (APHS), Queensland Fisheries Service (QFS) deliver extension services.

AFFS has seen an increasing shift from base funding of extension to external funding. RIBS major focus for extension is business improvement capacity building and it works with community groups, industry groups, farm and other primary industry businesses, and people living and working in regional Queensland. Increasingly public benefit work being conducted is questioned for its relevance to RIBS core business. There is a trend towards building the capacity of others, mainly non-Government providers, to deliver RIBS services. This is part of an overall move away from direct delivery of client services by Government. RIBS services are also being moved towards higher levels of fee-for-service.

ASAP Recommendations for Extension

Five major areas for improvement of extension in Queensland were identified in this ASAP process:

1. The development of a commonly understood and agreed whole-of-government outcome focus for NRM, and use of whole-of-government outcomes in the design, targeting and assessment of extension services

2. Clarification and agreement on the specific contributions, roles and responsibilities of the Government sector (and of each relevant agency), and non-Government sectors (private, industry and community sectors) in achieving whole-of-government NRM outcomes.

3. Improved performance management of NRM extension services and programs across agencies (and within agencies) to ensure more effective and collaborative strategic direction setting, decision making, program and service development, resource allocation, performance assessment, performance improvement and delivery of services

4. Improved design of NRM extension services and programs across agencies (and within agencies) to ensure more focused and targeted service delivery

5. The development of new models of governance that enhance the achievement of NRM outcomes.

The Interagency ASAP Extension Review Group also developed several options relevant to trends in Government service delivery, extension and NRM, and which, to varying degrees, address the major areas for improvement identified above. The broad options considered were:

1. No change to existing arrangements. That is, extension services for NRM outcomes continue in their current agency-specific form.

2. Build on existing arrangements, such as shared service delivery, and significantly enhance functional arrangements to establish a whole-of-government outcome focus, to ensure collaborative, integrated and targeted service delivery, and to build the capacity of the non-Government sectors to deliver services on behalf of Government or to partner with the Government sector in the delivery of services.

3. Creating a separate, identifiable agency dedicated to delivery of extension services for NRM outcomes.

4. Move from predominantly Government delivery of NRM extension services to predominantly private, industry and community sector delivery of these services over the next 5 to 10 years (ASAP 2003).

Cabinet Budget Review Committee decisions about the future of extension?

A submission has at the time of writing, not been put to put to CBRC due to the pending State Government announcement about the formation of Science Queensland, a super-agency combining the science units in all respective State agencies into the one new Science Department. Recommendations regarding extension will need to be strategically placed to position NRM extension in a productive way for linking with and complementing the clustering of scientific expertise and functions relating to natural resource management.

Notwithstanding this however, your author believes that the second recommendation in the above ASAP options is the preferred reality due to the abovementioned institutional functioning and roles of extension (as mentioned by Leeuwis with Van den Ban 2004), the need for systemic (interagency) linkages in NRM extension business delivery, and the continuing public good functions of NRM extension (particularly in compliance, planning, protection, conservation and sustainability domains). Irrespective of the location of science and its relationship to policy, administration, community development and other Government functions, your author believes that APEN could serve as representative organisation under which a collaborative multi-stakeholder process could be undertaken. In this review, all stakeholders can play a part. QDNR&M can play a coordinating role for public good NRM extension and DPI can collaborate with industry stakeholders to coordinate a review of private good NRM extension.

Following is a proposal for conducting this review and planning process, based on the above contextual information and an assembly of theoretical arguments from current literature.

Negotiating NRM Extension in Queensland - Theoretical Inputs

The authors’ belief based on experience is that an extension review and planning process should use the very process management tools and philosophies that it espouses and uses itself. Theory that is leading debate and development in the extension discipline has been reviewed below and attempts are made to link a number of key concepts into a process methodology for planning extension in Queensland.

Building on Learning to include Network-Building and Negotiation

Extension over the last decade has supported the use of social learning processes and participation methodologies to target cognitive change as a means to enabling practice change. The emergence of the learning paradigm in extension (Pretty and Chambers 1994) resulted in new learning approaches, participatory methods, institutional settings and changes in extension professionalism itself. The aim of the systematic learning approach is to create learning systems which are able to retain their abilities to be influenced by, as well as to have a positive influence on, the circumstances which surround them: to create learning systems …. through the synthesis of different ways of learning. For any community or organisation to learn, individuals must not only themselves be active learners, but they also must be committed to sharing that learning in ways which allow consensual understanding or meaning to be reached (Bawden, 1994).

