Shared and Contested Values

Michael Christie, Kyriaki Remoundou, Wyn Morris, Ian Dickie, Sophie Neupauer, Owen Knight

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has a remit to significantly contribute towards the delivery of the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015 and The Environment Act (Wales) 2016. To fulfil these commitments, NRW is required to ensure the sustainable management of Wales’ natural resources to enable people to live healthier and more fulfilled lives. However, NRW also recognises that different groups of people, businesses and organisations will be affected in different ways by proposed alternative scenarios for the future management of Wales’ natural environment. In some cases, the different stakeholders will have shared values where there is agreement on the outcomes, while in other cases different groups will have opposing ‘contested’ values. NRW has thus commissioned this research to explore shared and contested values for future management options for Wales’ natural resources in an attempt to gain a better understanding of sustainable pathways for future policy design.
The overall aim of this research is to explore shared and contested values that different groups of people in Wales have for alternative natural resource policy scenarios and to explore shared visions for the future direction of these policies. This aim is addressed in four research Stages.
In Stage 1 first involved a scenario analysis exercise in which we reviewed policy documents and ecosystem services assessment frameworks. Next, key policy stakeholders were consulted to identify plausible policy scenarios for the future of rural and environmental policies in Wales and importantly to identify possible policy impacts that might affect different groups of people in different ways. The outcome of this exercise was a list of policy issues that were further explored in the later stages.
Stage 2 involved a large-scale, all-Wales survey, supplemented by a survey of farmers, that explored people’s preferences for different policy options. A key finding from this survey was that although there is general consensus (shared values) as to what are the most important policy areas (i.e. there was widespread support for policies that reduced the impact of climate change), there were also some differences (contested values) between different user groups and different sociodemographic groups. This highlights that the detail of how policies are targeted and implemented is important.
In Stage 3 we re-surveyed a subsample of respondents from Stage 2 to explore whether consideration of the priorities (values) of other stakeholders would lead to a more shared vision for future policy priorities. Although one-third of respondents indicated that it was important for them to stick to their own priorities, around half of the respondents did change their priorities to reflect the preferences of others. This finding indicates that consideration of other people’s values has the potential to address contested issues relating to the future of rural and environmental policy in Wales, and to move towards a shared vision for those policies.
In the final stage, we held a workshop with representatives from across a range of rural and environmental stakeholders. During the workshop we utilised deliberative methods to develop shared visions of sustainable management of natural resources in Wales. Through the workshop discussions, it was clear that participants were able to consider the values of other stakeholders and developing a shared vision that reconciled these values. Further, workshop participants highlighted the need to form strategic partnerships among the different stakeholders to co-design policies that recognised each other’s needs.
In conclusion, our research has identified that people in Wales generally agree on what types of policy are most important (shared visions). For example, policies that had general support across different groups of people included policies that reduced emissions that cause climate change and policies that protect natural habitats and endangered species. However, we also identified that there were differences in terms of actual policy priorities between different groups of people (contested issues). For example, farmers prioritised policies that maintained farmer’s incomes and supported food production, while these policies were of less concern to the general public and people who were outdoor recreationists or members of environmental charities. As such, there is a risk that the introduction of policies that support farmers could meet with some resistance. To address this, we also explored whether deliberation and social learning could stimulate different groups of people to consider the views of others and to develop a shared vision of future policy. In Stage 3 we illustrate that around half of our respondents were willing to consider changing their policy priorities to account for the preferences of others. Similarly, in the Stage 4 workshops we demonstrate that deliberation can result in the development of shared visions for natural resource management in Wales. Thus, our recommendation to those who appraise and make policy such as the ‘Sustainable Management of Natural Resources’ (SMNR) in Wales is that when developing and evaluating rural and environmental policies, it is important to (i) consider the needs / preferences / values of different groups of people, and (ii) bring these different groups together to develop shared visions for new policies. Indeed, these recommendations support a number of the principles of SMNR, including ‘Collaboration and engagement’, ‘public participation’, ‘evidence’ and ‘multiple benefits’
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAberystwyth
PublisherNatural Resources Wales
Number of pages115
VolumeEconomics 632
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Shared values, Economic value, Deliberation, Nature resources, scenario planning


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