Using Socioenvironmental Report Cards as a Tool for Transdisciplinary Collaboration

Vanessa Vargas-Nguyen, R. Heath Kelsey, Harald Jordahl, William Nuttle, Charles Somerville, Jane Thomas, William C. Dennison

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The process of developing a socioenvironmental report card through transdisciplinary collaboration can be used in any system and can provide the foundation for collaborative solutions for sustainable resource management by creating a holistic assessment that balances environmental, economic, and social concerns that incorporates multiple perspectives from multisectoral actors. We demonstrated this in the Mississippi River watershed, USA with the ultimate goal of promoting holistic management of the region's natural resources. But working at the scale of the Mississippi River watershed presents the challenge of working across geographical, organizational, and disciplinary boundaries. The development of a socioenvironmental report card served as the focus for efforts to foster a shared vision among diverse stakeholders in the watershed and to promote transdisciplinary collaboration. The process engaged more than 700 participants from environment, flood control, transportation, water supply, economy, and recreation sectors, from more than 400 organizations representing local, state, and federal government agencies, businesses and trade associations, and private, nonprofit, and academic institutions. This broad engagement in the selection of important themes, indicators, measures, and assessment methods as part of the cocreation of boundary objects aimed to foster social and mutual learning and to develop common understanding and shared visioning among stakeholders with differing perspectives. The process was facilitated by boundary-spanning organizations, creating an atmosphere of trust by utilizing “third places” for knowledge exchange and integration. This transdisciplinary process also led to collective action through collaboration and selection of restoration and management activities that could improve conditions for multiple sectors simultaneously and/or recognize potential tradeoffs for informed decision making. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2020;00:1–14.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494-507
Number of pages14
JournalIntegrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Issue number4
Early online date16 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


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