Explicit information straightens the path to better communication
Although the cases accompanying the COHESIE software are aimed at the redevelopment of city districts, COHESIE can be used in every interactive policy-making process, decision-making process, planning process or management case with multiple stakeholders. The domain and context of a new case can be setup easily and can be adapted at any time. With COHESIE the information gathered in discussions with stakeholders (during direct interviews and during workshops) can be stored, ordered, accessed and displayed easily. The information can be linked together by use of relations. Besides textual information, also other data like documents, drawings, photos and media recordings can added as information. Structuring the information in this way will lead to more insight in the implicit knowledge of stakeholder and will deepen the level of information. Stakeholders have their own jargon. Two stakeholders who talk about the same term might actually be talking about something (slightly) different. Explicitly discussing their jargon and storing this information in a detailed way will bring up these inconsistencies in their terminology, straightening the path to better communication.
Besides storing and accessing this information in a textual way, it can also be represented in a graphical, conceptual model. With this conceptual model (a Fuzzy Cognitive Map), simple qualitative calculations can be made. Stepping through the results of the calculations allows the stakeholder to see the first, secondary and higher orders responses in their model. From this graphical model, the stored textual information can be accessed. As an extension to these qualitative calculations an optimization algorithm, a visual comparison module and a sensitivity analysis module are available. The graphical representation often allows stakeholders to treat their problem at hand as a model.
Case Dohmenplein, Kerkrade
COHESIE has successfully been used in the pilot case for redeveloping the housing in the district Dohmenplein of the city of Kerkrade (Limburg, The Netherlands). In this case three stakeholders had to discuss the redevelopment plans of the social housing of the Dohmenplein. The three stakeholders involved where the city of Kerkrade, the housing corporation Wonen Heerlen (now called Wonen Heuvelsteden) and a delegate of the inhabitants of the houses involved.
First the stakeholders have been interviewed separately. In these interviews the stakeholders talked about their backgrounds, they were introduced to the COHESIE application and they were presented a small starting model. This small model was to explain the way the modelling works and to centre their first attention on the topics provided. Then the stakeholders were asked to tell about their vision on the situation. During their story a model was created within the software, allowing the stakeholder to respond to new topics and relations instantly. The stakeholders soon started to define their own topics, in the way they look at the problem at hand. During these interview sessions the stakeholders made their own model. After the interview a small report was send to each stakeholder, with a description of the variables (as specified by this stakeholder) and a graphical representation of their model.
In a second round of separate interviews with the stakeholders, the report of the first interview was discussed and their model has been presented to them. This was in important step, because recognizing their own model, gave them a feeling that their opinion does count and that they felt involved in the whole project. Secondly they re-evaluated the model they had created in their first interview, and they went on improving and expanding their own model to a point they were satisfied with the model and the level of detail. Also after this interview session the stakeholders received a small report about their updated model.
A workshop was organized in the neighbourhood of the Dohmenplein, where all the stakeholders were present. In this workshop the three separate models of the stakeholders were presented. The other stakeholders were allowed to ask question about the other stakeholdersí model, but were not allowed to make (negative) comments. It gave the stakeholders insights in each others points of view. These insights already lead to better understanding.
An example of a point that has been noted here is that the housing corporation and the city plan 10 to 15 year ahead. When after one or two years they presented their plans to the inhabitants, the inhabitants got the feeling that their houses would be torn down within a few years. Ten years later the inhabitants lost their trust in the redevelopment process, because all this time, nothing happened. The housing corporation said that in future projects they will inform the inhabitants that they plan 10 to 15 years ahead.
After presenting the individual models, an integrated model was presented. First only the variables and relations that matched in all three models were presented. Every of the stakeholders agreed on this small model (knowing that many variables were lacking in this stage). Gradually this model was extended with other variables and relations, letting the stakeholders comment and discuss on the extensions. At the end also the real stumbling blocks have been listed and discussed, defining the bottlenecks for this case.
A small bottleneck that has been defined here, involved the public space (pavement, streetlights, benches, et cetera). The city and the housing corporation logically assumed that improving the public space by placing extra streetlights and benches around the square of the Dohmenplein would improve the feeling of safety of that neighbourhood. The inhabitants stated that it will decrease the feeling of safety in the neighbourhood, because from experience the inhabitants know that the benches and the lights attract noisy youth that would lounge around.
The aimed users of COHESIE are primarily policy-makers and decision-makers at local, regional, and national government. But also (project) managers, researchers and modellers will be users of COHESIE. The usage of COHESIE doesnít require any special computer skills other than some basic knowledge of Windows. A short learning period may be needed to learn using COHESIE to its full extend. For this, the manual and the projects supplied with the software are suitable resources. A user is able to create new projects independently.
The COHESIE software is currently bilingual; the user interface can be set to English or Dutch. Other languages can be added upon request.
RIKS can provide you the COHESIE software and the knowledge to implement COHESIE for your specific problem and domain. The COHESIE software can be extended with demanded features. RIKS can also provide a team to do the implementation (interviews, workshops, et cetera) for you. Please contact RIKS for further information.
COHESIE has been developed in collaboration with the International Centre for Integrated assessment & Sustainable development (ICIS), in a project for the Netherlands Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM). COHESIE is built on TOPIC, which is an abbreviation for "Thematic orientation on project definition in an interactive context" (in Dutch: "Thematische OriŽntatie op Projectdefinitie in een Interactieve Context").