RELU Programme

Organisation: Various (University of East Anglia, University of London, Westcountry Rivers Trust)
Location: National
Type: Case Study

The interdisciplinary RELU Programme, funded between 2004 and 2011, had the aim of harnessing the sciences to help and promote sustainable rural development and advance understanding of the challenges caused by this change today and in the future. Research was undertaken to inform policy and practice with choices on how to manage the countryside and rural economies.
The findings of several RELU projects highlighted the need for more sustained and two-way communication with stakeholders about land management. The researchers have demonstrated that new ‘knowledge-bases’ can be established that combine local knowledge with external expertise.
The research has also identified a number of techniques that enable stakeholders, who may start with different views and levels of understanding, to redefine the issues collectively in a way that can help them find innovative solutions with multiple benefits.
Perhaps the best example of this work is the ESRC-funded RELU study, led by Laurie Smith from SOAS at the University of London, which developed the concept of a ‘catchment area partnership’ (CAP) and the then novel ‘catchment area delivery organisations’ (CADO) approach for the delivery of catchment management in England and Wales.
Piloted in the Tamar and Thurne catchments, the SOAS project established a clear catchment management ‘roadmap’ on how to: create a catchment partnership, integrate scientific investigation with policy; foster decision-making and implementation to resolve conflicts; and to share best practice.
Several of the other RELU projects that looked at catchment management also characterised a positive feedback loop in participatory catchment management planning whereby small initial changes initially yield a small benefit that, in turn, goes on to encourage far bigger changes later in the process. This feedback loop builds local capacity, levering in new resources, including fresh commitments of time, expertise and funding.




The Catchment-Based Approach website is designed to showcase the work of catchment partnerships aross England and Wales and to encourage the sharing and adoption of best practice in stakeholder-led catchment managment planning, delivery and evaluation.


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