Social learning models see cognitive change as the prime prerequisite for behavioural change and conflict resolution. To facilitate social learning intervention agencies commonly use participatory methodologies that are mainly geared towards changing cognition, assuming this will lead to change in social practice. However Leeuwis proposes that facilitating change and innovation process requires the weaving together of different strategies and activities (incorporating various methods) in a flexible and contextual manner (Leeuwis 2000).

Leeuwis (2000) reflects that `participation' has become a widely advocated methodological principle in the quest for for sustainable rural development. A range of participatory methodologies, methods and techniques have been developed in order to put it into practice. In later writings Leeuwis admonishes that there is often a rather enormous gap between participatory rhetoric (including theoretical discourse) and partipatory practice. In fact, participatory practice (as shown e.g. by descriptive studies) hardly ever matches the criteria formulated by normative theories and definitions of participation. Methodological problems and inconsistencies in the current participation discourse open the door for negotiation theory to form a more appropriate basis for organizing participatory efforts. It provides a better language for dealing with the conflicts that emerge within participatory processes (Leeuwis with Van den Ban 2004).

Change processes at large cannot be planned and/or controlled by means of prefixed goals, procedures and methodologies and achieve effective/sustainable outcomes. Conventional participatory literature and methodologies that aim to enable effective change processes, are particularly weak in conceptualising and dealing with conflict as an inherent component of change (Leeuwis 2000). Moreover, learning and cognition as supported in these processes are inherently connected with diverging interests and power processes. In interactive processes ‘trying to get things done’ is effected by tensions and conflicts of interest that are difficult to ‘manage’ by mere learning processes alone (Leeuwis 2002). Interactive courses of action involving multiple parties may be better thought of in terms of learning, network building and conflict resolution, rather than simply as participatory processes (Leeuwis with Van den Ban 2004).

Integrative Design – Organising Learning, Network Building and Negotiation

When designing a process methodology for interactively developing an extension plan for QDNR&M (and beyond) an enormous number of factors and perspectives can (and need to be) considered. Van Woerkum (1999) talks of integral design, where processes are planned in which participants take efforts to combine negotiation with learning (van Woerkum in Leeuwis 2002). Five principles are suggested by Aarts and van Woerkum (1999) for shaping an integral design process;

1. a multi-functional tackling of collective problem(s) – deal with systems not parts

2. an interactive style of management – inclusive involvement of key stakeholders in decision-making

3. inter-disciplinary exchange and inquiry – communicate and negotiate language, paradigms, tradition

4. use of implicit and social knowledge – making implicit ideas and assumptions explicit

5. reinforcement of cultural identity – support need for distinct ‘identity’ present in our current society

These principles are useful considerations for designing a methodology to develop an extension plan.

In terms of organizing change interventions, Leeuwis (2002) proposes that efforts to induce social learning (and planning) need to be combined with strategies for managing conflicting interests. Leeuwis with Van den Ban (2004) propose that different ‘tasks’ (stages or steps) are relevant to such processes than the more classical stages of planning models. Such a framework should be central to designing a process methodology to deal specifically with extension in Queensland. However due to extension’s protracted, complex and somewhat conflictual history in Queensland, a number of other perspectives or theories may be needed to move beyond the intractability of the discipline’s plight. Specifically, considerations of triple-loop negotiation, framing-reframing, dealing with uncertainty, and harnessing creativity are considered in the following sections and then added to the task list of Leeuwis with van den Ban (2004) further on.

Triple-loop Negotiation

Based on the learning theories of Argyris and Schon (1996), where double and triple-loop learning is the basis for transformative processes of change, your author proposes that likewise negotiation can be considered in this way.

