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SIAM: Strategic Impact andAssumptions-Identification Method forProject, Program, and Policy Planning (George Abonyi, 1982)

SIAM: Strategic Impact andAssumptions-Identification Method forProject, Program, and Policy Planning (George Abonyi, 1982)

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Structured and focused approach to stakeholder analysis, linking stakeholder attributes to specific policy/program/project characteristics as a basis for decision making.
Structured and focused approach to stakeholder analysis, linking stakeholder attributes to specific policy/program/project characteristics as a basis for decision making.

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SIAM: Strategic Impact andAssumptions-Identification Method forProject, Program, and Policy Planning*
ABSTRACTThis paper presents a method, called SIAM, for assessing the “social soundness” of projects, programs,and policies (with emphasis here on the first two). It is based on work by R. 0. Mason. I. I. Mitroff, and J. R.Emshoff. SIAM was applied initially as one part of a computer-assisted framework for the socioeconomicassessment of highway infrastructure plans. It has since proven useful in a wide range of projects and programs.A development project at the planning stage is a future scenario. Its final form and impact will beconditioned not only by its structural and economic characteristics. but also by the characteristics of theenvironment in which it is embedded. It is vital therefore to assess not only a project’s technical and economicviability, but also its strategic viability involving sociopolitical considerations. A project embodies certainexpectations about the present and future behavior of a variety of interests. These assumptions are implicit in thetechnical design and projected impacts, including the estimated benefits. The success of the project hinges on thevalidity and stability of these assumptions. SIAM provides a procedure for the comprehensive identification ofrelevant stakeholders. stakeholder-project linkages, and for identifying the critical assumptions implicit in thetechnical design of the project and in its economic assessment.
This paper presents a method for assessing the“social soundness” of projects,programs, and policies.’ The technique, called the Strategic Impact and Assumptions-Identification Method (SIAM) was applied initially as one part of a computer-assistedframework for the socioeconomic assessment of highway infrastructure plans [3]. It is,however, appropriate to a wide spectrum of applications.’ In general, SIAM assists in
‘Although the logic of SIAM is equally applicable to project, program or policy planning. only the term“project” will be used in this paper.SIAM is based on work by Mason and Mitroff 1161 and Mitroff and Emshoff [18]*Part of this work was developed for, and with the assistance of, the Project Assessment and EvaluationBranch, Department of Regional Economic Expansion, Government of Canada. Special thanks to Mr. BemdZechel, then project manager. and thanks to Mr. Dick Bugatsch. both of whom played key roles in thedevelopment and application of the ideas in this paper.GEORGE ABONYI is the Coordinator of the Management and Policy Group. Faculty of Administration,University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada.0 1982 by Elsevier Science Publishing Co., Inc. 0040-16251821050031-22 $2.75
identifying the strategic linkages between a proposed project and specific social groups inthe project’s environment. The outcome is more likely to lead to a project that is respon-sive to needs, and less likely to lead to unanticipated conflicts.The conceptual approach to project planning implicit in the technique is presentedbriefly in Section II. Section III presents the SIAM method and illustrates it with anapplication to the planning of a smelter project. A preliminary summary of the techniqueis provided in the next subsection, with more detailed development given in Section III.
A public agency is considering support for a smelter intended to provide a basis forthe development of a given region. Support for the smelter project requires an assessmentof its potential viability. This may involve an assessment of the project’s economicviability-as measured in terms of social benefits and costs-and even more fundamen-tally, an assessment of its strategic viability. The latter involves sociopolitical considera-tions that are not considered in conventional economic analysis, yet are implicit in suchanalysis and condition its results.A development project embodies certain expectations about the present and futurebehavior of particular interests linked to the project, such as suppliers, workers, effectedcommunities, and so on. These implicit assumptions are embedded in the technical designand in the projected impacts, including the estimated benefits. The success of the projecthinges on the validity and stability of these assumptions over time.SIAM is a systematic procedure for identifying critical strategic issues that must beconsidered before binding commitments are taken, for example, to support the smelterproject. It guides the analyst in considering a larger number and more specific types ofsocial groups than traditional categories such as “user,” “non-user,” “region,” and “restof society.” It requires a broadening of the concept of project, and correspondingly, of theconsideration of groups who may affect or be affected by project planning and implemen-tation. The purpose is to identify the critical assumptions about these groups implicit inthe project design and (if undertaken) in its economic assessment.In general, SIAM addresses the following types of questions:
