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Launching the MAGIC Pathfinder puzzle

This is the MAGIC Pathfinder in stack formation credit L.Oppenheim

On Monday 6th March we proudly launched our decision support tool, the MAGIC Pathfinder puzzle, to a small and select group of our project participants at ESI in Penryn Cornwall.

The very beautiful puzzle, fashioned from oak, is a product from our MAGIC project which has been investigating coastal adaptation and maladaptation. Through the course of the  research, we got very interested in how different risks and uncertainties affect decision-making around a wide range of coastal activities. With the help of Creative Data collaborators, Leonora Oppenheim and Lucy Rose, we developed a creative workshop where we could work and ‘play’ with participants responsible for managing a wide range of risks – not only those associated with coastal management, environment and planning. This ‘Hi Vis’ workshop allowed us to explore different perceptions of risk, how they related to different actions and decisions, and in essence, how out participants felt about risk.

The puzzle is developed based on insights from the workshop and a number of interviews undertaken before and after it. From this we were able to understand how different dimensions of risk and uncertainty influence decisions and action. We learned that ‘second order risks’ such as professional reputation, managing teams, negotiating with communities, and balancing budgets, were of critical importance. Weighing up long-term versus short-term actions and impacts is especially tricky, and interacts with other critical concerns, especially in times of austerity and redundancies.

In addition to the conventional academic outputs, such as journal articles and conference papers, we have developed the puzzle as a means by which decision-makers can explicitly consider these range of uncertainties, and think about how they can be navigated and negotiated. Hence the ‘Pathfinder’ – there is no one path, but rather there are many different routes through the different dimensions. The puzzle is designed to be used as a ‘thinking tool’ to challenge and prompt consideration of these dimensions, and as a means of opening a discussion with colleagues about hitherto implicit factors which really do shape how decisions are made and action taken.

This is the MAGIC Pathfinder in flower formation – the paths through and the key questions about different risk dimensions are revealed. Credit: L.Oppenheim

I am very grateful to the whole MAGIC team, especially Tara Quinn and Tom James at University of Exeter, and to Leonora Oppenheim and Lucy Rose at Creative Data www.creativedataprojects.com . Many thanks to the collaborators and participants in our workshops and interviews who have greatly informed our research and shaped our thinking to co-create the puzzle. We have all learned a lot from each other.

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