1. Single loop – negotiating a substantive issue

2. Double loop – considering the reasons, motives, assumptions and beliefs within negotiations

3. Triple loop – negotiating the negotiation approach and process

From case studies above and professional experience in other cases (Leach in press) your author concludes that in order to enable effective engagement of key stakeholders in a process of negotiating differences of interest, a substantive issue, or paradigmatic clashes, practice shows that the level of thought, commitment and decision-making space is critical to success. There are different levels at which disputants will commit themselves and indeed provide the space needed for change (in belief, cognition or value) to resolve the issue at hand. In order to strengthen these levels of commitment in negotiations it is not adequate to simply address and improve present negotiation routines (single loop). In line with the thinking of Argyris and Schon (1996), moves to investigate and challenge assumptions and boundaries which underlie negotiation practices (double loop), or even change the way they organize or think about the negotiation process itself (triple loop) are needed to engage disputants more effectively in a negotiation (and learning) process.

In line with this, your author has also identified a need for a fourth loop within the negotiation (and learning) system. The fourth loop is the actions and persuasion (negotiation) that is needed to motivate the actors who are involved in a conflict or dispute, to actually involve themselves in triple-loop negotiation. From experience, this is a very challenging but crucial process.

Therefore in designing a process methodology for extension planning in QDNR&M, a presentation needs to be prepared that will enrol and motivate managers and stakeholders (hopefully other NRM agencies) to invest in a working group (or other process) to broaden the scope of NRM extension. This working group can take a triple-loop negotiation approach to identifying effective NRM extension in Queensland.

Reframing – Dealing with the intractability of the Extension Issue

Lewicki et al. (2003) see framing as a useful means of explaining and making understandable the social constructions and interpretations of different actors dealing with a point of difference (dispute). They observe that when we frame a conflict, we develop interpretations of what the conflict is about, why it is occurring, the motivations behind parties involved, and how the conflict should be resolved (Lewicki et al. 2003).

A primary aspect of negotiation (and in fact joint learning) involves testing to see if one’s interpretations are compatible with those of other parties. Framing is used to compare interpretations and sometimes to try and influence others to adopt our interpretations of a conflict. Lewicki et al. (2003) propose from their research that individual, characterisation and conflict management frames are key for understanding how the dynamics of conflict (or a negotiation process) can be understood. Additionally they identify that whole story, power and risk frames aid this understanding, particularly for environmental conflicts.

Lewicki et al. (2003) have found through their research that efforts to improve understanding of the frames held by different parties in a dispute (or negotiation) can lead to more constructive interactions among the disputants, to frame enlargement and sometimes even to re-framing. They identify that re-framing can move conflicts toward resolution. Moreover they propose that frames can be altered in time through interventions and intentional actions as well as through the changes in the systemic context of the conflict. Moreover, if parties can recognise their different frames of reference with regard to the problem at stake, and, building on this recognition, develop new common frames for both problems and solutions, they have the potential to reach a collaborative solution (Gray 2003).

Your author proposes there is value in linking the concept of re-framing with the learning-negotiation imperatives contained in the interactive processes suggested by Leeuwis with Van den Ban (2004).

Dealing with Uncertainty

In integrative negotiations participants extend (gradually) their restricted outlook on the issue(s) through others’ perspectives in order to reframe an amalgamated ‘new’ common view that actually incorporates the problems of the different actors. For many involved in such situations however, the process of ‘perspective taking’ (Lewicki et al. 2003) where actors abandon their old frames is a very frightening prospect. In these very common cases, negotiation results in (very provisional) compromises that are rarely regarded as satisfactory for all parties involved (Aarts and van Woerkum 2002).

A key issue here is that people do not naturally tend to give-up what for them are certainties. In other words, people do not like uncertainty and try to minimise this risk. In negotiations intending to move toward system -innovations there is a distinction between the following uncertainties (Aarts and van Woerkum 2003);

1. uncertainties in respect to the negotiation outcome – will it be a satisfactory result (win-win or win-lose)?

2. uncertainties in the background or motives of other actors – what do they really want?

3. uncertainties with own capacity to deal with the situation – do I have the skills to handle it?

In negotiations people use different strategies to reduce uncertainties, however these strategies hinder processes of re-framing. Strategies that are commonly used include; selecting, reconstructing or ignoring information eg. functional ignorance (better off not knowing much); shifting identities to suit the situation (uncertain characterisations replaced by fixed Stereotype); shifting responsibilities (blaming others), or; formalising communication (written documents stifle creativity) (Aarts and van Woerkum 2002). In summing this up Lewicki et al. (2003) identify that strategies to avoid uncertainty result in a tendency to negotiate in adversarial and competitive ways. The ultimate non-result is that frames are maintained.

