There is an information gap between the decisions Great Lakes leaders make and the results of the programs they influence. As a region, our desired outcomes are not always aligned and we lack a process to measure the combined effects of the many adaptive management programs.
To be effective decision-makers, Great Lakes leaders need answers:
- What are the common desired outcomes for the Great Lakes region?
- What are the best strategies and actions to achieve those outcomes?
- Are we making progress against these outcomes?
- Are we receiving the expected returns on our investments?
Blue Accounting is specifically designed to answer these questions by providing an online information platform and associated services that build upon and complement the extensive data collection and management programs already in place across the Great Lakes.
Blue Accounting Measures Progress Toward Desired Outcomes
Blue Accounting will bring the right information to the right people at the right time to support collaborative efforts to sustain and enhance the Great Lakes.
Responding to a call from the Great Lakes Governors and Premier of Ontario in 2013, the Great Lakes Commission brought together a group of regional leaders to address the information gap. They called for a new information strategy to support strategic decision-making across the Great Lakes. Their report sets out nine desired outcomes for the Great Lakes spanning social values, sustainable human uses, and healthy aquatic ecosystems.
The Blue Accounting program, led by the Great Lakes Commission in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, will bring together key stakeholders in prominent Great Lakes issue areas to help them:
- Create sets of shared basin-wide goals for the desired outcomes
- Identify strategic actions and metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of investments and programs
- Determine the data necessary to support the metrics
- Make investments in regional information management and delivery infrastructure to effectively and efficiently track and report progress towards goals
Blue Accounting is specifically designed to answer these questions by providing an adaptive management process and an underlying knowledge management platform that builds upon and complements the extensive data collection and management programs already in place across the Great Lakes.
The Process – Collaborative Adaptive Management
Adaptive management is an ongoing process of planning, doing, assessing, learning, and adapting, while also applying what was learned to the next iteration of a management process. It is a flexible decision-making process that allows a conservation plan or project to be adjusted as the results of various actions become better understood. Put another way, adaptive management offers a way for managers to “learn while doing” and apply what they learn from each action to subsequent actions and projects. By facilitating the testing, assessing, and adapting of conservation actions, adaptive management encourages innovation and experimentation, links science to decision-making, and improves long-run management outcomes.
The Platform – Knowledge Management
Blue Accounting will build on the legacy of The Nature Conservancy’s innovative Great Lake Inform platform. Great Lakes Inform delivers the information needed to support independent collaboration to sustainably manage the natural resources of the region. The site provides a home for all aspects of the adaptive management process, which enables a more comprehensive, effective, and efficient approach to addressing complex conservation issues.
Photo credit: Header: Straits of Mackinac and Mackinac Bridge ©flickr/Eric Walli.