Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping to Appraising Complex Situations: The Case Study of the Region of West Makedonia, Greece

By Stefanos Dodouras.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the real world, limited information is available regarding the management of complex situations. Sustainability problems rarely observe disciplinary boundaries and as such the different components of ill-defined situations cannot be examined in isolation. The complexity of great regeneration initiatives, where human affairs are involved, implies that new ideas need to come forward, alternative directions need to be acknowledged, and ways of understanding and coping with the puzzling difficulties of the planning and decision-making processes must be identified. It follows then that innovation could occur through a functioning network of communications that would aim to reconfigure existing knowledge and place it in a different framework. Using a case study based on the heavily industrialised region of West Makedonia, Greece, which now seeks to promote itself through various regeneration initiatives, the author reveals that the concept of sustainable development can become even more difficult to unravel when complex real-world relationships are to be modelled. Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM), as a Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), can deal with a lot of relatively complex problems because of its participative and temporal nature. Results obtained emphasised the importance of the continuing efforts to integrate diverse issues, understand and operationalise the problem in question, take account of the inherent uncertainty and improve multidisciplinary communication.

Keywords: Sustainable Development, Regeneration, Multidisciplinary Communication, Systems Thinking, Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 3, Issue 5, pp.125-136. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 996.845KB).

Dr. Stefanos Dodouras

Researcher, Urban Nature Research Group, University of Salford, UK

Having graduated with a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Economics from Manchester Metropolitan University, I was interested in understanding more fully the linkages between the different aspects of sustainable development. Doing a Masters of Arts in Environmental Impact Assessment and Management at the University of Manchester helped me to realise that the economic imperative does not have to be the first priority in forming long-term sustainable strategies. The decision to read for a PhD was based on the well-established need for effective communication and participation in understanding ill-defined situations within the context of sustainable development. My research was driven by a vision to examine the problem of the complexity of real life situations, such as that of mega sport events.

The output of my PhD research is an integrated appraisal system, using soft systems thinking, based on fuzzy concepts, which can develop a deeper understanding of sustainable development. Sustainable development is an ambiguous goal rather than a measurable target. However, if current knowledge and the real concerns of the stakeholders involved/affected are not incorporated into the appraisal process, then just the experts’ views on what the future directions are or should be are unlikely to produce sustainable outcomes. One way of meeting this challenge is to transform the impact appraisal process, which in turn can improve multidisciplinary communication. Fuzzy cognitive mapping, as a soft systems methodology, can assist towards this direction by providing a common framework for different professions to work together effectively.


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