Operationalizing biocultural indicators of well-being across scales

Session Organizer(s): 
Eleanor Sterling
- sterling@amnh.org
Pua'ala Pascua
- ppascua@amnh.org
Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares
- alvaro.fernandez-llamazares@helsinki.fi

Collaboration between local and international conservation initiatives is imperative as it can synergize cross-scale planning and evidence-based implementation for sustainability. Yet across the globe, Indigenous Peoples and other place-based, local communities are often subjected to global goals, national policies, and regional commitments that are externally codified and include pre-determined monitoring and reporting indicators.  This can result in indicators that may not effectively support communities in realizing their self-determined vision. In addition, indicators that lack community-level input may also discount, misrepresent or undermine the knowledge systems, worldviews and cultural values that underpin the connections between people and place.

We argue that a promising solution to this challenge is to develop monitoring and reporting indicators using a biocultural approach, one that begins with an understanding of locally grounded priorities and needs that inform community interactions with, and management of, nature. Using participatory methods to identify indicators supports the identification of metrics that are culturally appropriate, that are monitored in a way that is coordinated with and respects peoples’ livelihood strategies and time limitations, and that provide information that is relevant for local community decision-making. Working alongside community members to reflect on and choose indicators is an essential part of the process, supporting community empowerment and ultimately influencing improved environmental and social outcomes of conservation initiatives.

We propose to engage a small panel of practitioners and ethnobiologists from across the globe who are actively using well-being or other biocultural-oriented monitoring and reporting indicators for their place-based initiatives. We will ask invited practitioners to describe their place-based initiative’s indicator set and/or framework, in particular, the context in which they were used and/or process they fed into, any helpful tools/resources encountered along the way, and based on these experiences, recommendations for future conservation planning efforts that are attuned to local needs/priorities and global goals.