A number of strategies can help circumvent the issue of uncertainties in negotiation processes. Firstly, it is crucial to recognise and incorporate uncertainty into facilitating negotiations rather than avoid it. Aarts and van Woerkum (2002) have the following recommendations beyond this;

1. selecting participants that are uncertainty oriented – do not avoid the challenges of uncertainty

2. revalue informal conversation for sustaining formal negations – safe exchange without records build trust

3. distinguish between long-term visions and short-term goals – regular deliberation + constructive relations

4. invest in mediators/facilitators – organise, facilitate negotiations, build relations and uncover assumptions

5. include relationships with constituents as part of the negotiation process – this is often neglected

Uncertainty can be minimised in extension planning processes by explicitly asking participants at select times (in each task) what their concerns are with the uncertainties, and what new uncertainties are emerging

Creativity and lateral thinking

Creativity is most often related in literature to problem solving. De Bono counters though, that this is a western tendency with restricted usefulness (de Bono in Aarts and van Woerkum 2003). In contrast to the means-end planning approach, in which creativity is a form of problem solving, Aarts and van Woerkum introduce an alternative way of planning in which creativity has a broader scope. This alternate approach sees that instead of ‘fixed objectives’ one prefers a socially constructed clear sense of direction, and instead of ‘fixed means’ one prefers a set of promising options that are well-chosen with the intention to experiment and try what works. Placing creativity within this, intervention might target the;

  • Establishment of creative mood – need to separate the creative from the rational-analytic (problem solving). Re-framing organisational-environment relationships is practically impossible unless one encourages and enables people to become involved in intense interaction where there exists a creative mood (eg. without administration, paper-work, telephones, external pressures).
  • Providing conative vs cognitive possibilities – some people are more cognitively (mentally) creative whereas others need action to be creative
  • Maintaining participatory safety in groups – non-threatening interpersonal environments favour creativity
  • Regard conflict as a source of new ‘creative’ ideas rather than a source of disturbing unrest
  • Balance external pressure – too much reduces experimentation, too little encourages ‘Spielerei’
  • Encourage story telling and narratives through interactive organisational encounters
  • Welcome emotional appeal and spirituality – clarify spirituality at work (Aarts and van Woerkum 2003)

De Bono (2003) insists that lateral thinking is a way of thinking that seeks a solution to an intractable problem through unorthodox methods or elements that would normally be ignored by logical thinking.

Lateral thinking involves disrupting an apparent ‘logical’ thinking sequence and arriving at the solution from another angle. Edward De Bono’s lateral thinking tools such as the ‘six thinking hats’ have a longer history and acceptance by a number of extension officers in Queensland (Reid pers com 2002). They would have direct application for use in the task list below at selective stages.

The role of the facilitator in interactive processes of learning and negotiation

In the design of interactive processes that are organised along the lines of a negotiation process, attention needs to be paid to the facilitation of a learning ‘trajectory.’ Facilitators should play an important part within the interactive design process to mobilise this, and ensure flexibility and creativity within interactions such as joint exploration and learning. Van Woerkum (1999) maintains that it is only on the basis of effective processes of joint learning that negotiations can become creative (instead of conflictual – distributive). Creativity and flexibility are often required from facilitators as uncharted and unanticipated events make adjustments of the chosen design (or trajectory) essential. The planning scope for process design is limited therefore, and a ‘step by step’ guideline to facilitating an interactive process can be misleading. Van Meegeren recommends that a creative, selective and purposeful application of tasks and tips (below) are necessary for facilitating a productive learning and negotiation process (van Meegeren in Leeuwis 2002).

Guidelines for Facilitating Interactive Learning, Networking and Negotiation Processes

Van Meegeren and Leeuwis (1999) proposed an overview of tasks that formed the basis of an interactive design process. Leeuwis adapted this framework as a guideline for facilitating integrative negotiations (Leeuwis 2000). Leeuwis with Van den Ban (2004) further developed this framework (or task list) and propose associated guidelines for the facilitation of interactive processes (see below). They see interactive processes require a balance of learning and negotiation and propose the following tasks and tips increase the chances of attaining this balance.

