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Our Coastal Future Forum
 

Our Coastal Future Furom logo

Coastal future Forum meetingIn coastal South Carolina, change is happening and it is happening fast. With large numbers of people moving to the coast, rising sea levels, and a growing energy industry, South Carolina’s decision makers are tasked with creating policies concerning these burgeoning issues. Lack of communication between scientists, local decision-makers and the public sometimes causes misunderstandings and divisive opinions amongst coastal South Carolina’s diverse group of stakeholders. This, in turn, may cause inaction from our decision-makers. So how do you go about discussing these important and sometimes sensitive topics?


Who We Are

The Forum was a collaborative research effort between researchers at the College of Charleston and the University of Oklahoma working with the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and scientists at the University of South Carolina, Coastal Carolina University, SC Department of Natural Resources and the College of Charleston. The partnership was to explore a new process to include citizens, natural resource managers, scientists and government officials in a supportive setting to discuss the coastal future of South Carolina.


Background

Our plan was to use deliberative discussion to bridge the sometimes opposing opinions on environmental issues facing coastal South Carolinians. Deliberative discussion is a tool that has been used worldwide to address a range of controversial problems, from how to make Australia’s government more democratic to whether Texans want their state to focus on wind-energy development. It is a model of public decision-making based on open, respectful and well-informed discussion, with the aim of producing a thoughtful decision. Most importantly, deliberation means that all participants will get an equal opportunity to speak and be heard. Deliberative discussion has been used in a wide range of settings to help citizens, experts and public officials have respectful, productive discussions – and has often yielded thoughtful decisions and left participants feeling satisfied with both the process and the outcome.


Our Strategy

Our first activity was to survey a representative sample of coastal South Carolinians. The survey focused on residents’ awareness and understanding of important coastal issues. We asked questions about points-of-view and values. Many of the participants in the survey, along with decision-makers and public managers, attended the Our Coastal Future Forum (OCFF).

Project Timeline  (LARGER VERSION)

Deliberative Discussion process overview chart


Coastal future Foum speakerOne week prior to attending the forum, participants received an electronic version of the briefing book (pdf) that was used to inform them on the important issues to be discussed at the forum beforehand. The forum was a two-day event held in Charleston, SC, on Friday, October 20 in the afternoon and all-day Saturday, October 21, 2017. Participants in the forum were given the opportunity to listen to presentations by experts on the issues and later split into small groups to discuss how these issues can be addressed or resolved. Towards the end of the forum, all of the small groups reported on their discussions. Participants then completed a follow-up survey to note whether their views were affected or if they felt better informed. Analysis of these surveys will be used to provide decision-makers with an improved understanding of their constituents’ priorities and needs. Solving these problems will help us learn about the information and processes needed for public deliberation of coastal issues.


Timeline

The researchers concluded the coastal county and statewide survey prior to holding the forum. Post-event surveys were collected from participants following the forum on October 21, 2017 and will be analyzed by researchers and the project team. The research group has potential plans to conduct subsequent small group discussions in coastal communities to further deliberate on the topics covered at the forum. For more information about Our Coastal Future Forum, contact Lee Bundrick at 843-953-2081 or send an email to OCFF@scseagrant.org.



Last updated: 11/1/2017 1:45:33 PM
Our Coastal Future Forum

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