Practice in impact assessment has been largely based on technically driven detailed analysis, showing difficulties in dealing with contextual issues, long-term impacts and integrated assessments. Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) was meant to fill this gap by starting earlier, assessing non-site specific development intentions, and using broader, long-term approaches. Sustainability assessment (SA) comes to help ensure the intertwined consideration of social, economic, and environmental issues. Taken together, SEA and SA have a great potential to enable transitional processes towards sustainability. However, often project decisions get on the agenda before forward-looking analysis deliver pointers for a desired development. This situation has been limiting policy and planning space to creatively set the context and identify development intentions, and the type of projects that make sense to be developed.

The main purpose of this course is to lead participants to learn creative ways in impact assessment to enable sustainability using strategic thinking. The course builds upon the experience with the strategic thinking model and the critical decision factors concept developed by Maria Partidario (2007, 2012), and published in SEA Guidance (in Portuguese, English, and Spanish). Learning techniques will be based on dialogues, sharing of experiences brought by participants, short presentations, case examples from different regions in the world, and group exercises with case application. The course is not intended to deliver recipes. Instead it aims to encourage discussion and debate as a form of building ideas in a collective way. The course will address the building blocks that map a strategic sustainability focused impact assessment practice. Expected learning outcomes include 1) the added value of using strategic thinking in impact assessment; 2) how to conciliate SEA and SA as joint processes; 3) why a strategic-based approach is different from an effects-based approach; and 4) how to apply strategic thinking and the critical decision factors approach.
Level: Advanced
Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of policy-making, planning and some level of experience with strategic environmental assessment, sustainability assessment or environmental impact assessment.
Language: English
Duration: 2 days (14-15 May)
Price: US$475
Min/Max: 10-30
Instructor(s): Maria R. Partidario, Associate Professor, Instituto Superior Tecnico (Portugal)
Special Note:

Laptops not required but welcome.


Maria R. Partidario, PhD, Associate Professor at IST (Instituto Superior Técnico), University of Lisbon, Portugal, and Adjunct Professor at Aalborg University, Denmark, is a long-standing trainer and consultant on SEA, environment, planning and sustainability. Maria has created a strategic thinking approach for sustainability (ST4S), fundamentally looking into SEA and SA, but which principles could apply generally to all forms of impact assessment. The ST4S concept has been put into guidance since 1997, and is available in Portuguese, English, and Spanish. She has trained more than 1,000 professional participants throughout the world in 1- to 5-day training courses on SEA, both in the context of IAIA pre-meeting courses and in national contexts (in Europe, Latin America, Middle East, South East Asia, and Africa).
Maria was co-team leader in the SEA Distance Learning Course for China, led by the World Bank in collaboration with SEPA (China) and IAIA. Over the years several training courses have been designed and conducted by Maria under contract with private, public, and governmental institutions in different countries and as pre-meeting courses at IAIA annual conferences since 1998. Maria is co-editor of three internationally-published key books on SEA (one with Riki Therivel, 1996, second with Ray Clark, 2000, third with Barry Sadler, Ralph Ashmann, Jiri Dusik, Thomas Fischer, and Rob Verheem, 2011), and has authored and co-authored several book chapters and journal articles on SEA. In Portuguese she has prepared three guidance for SEA, the latest in 2012, the “SEA Better Practices Guide – Methodological Guidance,” published by the National Environment Agency and by REN, SA, which support current SEA practice in Portugal and is available in several websites, including the European Commission website. She has also supported the development of SEA Guidance in Chile (in Spanish).

Maria has been an advisor to UNEP and UNDP on SEA and integrated assessment initiatives to ELARD, S.A./UNDP/the Lebanese Ministry of Environment in developing an SEA model for Lebanon and to the World Bank on the development of guidance for institutional-based SEA, and she has provided consultancy to the Inter-American Development Bank in developing SEA guidance for application in Latin America. She was a consultant to UNDP in running two capacity-building programs on SEA, one for the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ministry of the Environment, and the second for the federal government of Brazil, Ministry of Planning and Ministry of Environment. She was also an advisor to the Minister of Environment in El Salvador on the establishment of SEA at the national level. She has been involved in the application of her strategic thinking approach to sustainability in different countries to concrete strategic cases, including Portugal, Chile, Peru, Panama, and Mozambique. She has been appointed to several expert panels within the European Union, UN system, and World Bank in matters related to SEA. Maria was President of the International Association for Impact Assessment in 1997-98, and awarded the IAIA Individual Award in 2002 and the 2015 Lifetime achievement award for contributions made to the advancement of SEA internationally.