Creating support for policy and planning among local residents by storytelling

How to create support among locals for urban, rural and regional policy and planning? Storytelling can be a way to involve residents and gain lasting support for your future plans. Residents attach special meanings to their favourite local places, which can be uncovered by telling stories of memorable experiences. In addition, storytelling can be used to communicate these special meanings to others, such as day visitors and tourists, which adds value to the city, town, protected area, or region.

Developing future vision

For example, The Forestry Commission has been including local inhabitants in the development of the future vision for the Boschplaat, a large protected area on the Wadden island of Terschelling. The future vision encompasses more varied biodiversity and more resilience for future sea level rises. To inform and include residents (‘Terschellingers’), the Forestry Commission has organised various meetings and excursions. On these occasions, locals also informed the Forestry Commission on the importance of the Boschplaat in their lives.

Preserving social and emotional values for future generations

To gain a deeper understanding of the social and emotional values of the Boschplaat, the Forestry Commission has commissioned ETFI and the Research Group Marine Wetlands Studies for a research project. Currently, Tourism Management students are doing interviews with Terschellingers, who tell them stories about their youth, show them photo’s, and guide them around on the Boschplaat. Their innovative research method is based on Akke Folmer’s PhD thesis on place attachment. The stories of Terschellingers will be taken into account in the future vision and communicated to other local people, visitors, and tourists. This way, the social and emotional values are preserved for future generations, alongside with the ecological values of the Boschplaat.

Thus, by means of storytelling, ETFI and the Research Group Marine Wetlands Studies can uncover varied and rich place meanings of locals, visitors, and tourists. By taking social and emotional values into account, policymakers can gain more involvement and create more support for their future plans.