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Social Assessment of Conservation Initiatives: A review of rapid methodologies

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Addressing the lack of a standardized, objective approach by which to qualify and quantify social impacts of protected areas (PAs) on local people, this paper reviews 30 regularly used social science methodologies and tools and highlights 20 that are most capable of assessing social, cultural and economic impacts. The authors argue that we often don’t know whether specific impacts (positive or negative) stem from certain types of PA management, from the PA status itself or for some other reason (e.g. decentralization of government). This knowledge would help us design better, more sustainable conservation projects that could be held up to rigorous scrutiny. Engaging from the start with local people and end users of the monitoring plan is critical.

The authors highlight four key steps:

  1. Define and prioritize the key questions to be answered.
  2. Definite the geographical and time limits of the PA and its impacts.
  3. Identify and prioritize key indicators for each question/issue.
  4. Determine the experimental design – including a sampling design and types of research tools to be used.

If you are in the process of trying to create a baseline survey for a new project that will measure socioeconomic as well as conservation impacts or creating socioeconomic indicators for current multi-sectoral projects, this is a document for you to consider.