Learning and applying the Mutual Gains Approach
The Azores government aims to increase the effectiveness of its Marine Protected Areas. Around the nine islands of the archipelago, in the vast waters of the Atlantic Ocean, there are several designated marine reserves. Looking for ways to better protect these underwater landscapes and their inhabitant species, the Azores government is considering various options such as expanding the reserves and imposing stricter regulations. For example, parts of these areas may be permanently closed to users (fishermen, tourists, sea-going vessels) or be accessible only during certain times of the year; or usage may be curbed in other ways.
The government’s sincere wish to weigh these options in close consultation with all stakeholders brought the organization, via the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, in touch with P2. At their request, Femke Vergeest and Paul Manders travelled to the Azores in February 2020 to provide a training in the Mutual Gains Approach. This training was attended by 18 participants representing all stakeholders involved, including a team from the regional government. The participants immediately applied the lessons learned by jointly designing a careful process and clear structure to ensure active participation of all stakeholders. This process approach is still being followed. A team of local people takes care of process implementation and discussion meetings with all stakeholders. From the Netherlands, Femke provides ongoing support through remote coaching and reflection on the process where needed.