What are the real boundaries of the proposed project as implied by its inputs andoutputs?. Given the above, which are the social groups to be effected by and/or likely toeffect the proposed project either directly or indirectly?
What are the assumptions about the existing and future behavior and preferences ofthese groups on which project design and/or expected benefits are based?
Which groups perceive decreases (increases) in net benefits as a consequence of theproject?
What specific project consequences and therefore associated design characteristicsare likely to lead to conflict? With whom? For what reasons?
Can project design be modified to account for differing needs and preferences notpresently accommodated? How? At what cost? (And/or) can preferences and be-haviors of relevant groups be influenced? How? At what cost?Projects, including those with a high economic rate of return or extensive expectedbenefits, may encounter serious problems in implementation if the assessment processfails to address such questions.The inputs to SIAM include data on the technical, financial, and economic dimen-sions of a proposed project, and the perceived, revealed, or projected preferences and
behaviors of relevant social groups. The output of SIAM is the identification of significantassumptions underlying project design and estimated impacts, and the identification ofpossible conflicts and their sources in specific project dimensions or consequences. As aresult, (technical) design modifications may be considered as a response to questionableassumptions, anticipated conflicts, or newly perceived needs. Proposed modifications forproject design may then be “recycled” through SIAM in an interactive assessment pro-cess. Dialogue with relevant groups may be initiated, focusing on particular projectdimensions or consequences, with the objective of eliminating possible conflicts. Theresult for the “communityof social groups is a closer fit between their needs and projectdesign. For the project planner (and decision maker) this process is more likely to result inimplementable projects that meet the needs of divergent interests.
The Point of View Implicit in SIAM3
Including an assessment of “social soundness” in the planning framework changesnot only the information base for decision making, but the conceptual basis as well. Avehicle is introduced for incorporating the behavior and preferences of disaggregatedsocial groups into a dynamic process of project planning and implementation. The view ofcollective choice implicit in the general approach is fundamentally different from thatimplicit in optimization techniques. (This issue is developed in detail in
and isonly briefly summarized here.)The optimization framework views society implicitly as an organic whole, assumingthe existence of a “social preference.” Optimization techniques then attempt to identifythe “socially most preferred” alternative, the “best”option in the eyes of society as awhole. The approach to collective choice implicit in SIAM perceives society as charac-terized more by diversity than uniformity; more by localized and individualized intereststhan by societal consensus on abstract objectives; and concerned with the general
of project planning decisions in a social context.The assumption is that non-market decision making in general, and project planningin particular, is not the same as, and cannot be reduced to a process that chooses inaccordance with some concept of “social preference.”Collective choice is thereforesomething more general, that has as a particular submodel the explicit search for acollective optimum by means of a social preference function. Alternatively, collectivechoice can also mean that preferences are used more modestly, as constraints to determineadmissible or acceptable outcomes without signaling the “best” or optimal choice.
Social benefit/cost analysis is a method consistent with the optimization approach tocollective choice. It is also a generally accepted method for the economic assessment ofprojects. A useful way to introduce SIAM is to relate it to this approach.Economic assessment of projects attempts to account for and “value” a range ofproject impacts. However, the success of a project depends on how the project compareswith the goals, expectations, and present and future behaviors of relevant interests. Thereis therefore a need to consider the “social soundness” of projects.There seem to be three main reasons for going beyond economic assessment. The
‘Those interested primarily in the technique itself can proceed directly to SectIon III.

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