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Collaborative Modeling for Decision Support in Water Resources: Principals and Best Practices 5. Glossary

Glossary of terms

his section defines terms used in this document. Included are the multiple names used to refer to technically informed processes that include stakeholder participation from the public, scientists, and local, state and federal agencies, for the purposes of seeking win-win (or mutually acceptable) solutions.

Adaptive Management: In general, adaptive management is a planned and systematic process for continuously improving environmental management practices by learning about their outcomes. Adaptive management provides flexibility to identify and implement new mitigation measures or to modify existing ones during the life of a project (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency 2009).

Alternatives: Actions that can be taken to improve or affect the state of the system. These alternatives may be tested against a variety of scenarios to assess effectiveness over a range of conditions.

Collaborative Modeling: “Collaborative” or “participatory” is defined as “parties working together.” Collaborative modeling refers broadly to processes that create models that are “built with” those affected by the problem being addressed. The modeler is neutral, similar to a facilitator, and creates a vision agreed upon by the whole group. The group may include stakeholders, decision makers and scientific experts. Models may be used to create a better understanding among existing conditions and potential futures, for management and decision support, as well as for education and outreach. The vision is made formal through the use of computer models.

Collaborative Modeling for Decision Support: Broad term used to describe the practice of integrating collaborative modeling with participatory processes to inform natural resources decisions. Current name used by the Community of Practice. See Computer-Aided Dispute Resolution.

Computer Aided Dispute Resolution (CADRe): This emerging field focuses on the integration of a collaborative process with computer based models to build mutual knowledge and effectively manage water resources disputes. The Institute for Water Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, led workshops in 2007 and 2009 to establish a CADRe Community of Practice. After the second workshop, the group changed their name to Collaborative Modeling for Decision Support.

Decision: The act or process of deciding, or the arrival of determination after consideration (

Decision making process: The process of deciding, from problem definition through implementation and evaluation/adaptive management.

Group: Often used to refer to all parties involved in a collaborative modeling process, including the team, and stakeholder participants. May also be used to refer to working groups or specific interest groups.

Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM): The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) defines IWRM as a “participatory planning and implementation process, based on sound science that brings stakeholders together to determine how to meet society’s long-term needs for water and coastal resources while maintaining essential ecological services and economic benefits.”3 Note that IWRM may or may not include collaborative model development.

Interest-based negotiation: Interest-based negotiation revolves around identifying and understanding the interests or needs of each party, as defined by objective criteria. Considered an alternative to traditional positional bargaining, the interest-based process can often uncover creative opportunities for mutual gain.

Mediated Modeling: An approach that “…helps people work together to create a shared vision for their community or business” because it “combines the best of modeling with consensus decision-making” and it “uses team learning and systems thinking” (van den Belt 2004). Most mediated modeling case studies have focused on education and outreach, especially to stakeholders who would otherwise not likely be involved in water management decisions affecting their lives (

Participants: All parties involved in the collaborative modeling process.

Scenarios: Defined data sets of parameters outside our control (as defined by the system under study). Examples of parameters could include population, economy, and climate. Used to test alternatives under a variety of conditions.

Shared Vision Planning (SVP) is a collaborative approach first applied in the early 1990’s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assist drought planning studies. The approach combines three disparate practices: 1) traditional water resources planning, 2) structured public participation and 3) collaborative computer modeling. Although each of these individual elements has been successfully applied previously, what makes Shared Vision Planning unique is integrating traditional planning processes with structured public participation and collaborative computer modeling (

Stakeholders: Those who may be affected by, can influence, or are interested in the decision at hand.

Team: Those planning and conducting the collaborative modeling effort, including the agency lead or sponsor, facilitator(s) and modeler(s).

Vision: Describes the conditions of a desired future. A collaborative process often seeks to develop a shared vision among parties by finding common ground and fostering mutual understanding and respect.


revised 06 Jan 2016