An Examination of Stakeholder Perceptions in Conventional and Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation of Environmental Management
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Effective environmental management is integrally linked to well-designed monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems. Within the need for M&E to manage our environments in the most effective ways, there is an emerging trend to include social dimensions in environmental management and M&E efforts. Accordingly, this research responds to the need to better understand stakeholder perceptions of key performance indicators (KPIs) related to M&E, as well as the influences of engaging in a participatory monitoring and evaluation (PM&E) process. Two objectives were associated with this aim. Objective One (Study One) addressed the tension that practitioners and scholars face regarding the intricate balance of employing a conventional M&E approach in environmental management, with the perceptions of various stakeholders. This study statistically compares two different stakeholder groups’ perceptions about KPIs for M&E at 12 different viewpoint locations in Niagara Parks. Visitor perceptions were also considered against the environmental managers’ perceptions of the viewpoint sites. Results demonstrate that visitor groups do not differ in their overall perceptions of KPIs for viewpoints; however, they do differ in their perceptions for specific KPI sub-criteria. Additionally, environmental managers and visitor groups significantly differ in their perceptions of KPIs for viewpoints. Objective Two (Study Two) was concerned with exploring the influences of engaging in a PM&E process on stakeholder perceptions of KPIs for trails. This study compared stakeholder perceptions of KPIs for trails between a group of individuals before and after they completed a PM&E workshop. Results demonstrated that the PM&E process can be used to reach consensus among stakeholders regarding the overall goals and associated KPIs for environmental management planning. Additionally, stakeholders experience a real change in their perceptions of KPIs for trails after participating in the first three phases of a PM&E process. Overall findings have many implications for theory and practice including, but not limited to, improved environmental management, appropriate integration of stakeholder perceptions in management, addressing intergroup conflicts, gaining stakeholder support for environmental management actions, as well as informing areas for influencing stakeholder behaviour and perceptions. This thesis highlights the value and practicality of using stakeholder perceptions in environmental management.