A lot has changed since the FRDC developed its first strategic plan in the early 1990s.

There has been widespread digitisation of enormous amounts of information, development of smart systems that communicate interdependently, a huge decrease in cost and increase in the power of computing, a global pandemic, changes in global trade relations, marine heatwaves, droughts and floods to name a few. This creates a difficult environment for planning, and requires use of methods well suited to dealing with complexity and uncertainty.

Consultation and engagement

The FRDC's R&D Plan 2020-2025 was informed by a series of reviews, research and extensive consultation. The consultation approach focused on scenario planning, which can be helpful when planning in an uncertain environment.

Video cover image 1

This short video provides a summary of the consultative process to inform FRDC's new plan - View video

Video cover image 2

More detailed perspectives of the process used to shape FRDC's new plan can be viewed here - View video

Video cover image 3

Insights gained from participants involved in the process can be viewed here - View video

Stakeholder workshops

The process to develop the FRDC's R&D plan involved significant consultation and awareness raising among the FRDC's diverse stakeholders over 18 months.

Image

Participants engaged in systems thinking, were challenged by confronting scenarios, and considered outputs of relevant research, to help consider what the world might look like in the future, and what planning must happen now to prepare.

Research and knowledge underpinning the R&D plan

In addition to the consultation, the FRDC commissioned a series of initiatives to inform the process, which are summarised below.

Review of FRDC's performance

FRDC's new plan was developed with consideration given to a recent review of FRDC's performance. A copy of the report can be found here.

Review of FRDC structures

In 2019, the FRDC commissioned an independent review of how FRDC consults and partners with its stakeholders. The purpose of the review was to explore opportunities for improvement to better meet the needs of our diverse stakeholders.

A copy of the review can be found here

Revealing opportunities for cross-sector collaboration

Consultation to inform FRDC's R&D Plan 2020-2025 has also provided additional benefit, supporting Australia's commercial wild-catch, aquaculture, recreational, Indigenous and post-harvest sectors that make up Australia's fishing and aquaculture community. The community developed a long-term (10-year) shared vision for fishing and aquaculture in Australia, entitled Fish Forever 2030. Currently in draft, this shared 2030 vision could offer solid foundation for concerted action by all sectors to address shared strategic national challenges through combined efforts. The FRDC can then support those efforts through investment in R&D, enabling synchronised, collaborative actions towards creating a common desired future for fishing and aquaculture.

Mapping the complex system of fishing and aquaculture

A broad collective of innovators and leaders from across the commercial wildcatch, aquaculture, recreational, Indigenous and post-harvest sectors, as well as fisheries management and research communities, worked together to build a first-of-its-kind system map of the fishing and aquaculture landscape. The map describes key drivers affecting fishing and aquaculture in Australia, and the relationships between them. Building this map sparked deep discussion among the diverse sectors regarding the intricacies of the shared world, and common language that can be used to describe the forces that collectively influence the industry and community.

The system map provided the groundwork for stakeholders to identify the most critical drivers, which if changed, would alter the entire operating landscape for fishing and aquaculture in Australia.

The System Map

Screen shot of map of fishing and aquaculture

Systems thinking is a useful way to visualise and discuss the complex reality faced by the industry and community, and can help ensure the right decisions are made, avoiding wasted time, money, and other resources.

In 2019-20, the FRDC collaborated with a cross-section of stakeholders from across the fishing and aquaculture sector to develop a system map of fishing and aquaculture in Australia.

A copy of the system map can be found here.

The map illustrates key drivers affecting fishing and aquaculture in Australia (the coloured nodes), and the relationships between them (the lines between coloured nodes). The system map provided the groundwork for stakeholders to identify the most critical drivers, which if changed, would alter the entire operating landscape for fishing and aquaculture in Australia, and informed development of the R&D Plan 2020-2025. It continues to be a useful resource when seeking to develop solutions to issues affecting fishing and aquaculture.

Scenario planning - four futures

Scenario planning uses cutting-edge methods well suited to planning in an uncertain environment. The FRDC worked with a broad collective of innovators and leaders from across the wild harvest, aquaculture, recreational, indigenous and post-harvest sectors, as well as fisheries management and research communities, to explore possible future states. Four alternative possible futures were considered:

  1. A world in 2030 where the prevailing motivation is confidence, and influencers are largely unifying and inclusive.
  2. A world in 2030 where the prevailing motivation is fear, and influencers are largely polarising and divisive.
  3. A world in 2030 where aquatic systems are managed sustainably in an integrative manner, and key environmental impacts are largely known, measured and managed.
  4. A world in 2030 within which government policy is driven by populism, and key environmental impacts are largely unknown, unmeasured and unmanaged.

Participants then worked together, over several workshops, to consider the implications of each possible future for fishing and aquaculture in Australia. A number of themes were identified, summarised below.

Diagram of four scenarios of the future

Figure 1. Fourteen themes of data collected from stakeholders participating in regional workshops, elicited in response to alternate scenarios of the future.

Data collected was then presented, complete and unfiltered, to a workshop involving all sectors on 20 and 30 October 2019, during which they made sense of the data collected, organised it into themes, and used the information to develop a strategic intent for the FRDC's R&D Plan 2020-2025.

Identifying priorities and developing models for the future

Additional analysis was also undertaken in collaboration with Dr Kirsten Abernethy from the Human Dimensions Research Subprogram, to explore priorities identified by Research Advisory Committees (RACs), Coordination programs and Industry Partnership Agreements (IPAs), as well as the Federal Fisheries Minister's National Fishing Advisory Council, National Marine Science Plan and Australian Fisheries Management Forum, to map common themes recognised, and cross reference priority areas identified from this extensive consultative process.

The most commonly referenced issues included improving management and governance, building societal support for fishing and aquaculture, building capability and capacity, resource access, allocation and sharing, and improving productivity and efficiency.

Image

The new planning approach used to derive FRDC's RD&E Plan 2020-2025 has generally been well received by participants, with many commenting favourably on the way it encourages participants out of their traditional sectoral views to take a shared 'big picture view'. It is hoped that some of the tools, methods and insights developed to inform FRDC's RD&E Plan 2020-2025 will also be of use to individuals, businesses, and organisations throughout the fishing and aquaculture community as they contemplate and prepare for the future.

Related FISH Magazine articles