In July, the Coastal Training Program hosted NOAA’s Social Science Basics training for local professionals. The social sciences are a valuable but often overlooked element of coastal zone management. Issues from marsh restoration to flood mitigation all involve critical human elements – knowledge, values, and attitudes – of the people that live, work, and play in these areas.
This training provided the basic knowledge and skills to help coastal managers understand their stakeholders and allowed participants time to practice skills such designing a survey and conducing a focus group. “The training was really informative and I think it was good to have activities to put the knowledge into practice,” said one participant from a local municipality. “I learned new tips and tools for effective stakeholder engagement."
Curious about social science and how you can use it in your work? Here are a few resources from NOAA to get you started:
- Stakeholder analysis worksheet: Use this worksheet to identify stakeholders to include when addressing a community issue, from a new housing development to a new public park. This stakeholder analysis will help identify an individual’s or group’s interest, position, or other special factors that should be considered during the decision-making process.
- Introduction to conducting a focus group: Focus groups are useful tools that require only a small number of participants when compared to many other social science methods. The typical objective of a focus group is not consensus or debate, but rather to generate ideas and provide an opportunity for stakeholders to express feelings about a particular topic.
- Introduction to survey design and delivery: Public attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs can strongly influence coastal management decision-making. Officials use surveys and other social science tools to identify the relationship between a community and its natural resources.