Engaging stakeholders in Marine Spatial Planning processes through the MSP Challenge

How can we improve stakeholders’ understanding of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in an instructive and effective way? As part of the Business2Sea Conference organized in Porto (Portugal) between 11 and 13 November 2019, the MSPglobal Initiative promoted the use of the MSP Challenge role-playing game in its series of capacity-building training courses.

Designed with the support of the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as a tool for building mutual understanding of and communicating about MSP, the MSP Challenge provides players with a ‘hands-on’ approach by getting them to take on the parts of different sectors of the MSP process: environment, industry, policy, etc. Colored tokens, with various symbols for aspects of the marine environment and human activities, are designed to fit onto the grid of the board game to build up the picture of ecosystem services and human activities above, on and below the sea surface.

Since the launch of the initiative in November 2018, MSPglobal has conducted thirteen courses and trained over 400 people with the help of the MSP Challenge.

During the MSPglobal course, participants are divided into groups to define the vision, objectives, indicators, actions and stakeholders of three adjacent countries – Island, Bayland and Peninsuland – which share a fictional sea basin called the Rica Sea. Each participant has to develop his/her respective sectorial plans, with current and future conditions, before engaging negotiations with the rest of the players to develop an integrated plan coherent with the national vision and objectives. An additional exercise allows the three countries’ planners to define EEZ boundaries and discuss transboundary coherence between marine spatial plans placed within the same sea basin.

The use of this board game increases understanding and networking, as well as guides the discussion towards the idea that transboundary challenges can be seen and overcome as opportunities for regional cooperation. In addition, playing with a different role (representing a sector that the participant is not familiar with) increases empathy, while playing with fictitious countries provides more room for discussion/negotiation.

The Business2Sea Conference, organized by the Fórum Oceano and CETMAR Foundation, is an international event dedicated to facilitating interaction between people and organizations to promote projects and business in the different sectors of the marine economy. The 2019 edition addressed ocean health and the sustainable use of marine resources according to the Sustainable Development Goal 14.


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