Co-management in issues large and small
A participatory approach is an essential element of Metsähallitus’ identity. Collaboration and co-management are part of all activities and take many forms. Co-management is carried out on a statutory, voluntary or contractual basis and whenever necessary.
The co-management approach starts from considering what aspects and which stakeholders Metsähallitus’ decisions and work affect and involving these parties in the decision-making. A key form of co-management is natural resource planning, in which dozens of interest groups are involved. Additionally, co-management groups are convened for such purposes as preparing agreements on the management and use of conservation areas, felling plans and plans for developing tourism areas. Various web-based feedback and participation channels are also used frequently.
Smooth everyday interaction with different stakeholders is important in the practical work. The park superintendents of national parks and Forestry Ltd team leaders, for example, engage in a continuous dialogue on land use with the stakeholders.
Metsähallitus has long-term agreements in place on the use of state-owned land and water areas with such actors as the Natural Resources Institute Finland, the Defence Forces and educational institutions in the forestry sector. Cooperation agreements have also been concluded with the Finnish Reindeer Herders’ Association and the Sámi Parliament, the Skolt Village Meeting and the reindeer herders’ cooperatives in the Sámi Homeland.
Additionally, Metsähallitus has a high number of fixed-term collaboration agreements on different themes, in which project collaboration plays an important role.
Metsähallitus is asked to provide hundreds of statements on various projects, programmes and land use plans every year. Different needs and aims are reconciled by preparing statements in cooperation between Metsähallitus units, after which the relevant unit submits the statement.
The co-management and participatory methods are thus chosen as required in each situation. The main thing is that the selected method serves its purpose.
Aiming for good interaction
Our stakeholders are also our sparring partners in many cases. The use of natural resources is fraught with conflicts which cannot always be fully resolved. Interaction skills are needed to resolve these conflicts, allowing collaboration to continue. Developing interaction skills is a key goal for us.
In cooperation with the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation and Greenpeace, we launched a process aiming to improve co-management and interaction skills in 2019 with the support of Akordi Oy, experts specialising in interaction development. The aim is to build up our competence and identify methods that can be used to move forward from different disputes concerning natural resources and their use towards cooperation.
Annual evaluations by stakeholders
In the interest of continuous improvement, we regularly monitor stakeholder opinions of our activities. Stakeholder surveys are conducted to gauge our partners’ and stakeholders’ perceptions of our activities and reputation.
A reputation survey carried out in 2019 indicated that Metsähallitus is seen as a reliable and versatile partner. The ratings for acting responsibly and promoting non-discrimination were better than in the previous year. Metsähallitus continues to enjoy a fairly good reputation. Our stakeholders and partners found that the standard of cooperation with Metsähallitus has improved since the year before. Our communications had also improved, even though the tone of the feedback ranged from satisfied to critical. The most important development areas are listening to our target groups more carefully, encountering them with greater understanding, and reconciling the needs of different parties.