Integrative Negotiation Tasks

Guidelines for Facilitating Interactive Processes

Task 1: Preparing the process:

  • Preliminary exploratory analysis of conflicts, problems, social (including power) relations, practices, etc. in historical perspective;
  • selecting participants;
  • securing participation by stakeholders;
  • establishing relations with the wider policy environment
  • initiate discussion and early identification of identity, characterisation and conflict management frames
  • Ensure that conducive conditions for an interactive process exist or can be created
  • Investigate relevant past, current or planned initiatives actors have considered/implemented in effort to improve the situation
  • Identify successes and obstacles in these
  • Show genuine interest in people to build trust
  • Identify those whose issues are ‘at stake’
  • Identify ‘broad’ areas for interaction without limiting scope for debate to preconceived ideas
  • Ensure institutional space for using results
  • Forge linkages between interactive processes and policy environment
  • Pursue agreement on status of outputs and results
  • Interdependence is a crucial condition for proceeding
  • Select participants who are change minded, imaginative, empathetic, good communicators and trusted by their peers

Task 2: Reaching and maintaining process agreements

  • creating an agreed-upon code of conduct and provisional agenda;
  • preliminary establishment of an overall objective / terms of reference;
  • provisional distribution of facilitation tasks;
  • definition of the role of external facilitators and other outsiders;
  • maintaining process agreements;
  • securing new process agreements as the process unfolds.
  • Place emphasis on discussing and making explicit the conflict resolution frames (including the facilitator)
  • Facilitate double-loop exploration of assumptions, motivations and paradigms underlying conflict resolution frames
  • Positive and fair procedure agreement (groundrules) enhance trust
  • Openness to adapt process agreements as decided also builds trust
  • Clear process objectives crucial for facilitating interactive processes
  • Initial terms of reference may need to change as other issues emerge
  • Agenda for debate must remain sufficiently open at process level
  • Clarify mandates and decision-making freedom of represantatives
  • Maintain the right to withdraw from earlier proposals
  • Create protected space and conditions to prevent disempowerment
  • Ensure information storage, use and access rights are established
  • Be flexible about facilitator choice but monitor task performance
  • Ensure it is clear that process management responsibilities will ultimately rest with those expecting the innovation to work
  • Professional facilitators may need to pass role to participants as outcomes progress to promote process ownership and responsibility
  • Facilitators should be careful not to take over ownership of a process
  • Selectively use tools to enable creativity and reduce uncertainty
  • Task 3: Joint exploration and situation analysis (social learning A)
  • supporting group formation and group dynamics;
  • exchanging perspectives, interests, goals;
  • further analysis of conflicts, problems and interrelations;
  • integration of visions into new problem definitions;
  • preliminary identification of alternative solutions and `win-win' strategies;
  • identification of knowledge conflicts and gaps in insight;
  • emphasis exploration of identity and characterisation frames
  • emphasise creativity and lateral thinking
  • emphasise options for reducung uncertainty.
  • Exploration is starting point for changes in perception and cognition
  • Needs cannot be assessed, they need to be discovered through creative learning and negotiation activities
  • Problems more useful entry point than needs - easier to deconstruct
  • Shift to concret needs after exhausted problem analysis-exploring
  • Ensure explortion is a continuous process – to meet new challenges
  • Conflict can be relational or substntive
  • Target disturbed relations first before dealing with substantive issues
  • ‘We’ vs ‘them’ is usually based on worst of them vs best of us
  • Make room for people to ‘let off steam’ to regain mental space
  • Ensure group reflection on process dynamics deals with tensions
  • Enhance participant skill in giving and receiving feedback
  • Explore underlying norms, values and interests at stake in an issue
  • Encourage listening to other parties’ underlying interests ang goals
  • Discuss stakeholders’ fears, goals and underlying interests to s a good means of identifing base interests and aspiration and agreement
  • Listening to other parties basic concerns, interests and goals enables easier understanding of respective rationales and cilitates possibilities that exists that satisfy one another’s interests
  • Ensure suffient content input from outside to expand bandwidth
  • Build commonalities – common areas of agreement first
  • Task 4: Joint fact-finding and uncertainty reduction (social learning B)
  • developing and implementing action-plans to fill knowledge gaps and/or to build commonly agreed upon knowledge and trust.
  • To move beyond bocks in decision-making and knowledge impasses joint fact-finding build required understanding and also relationships
  • In conflict situations, this joint fact finding is a negotiation problem in itself
  • Reflect on conflict resolution frame
  • Task 5: Forging agreement
  • supporting manoeuvre: clarifying positions and claims, use of pressure to secure concessions, create and resolve impasses;
  • soliciting proposals and counter-proposals
  • securing an agreement on a coherent package of measures and action plans
  • Cohernt innovations require new forms of coordinated action within a network of inter-related actors
  • Make people talk in terms of proposald and counter-proposals
  • Facilitators - need to give cooincidence a chance in integrative negiaton
  • Need to defining detailed goals and action for the immediate future only, and developing more astract goal orientationand shared visiln in the longer-term.
  • emphasise options for creativity and lateral thinking and reducung uncertainty – de Bono’s 6 hats
  • review conflict resolution frames and consider re-framing possibilities of all frames
  • Task 6: Communication of representatives with constituencies
  • transferring the learning process;
  • ‘ratification’ of agreement by constituencies
  • emphasis characterisation frame and identity frame
  • Ensure regular communication between representaives and their constituencies to prevent ‘others’rejecting eventual agreements made
  • Interactions between representatives and their constituancies must be regarded as separate negotiation processes
  • Some say that the key to successful conflict resolution lies predominantly with the willingness and capacity of representatives to negotiate their own constituency
  • Need to also ensure that process prticipants have access to wider policy environment
  • Task 7: Monitoring implementation
  • implementing the agreements made;
  • monitoring implementation;
  • creating contexts of re-negotiation
  • reflect on reframing.
  • In monitoring, it needs to be clearly oulined what different stakeholders are expected to do
  • Need to crate clarity about the process of re-opening integrativ negotiations on already agreed upon soil

