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How to evaluate state forest institutions?

http://www.forest-monitor.com/en/strategic-options-state-forest-institutions-poland/

Rafal Chudy

Have you ever thought how to evaluate state forest institutions in your home countries? Researchers from Poland, Serbia and Germany have used a forest policy model to evaluate the activity of State Forests and Ministry of Environment in Poland. Read more what they have found, and think how such a study can be applied to state forest institutions in your home country. 

About 28% of Europe’s forests (including the European Part of Russian Federation) is privately owned forest, while 78% are in public ownership. Poland fit perfectly in this context, as over 80% of the forest is state-owned.

Without any doubts, state forest institutions bear high responsibility for the sustainable development of this natural resource and strive to fulfil economic, ecological and social goals. But how to examine, how far these goals are met, and which strategic options can be identified for the future?

Researchers from Norwegian University of Life Sciences (Norway), University of Novi Sad (Serbia) and University of Gottingen (Germany) took up this challenge and by the use of 3L Model evaluated, in the comprehensive way, the performance of the State Forests National Forest Holding (State Forests) and the Ministry of Environment in Poland.

In other words, they try to searched for as to what extent the Polish state forest institutions meet current forest policy goals and which strategic option(s) can be indicated for future forest policy development.

The 3L Model served as a theoretical basis in this study. The model is based on the benchmarking approach that comes from the business management practice, where it has been widely used by enterprises for establishing their goals, developing methods for achieving these goals, and measuring system performance. Benchmarking helps to find a reference point from the existing practice in order to assess the appropriateness of decisions related to business process improvement. The “3L” stands for the “three layers”: the layer of policy programmes, the layer of theoretical frameworks and the layer of empirical measurements. See the model structure below.

The second layer, i.e. theoretical frameworks, is a novel one when compare to the already existing two-layer approaches. It contains theoretical frameworks, which are linked on the one hand to priority goals from the policy programmes and on the other hand to the empirical measurements. Theoretical frameworks refer to the public economics, business management theories, natural science theories (theories of forest management) and political theories. Like these four frameworks, all others also use terms that are more precise than those utilized in the vague policy “language”. This is why they (theoretical frameworks) are illustrated in Figure 1 by geometric forms such as rectangle or circle, and the policy goals, identified by analyzing the policy programmes of many nation states, are illustrated as “clouds”. By linking (policy) “clouds” with more precise (theoretical) “forms”, eight theory-based evaluation criteria emerged (C1–C8, Figure 1). Each criterion was evaluated by 1-3 indicators, which were simple and empirically feasible at the same time (i.e. records about harvest levels, coverage by forest management plans or accessibility of forests).

The field study relied on a mixture of methods. Data were collected and analyzed by using available documents but also semi-structured interviews and a survey took place. In addition, use was made of participating observation, as this is a very valuable social science method. Nevertheless, the most crucial part of this study, was related to fact that one of the authors (particularly me) was given the opportunity to make many participatory observations regarding Polish forestry during the last decade, as he held different positions within the State Forests. Although I was not aware at that point in time that later I would be involved in the evaluation of Polish institutions with the help of the 3L Model, my written remarks made at the time of my involvement in Polish forestry enabled me to reconstruct the empirically based processes in which I took part. Most importantly, my observations were used as hints to the (political) processes only. All processes taken into account in the evaluation presented below had therefore been supported by additional sources as well. In addition, all observations were linked to assumptions/hypotheses based on existing theories (Figure 1). All that reduced the danger of ad hoc explanations and conclusions driven by subjective values. In other words, we used something what is called as tacit knowledge, i.e. personal knowledge, which is difficult to articulate and transfer to someone else in any way.

Summing up, both Polish state forest institutions complement each other well (Figure 2). Nevertheless, there is no cost pressure, and organizational support for innovation is rather weak. The first strategic option could therefore be to go in the direction of improving cost efficiency and generating additional revenue through new forest goods. Another strategic option would be to accept the challenge of becoming a mediator of all interests in forest, whose role has not been fulfilled by forest institutions in Poland yet.

Figure 2 presents the performance of forest institutions with management (State Forests) and authority (Ministry of Environment) tasks in Poland, across eight criteria.

In this study, we showed the achievements of both Polish state forest institutions very clearly. We pointed that:

  • the requirements of sustaining forest stands are met in practice;
  • the State Forests makes profits and has enough resources for the active management of forests and goal achievement, thereby establishing some independence from the public budgets;
  • the improved cost efficiency could vastly contribute to the stability of the State Forests, which is true for its marketing and the fact that innovative forest products have not been put forward yet
  • both the State Forests and the Ministry complement each other in the role of a speaker for forestry, which can contribute to making forestry more visible in media and political discussions; however
  • mediating all conflicting interests in the forest is not a goal that is strongly followed by forest institutions in Poland yet.

Source: Chudy, R. M. Stevanov, M. Krott. 2016. Strategic options for state forest institutions in Poland. Evaluation by the 3L Model and ways ahead. International Forestry Review, Volume 18, Number 4, December 2016, pp. 387-411(25).

Contact if you are interested in this study at: [email protected]


Rafal ChudyRafal Chudy  is a footballer by passion, forest analyst by the rest of the time. As his theoretical and practical knowledge in forestry and forest analytics has been significantly growing since he emigrated from Poland, he decided to share it with people who are interested in efficient management of all kind of resources related to forestry. He runs the Forest Monitor blog, the first blog for forest geeks.

This article was originally published in the Forest Monitor