Frequently asked questions about the SP2 project  

What is the SP2 project?

SP2 is a six-year research project funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation. The aim of it is to provide synergistic modelling tools to support integrated, decision-making in Auckland and Wellington.

These tools include: (i) A System Dynamics model that can be used by a wide range of stakeholders, (ii) An Integrated Spatial Explorer (ISE) model which links existing models and which will be operated by council staff. Both types of models allow the simulation of development pathways and GIS visualisation of future landuse change. The SP2 research team includes council staff to facilitate uptake of the modelling tools.  

What is unique about the SP2 project?

Our decision-making processes in the 21st century need to be informed by the increasing amounts of data and information available about our environment and its functioning, recognition of the complexity of urban systems, and an increase in the range of new technological platforms to integrate information. The SP2 project is about understanding these various elements and developing new, more integrated tools that will be of use to planning authorities in New Zealand.  

Why develop models with end-users?

Developing modelling tools in close co-operation with end-users ideally ensures they are given an opportunity to have a clear role in the development of in-house training and management of models and their eventual use within councils. Establishing how well this works is a research aim.  

What is mediated modelling (MM)?

Mediated modelling is a process of building a model with rather than for stakeholders. It is a process of facilitating a group of stakeholders to develop a system dynamics model that reflects their perceptions of issues. This model is populated with relevant data and then run to show changes over time.  

Why use MM?

Over the last 40 years integrated decision support systems have been developed by consultants and universities to provide assistance for planners to plan and manage regions, cities, and neighbourhoods. However, research indicates these are rarely used in daily practice and the gap between the modelling and planning communities is large. The mediated modelling component of Sustainable Pathways 2 moves from focusing on solving technical modelling problems to improving the social process of developing models and other planning tools with iterative knowledge exchange.    

How does mediated modelling Work?

Representative stakeholders come together over a series of workshops to interactively build a scoping model to link social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues in one dynamic framework. As stakeholders identify and build their understanding and mutual appreciation of key stocks and flows in the model (such as population density, land use, infrastructure, employment) they also get to appreciate the dynamic interaction between these variables.  

What does the model constructed do?

The finished scoping model (at a high level or more specific if there is a pre-determined issue of interest) can be run over-time to illustrate long-term intended and unintended consequences of decisions. The model developed is not spatially explicit. Its purpose is to increase understanding of the underlying trends, not predict future outcomes. Mediated models have a high degree of integration and, because they have been constructed using a ‘team’ process, are relatively easy to understand and operate.  

What are the expected outcomes from a MM process?

The Mediated Modelling process outcomes are: (i) greater understanding of the other stakeholder perceptions, (ii) a system-dynamics scoping model that can be used by stakeholders to explain possible outcomes from proposed actions, and (iii) information that will ensure key drivers are incorporated in the more data intensive Integrated Spatial Explorer (ISE) being constructed for both Auckland and Wellington as part of Objective 2 of the Sustainable Pathways 2 project.   

What is an Integrated Spatial Explorer (ISE)?

An Integrated Spatial Explorer is a model built to enhance spatial planning capacity. This is achieved by enabling planners to see spatial patterns of development over time. Planners face increasing complexity in endeavours to plan and manage regions, cities, and neighbourhoods and the ISE model is designed to support the planning process. The model is based on software developed in the Netherlands and used widely across Europe.  

How do models support the planning process?

Modelling tools, such as Integrated Spatial Explorers, improve the robustness of the planning processes by providing up to the minute data in an integrated system which allows policy and decision-makers to explore the long-term implications of decisions before they are made.  

How is an ISE different from other models?

Both Greater Wellington and Auckland Council use a number of existing models to inform decision-making. Each of these models addresses a particular topic area. The ISE model brings these together into one platform so issues can be considered in a more integrated way. This more closely replicates reality.  

How is the ISE model constructed?

The Integrated Spatial Explorer is built using the Geonamica® framework and has been constructed with a strong emphasis on the inter-linkages and feedback loops between different components. These inter-linkages have been enhanced with insights from the Mediated Modelling process. A process of making continuous improvements to the Integrated Spatial Explorer will be undertaken over the next three years, along with maintenance and up-dating of key datasets.  

Who developed the Geonamica® framework?

The Geonamica® framework has been developed over the past 15 years by the Research Institute for Knowledge Systems based in the Netherlands. It has been used to generate integrated spatial decision support systems for a number of purposes and in a number of countries.  

What are the ISE outputs like?

The Geonamica® user interface provides map displays as outputs, editing tools, list and table views and two-dimensional graph editing capabilities. Geonamica® enables users to run simulations interactively, engage with the system observing the results of their actions directly, as well as save the results for further analysis or presentation purpose.  

How will outputs from SP2 be implemented?

This will be done through the three parallel objectives all underway at present.

  1. The ‘Mediated Modelling’ provides a means for a  range of stakeholders from the public, private, and non-government sectors to have their input into the model building process. Stakeholders come together with a facilitator to determine both the key variables for inclusion in a systems dynamic model and the important links between them. The model is based on stakeholders’ perceptions and is designed ‘bottom-up’, which provides a way to reduce the implementation gap between model builders and end-users.

  2. The ‘Integrated Spatial Explorer’ integrates existing socio-economic, environmental, and transport models into a spatially explicit platform. It makes efficient use of existing Council models which are incorporated in an innovative dynamic setting incorporating the feedbacks and time lags that characterize complex urban systems. The modelling environment enables users to run simulations interactively, engage with the system, and directly observe the results of their inputs into the modelling system.  Results are presented visually and can be saved for further analysis or presentation purposes.

  3. The ‘Embedding into Council Processes’ objective  seeks to reduce the gap between model-building capacity and use of models by the planning community. A component of the research is how best to embed scenario modelling into local government processes. This area of research is being directed by SP2 team members who are also council staff.

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