Table 1: Tasks in integrative negotiation processes (adapted from Leeuwis with Van den Ban 2004)

Discussion and Conclusion

The senior management in QDNR&M have requested that a planning process be undertaken in the department to re-identify extension in the context of compliance in a maturing legislative and planning role. Your author has endeavoured above to place extension in the broader systemic environment of key institutions and stakeholders in natural resource management in Queensland. Key learnings from this are that the institutional environment, the key influencers and indeed the substantive focus of extension have broadened from agricultural traditions to include wider contexts of natural resource management. As the pendulum swings, the last decade or so has seen a dwindling of extension resources in State agencies and an increase in private good extension in the public sector. This paper proposes a theoretical background and process methodology for engaging extension stakeholders in learning and negotiating their way to a plan for NRM extension in Queensland…for the next bracket of time. A negotiation approach is taken due to the lessons learned from participative learning approaches to enabling change. The strategic agendas of different stakeholders, an ever increasing capacity and expectation for inclusive interactive processes, a diversity of conflicting paradigms and the inherent unpredictability and indeed creativity of human nature, politics and community see that negotiation is necessarily the hallmark of NRM extension.


In the good spirit of initiating a collaborative negotiation, your author places on the table his ‘position’ on NRM extension for the ‘compliance and planning role’ of QFNR&M!

Position 1: QDNR&M Extension Strategy - A Definition for Extension in QDNR&M

The social intervention processes and principles for influencing NRM behaviour in Queensland.

QDNR&M Extension targets the learning, education, participation, negotiation and conflict management necessary for effective and sustainable NRM decision-making and compliance with policy and legislation

In the above diagram community engagement is the formal interface between Govt and Community. Extension is the processes and principles of mutual learning, education, participation, negotiation and conflict management that are used at this interface, as well as throughout the whole system. These processes need to be delivered in an integrated manner through an QDNR&M Extension Strategy.


Aarts, N. 2001. Dealing with uncertainties in interactive problem solving: A qualitative approach, IACM 2001 Conference.

Aarts, N. and van Woerkum, C. 2002. Dealing with uncertainty in solving complex problems. In: C. Leeuwis and R. Pyberg (eds) 2002.

