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Management of Conservation Areas MSc

SMART_BR: Transdisciplinary research on virtual participation processes in Austrian UNESCO biosphere reserves

This collaborative project uses a transdisciplinary approach to study the implementation and effects of novel designs for multi-stakeholder participation in the management of UNESCO biosphere reserves (BRs) in Austria. BRs are learning sites for sustainable development and test sides for trans- and interdisciplinary approaches to understand interactions between social and ecological systems. The three eligible BRs differ significantly in their physio-geographical profiles, size, economic and demographic structure, however, share participatory processes as an important pillar of their work. Reinforced by the experience of virtual communication methods during the COVID-19 pandemic BRs are beginning to use digital tools for participatory processes.

This project has two principal aims: i) to study the implementation of multi-channel participation systems with new e-participation components being developed in transdisciplinary collaboration in order to broaden engagement opportunities; ii) to assess the role and effects of electronic support for civic participation (especially of previously underrepresented groups), the effects on BR management and decision-making, and the wider impacts on local democracy and sustainable development.

In a first project phase there is the possibility to prepare the project in a (virtual) discussion process with stakeholders from Großes Walsertal BR, Salzburger Lungau & Kärntner Nockberge BR and Wienerwald BR. The project will be prepared by the UNESCO Chair at the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences in cooperation with the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Institute of Technology Assessment; Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research), BOKU University and Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt.

Financed by: #Connecting Minds; FWF Austrian Research Grant