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Sounds good, Jamie. Pleased to see good examples, so I may contact you when this idea comes up again in my work.

 

Cindy & Paul,

I'm currently consulting on a mining project in the Canadian arctic and participatory monitoring is a major part of the overall monitoring plan.

Our strategy has been to employ local Inuit (aboriginal Canadians) with traditional knowledge of the wildlife and environment in the area as site monitors.  They are paid for by the company and act as constant site observers.  Most have less than a secondary school education, but are obviously very familiar with the surrounding environment.

In addition to this, as mentioned by Cindy, we are employing the use of a "Monitoring Committee" in which local stakeholder make routine site visits to inspect and monitor potential environmental effects. 

We've found these methods very effective in both providing employment opportunities to local indigenous groups as well as stakeholder engagement and easing community concerns surrounding the project.  In return we've been exposed to a wealth of knowledge surrounding the arctic ecosystem we would otherwise not have access too.

 

Cheers,

Jamie

Hi Paul, how are you?

You're absolutely right. It'll depend on the situation who pays, and what the monitoring program looks like. There's 4 general types of monitoring programs, with varying degrees of community input. The last one, as you mention, chooses to hire outside, neutral consultants to do the monitoring on behalf of all parties:

•A community watch program: Citizens collect data that require limited technical resources and are based on field observation rather than laboratory analyses. This requires little technical expertise. Most appropriate when the purpose is education and general awareness of project impact
•Network of observers: Community members accompany representatives of the project sponsor, company, or the government in their monitoring work. This approach allows community members to see the site, learn about the monitoring protocols, and observe the company doing its monitoring work.
•Monitoring committee: Relies on joint fact finding. Participants and technical staff collect data at strategic locations and analyze these data with as much rigor as the participating institutions like government and the company. This is a complex process, which requires technical experts on the community side. As all parties do their own data analysis, data interpretation is very important
•Independent technical experts: Contracted monitors

Interesting. I have a few thoughts from my experience.

I see two challenges in participatory monitoring. First, who pays for the monitoring? It is hard to get volunteers, especially in low income or transitioning economies. And if the company pays for such services, other stakeholders may question the objectivity of those doing the work. Second, as you mentioned already, is capacity. Obviously every project is different, but the places where I've seen the idea develop has a lot of residents with a secondary education or less. This makes building capacity a much bigger job.

I think one way to deal with these challenges is to select trained "outsiders" to do the monitoring, but make sure the monitoring methodology is explained in simple terms. It helps if it is linked to actual impacts.  By disclosing the monitoring methodology, people are somewhat less likely to distrust or misunderstand the results. Also, knowing about the lack of trust, the monitors should also have a plan for letting people accompany them on monitoring and spending time to talk about the results -- positive and negative.

I welcome anyone's experiences in implementing a participatory monitoring programme.