Aarts, N. and van Woerkum, C. 2003. Creativity, Planning and Organisational Change. In Preparation

Aarts, N., van Woerkum, C. and Vermunt, B. 2003. Framing Planning in Regional Innovation Networks in the Dutch Countryside. Proceedings: Co-creating Emergent Insight – Multi-organisational Partnerships, Alliances and Networks, Glasgow.

Argyris, C. 1994.Good Communication That Blocks Learning. Harvard Business Review (July-August)

Argyris, C. and Schon, D. 1996. Organisational learning II. Theory, method and practice. Addison-Wesley Publishing, Reading.

ASAP Queensland Government 2003. Aligning Services and Priorities – Information for Natural Resource Assessment and Planning. Department of Innovation and Information Economy

ASAP Queensland Government 2003. Aligning Services and Priorities – Extension Review (Draft). Department of Primary Industries

Bawden, R. 1994. Creating learning systems: a metaphor for institutional reform for development. In: I. Scoones and J. Thompson (Eds) 1994.

Carpenter, J. 2003. Personal Communication

Chuk, M. 2003. Personal Communication

Commonwealth of Australia 2003. National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.

Commonwealth of Australia 2003. Framework for the Extension of the National Heritage Trust.

De Bono, E. 2003. Why So Stupid? Blackall Publishing.

Drysdale, A. 2003. Personal Communication.

Forester, J. 1999. The Deliberative Practitioner. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sabon by Achorn Graphics Services Inc.

Giddens, A. 1984. The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Polity Press, Cambridge

Gray, B. 2003. Strong Opposition: Frame-based Resistance to Collaboration. Proceedings: Co-creating Emergent Insight – Multi-organisational Partnerships, Alliances and Networks, Glasgow.

Ham, S. 2000. Personal Communication

Leach, G. and Lawrence, P. 2003. Project Plan - Identifying Effective Negotiation Principles and Practices, and Decision Support Systems for Natural Resource Management in Queensland. QDNR&M Internal Document

Leeuwis, C. (ed) 1999. Integral Design: innovation in agriculture and resource management. Mansholt Institute, Wageningen. Backhuys Publishers.

Leeuwis, C. 2000. Reconceptualizing Participation for Sustainable Rural Development: Towards a Negotiation Approach. Development and Change 31, 931-959 (2000).

Leeuwis, C. and Pybern, R. (eds) 2002. Wheelbarrows full of frogs – Social learning in rural resource management. Koninklijke Van Gorcum, Assen.

Leeuwis, C. and Van den Ban, A. 2004 (forthcoming). Communication for Rural Innovation. Rethinking Agricultural Extension. Blackwell Science, Oxford (in cooperation with CTA)

Lewicki R, Saunders D, Minton J, Barry B (2001). Essentials of Negotiation. McGraw-Hill Companies

Lewicki, R., Gray, B. and Elliot, M. 2003. Making Sense of Intractable Environmental Conflicts - Concepts and Cases. Island Press, Washington DC.

Lewicki R, Saunders D, Minton J, Barry B (2001). Essentials of Negotiation. McGraw-Hill Companies

Marsh, S. and Pannell, D. 2000. The New Environment for Agriculture - Fostering the relationship between public and private extension. RIRDC Publication No 00/149

National Natural Resource Management Task Force. 1999. Managing Natural Resources in Rural Australia for a Sustainable Future - A discussion paper for developing a national policy. Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry—Australia

Natural Resources and Mines. 2002. Corporate Plan 2002-2007. Queensland Government

Nolan, J. 1995. Personal Communication

Parker, A. 2002. Negotiator's toolkit. Peak Performance Development

Pretty, J. and Chambers, R. 1994. Towards a learning paradigm: New professionalism and institutions for agriculture. In: I. Scoones and J. Thompson (Eds) 1994..

Price, N. 2003. Personal Communication.

United Nations 2002. Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Van Meegeren, P. and Leeuwis, C. 1999. Towards and interactive design methodology: guidelines for communication. In: C. Leeuwis (ed) 1999.

West Norwich Environmental Project, 1999. Agenda 21, Chapter 10 - Integrated Approach To The Planning And Management Of Land Resources. Earlham, Norwich, Norfolk, UK

World Resources Institute, 1999. World Resources: A Guide to the Global Environment (Biennial) (New York: Oxford Univ. Press)

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page