Course #5: Strategic Thinking for Sustainability (ST4S) for Smartening SEA/IA





Practice in impact Assessment (IA) is largely driven by project development, even in planning and program making. The assessment of impacts generally focuses on the results of development. This limits the capacity of IA to address the purpose and the objectives of development, and to place it within time, space, and governance contextual issues. In addition, long-term impacts and integrated assessments are limited by insufficient information and by smart ways of handling uncertainty. 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) was meant 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, identify and reflect on development intentions, and explore its environmental and sustainability opportunities and risks through 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 in 2007, and published in SEA Guidance in 2012 (in Portuguese, English and Spanish). The course is not intended to deliver a recipe for doing SEA or SA. Instead, it aims to encourage creativity with thinking strategically and to build ideas in a collective way, benefitting from the diverse experiences and expectations that are brought by the international group of participants. Participants are invited to send case study ideas or problems that they are faced with, which are inputs in learning strategic thinking. Learning techniques include dialogues, sharing of experiences, short presentations, case examples from different regions in the world, and group exercises with case-application. At the conclusion of the two days, expected learning outcomes include 1) what is 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 policymaking and planning and some level of experience with Strategic Environmental Assessment, Sustainability Assessment, or Environmental Impact Assessment.
Language: English
Duration: 2 days (24-25 May)
Price: US$575
Min/Max: 10-35

Maria R. Partidario, Associate Professor, Instituto Superior Tecnico (Portugal) and Adjunct Professor, University of Aalborg (Denmark)


Maria R. Partidario, PhD, associate professor at IST (Instituto Superior T├ęcnico), University of Lisbon, Portugal, and adjunct professor at Aalborg University, Denmark, is a long-standing researcher, author, trainer and consultant on SEA, environment, planning and sustainability. Maria created a strategic thinking approach for sustainability (ST4S), bridging together SEA and SA in a strategic sense, but which principles could apply generally to other forms of Impact Assessment. This ST4S concept has been put into guidance, published in Portuguese, English and Spanish. She has trained 1000+ professional participants throughout the world in 1 to 5 days training courses, 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 is an advisor to various United Nations agencies and to multi-lateral and bi-lateral organizations, having been involved in 80+ strategic environmental assessments in practice, while her experience also includes many other projects in other fields of practice (EIA, sustainable tourism, urban planning, community engagement in sustainability driven projects in fisheries, farming, oceans, spatial planning, etc.). 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.