Thursday, March 18, 2010

The "ABC" approach to ICM project implementation

I posted my last blog entry on a great forum, Dlist.org , that connects coastal managers working in Southern Africa. Here is the response I got to my suggestion that ICM proponents may be walking into troubled waters, so to speak, when they set up new management organizations.

"....it appears that the choices in how one approaches a recalcitrant local government structure are: a) win their favour (which in some cases is possible only by offe[r]ing kickbacks), b) wave a big stick at them, if there is indeed a big stick to wave, and c) facilitate the formation of a pressure group which hopefully, through democratic processes, will ultimately bring about a change in the local government structure."
In other words option C. is better than options A. or B. and therefore justified. And here is part of my response to that response-
"Notice that in none of the abc options are we as ICM proponents called upon to do any self-reflection upon our own ICM objectives or to understand further the objections of resistant groups.  Instead each option, though programmatically very different, takes for granted that ICM objectives are unequivocally "the right thing to do."

Yet given the diverse cultural, social, and political settings in which ICM proponents work, such a self-assured paradigm doesn't seem suitable for number of reasons.

1. Such a paradigm severely limits the amount and character of negotiations that ICM proponents will have with resistant groups. If we are right, the rationale for any negotiations cannot be to achieve inter-subjective satisficing, but merely to persuade. Resistant groups are likely to "smell," and be resist to engaging with, such close-mindedness.

2. It also tends to demonize "recalcitrant" groups by casting them as (a.) greedy and therefore susceptible to bribes, or (b.) irrational/childish and therefore in need of punishment, or (c.) illegitimate and therefore ethically sidestepped by the formation of new organizations and power groups.

3. It also limits ICM proponents’ ability and desire to be adaptive to local contextual realities.

4. And finally it tasks ICM proponents with a role more similar to that of an ideologically-driven political campaigner (we have even adopted political terminologies such "pressure group" "constituency building," etc.) than that of a problem solving coastal manager."

I hope she responds. What do you guys think?

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