Water Management in the Camargue Biosphere Reserve: Insights from Comparative Mental Models

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4 December 2018

ental models are the cognitive representations of the world that frame how people interactwith the world. Learning implies changing these mental models. The successful management of complexsocial-ecological systems requires the coordination of actions to achieve shared goals. The coordinationof actions requires a level of shared understanding of the system or situation; a shared or common mentalmodel. We first describe the elicitation and analysis of mental models of different stakeholder groupsassociated with water management in the Camargue Biosphere Reserve in the Rhône River delta on theFrench Mediterranean coast. We use cultural consensus analysis to explore the degree to which differentgroups shared mental models of the whole system, of stakeholders, of resources, of processes, and ofinteractions among these last three. The analysis of the elicited data from this group structure enabled usto tentatively explore the evidence for learning in the nonstatute Water Board; comprising importantstakeholders related to the management of the central Rhône delta. The results indicate that learning doesoccur and results in richer mental models that are more likely to be shared among group members. However,the results also show lower than expected levels of agreement with these consensual mental models. Basedon this result, we argue that a careful process and facilitation design can greatly enhance the functioningof the participatory process in the Water Board. We conclude that this methodology holds promise foreliciting and comparing mental models. It enriches group-model building and participatory approacheswith a broader view of social learning and knowledge-sharing issues.