SusDale: a role play based on sustainability in Wenslydale

School of Geography, University of Leeds

The SusDale case introduces students to environmental decision-making, explores the meanings of sustainability, and allows them to consider the role of perspective and diplomacy in group work and negotiation.

The students represent various interest groups broadly based on the Upper Wensleydale area of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The groups are: the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority; Wensleydale Farmers Association; Wensleydale Business Consortium; Wenselydale Visitors Group; Friends of Wensleydale; Wensleydale Community Forum and E-Peace. These were 'created' to represent a wide range of viewpoints of how the Dale should be developed and managed. The Case study forces these groups to argue over a 0.5m grant which has been awarded to the Dale, but which demands evidence of concern for sustainability and consensus amongst the interest groups. The students are presented with around 30 costed schemes which they can propose for funding. The process of decision making and negotiation is what differs between the long and short versions of SusDale.

In the three hour version, students work in groups of up to 8, with each member of the group representing an interest group. The students are given a briefing document which outlines their group's main aims and principles, and offers a small number of schemes which the student can propose during the session. The group then uses the session to reach decisions on which schemes they will support.

In the longer version, which runs in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds over a 10 week period, the class of 50 is split into 8 groups of c. 6 students. Each group adopts the role of an interest group. The groups are then given the details of all 30 schemes available for development, and during the course of the module have to decide which of the schemes best fits with their group's aims. During the course, the groups are presented with a series of issues, such as a proposal for a golf course and a windfarm, which they must respond to quickly. This helps to refine their group's position and perspective. They produce a confidential position paper at the end of week 8, and make a presentation to the rest of the class in week 9. Here, they state which schemes they do - and which schemes they can't - support. During the final week, there is a 'planning discussion' at which consensus and decisions must be reached as to how to allocate the 0.5m grant. In contrast to the shorter version, the students remain in their role groups, thus the discussion is between the groups of 6 rather than within the smaller groups as per the shorter version.

In each version, there is potential for the Case to be used in a range of academic and other contexts. The longer version currently sits within a Level 2 undergraduate module which is an introduction to Cultural Geography, but would work equally well in planning, environmental management or psychology modules, and at a variety of academic levels. There are plans to run one of the versions with community groups in the Yorkshire Dales, and the shorter version is already widely used with schools and college groups by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority education officer.

Written with financial support from the YDNPA by Dick Glover, Context, and Dr. Matt Stroh, School of Geography, University of Leeds.

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