As marine spatial planning (MSP) continues to gain global prominence as an approach to ocean governance, planners and other stakeholders are eager to evaluate its social and ecological outcomes and to better understand whether plans are achieving their intended results in an equitable and cost-efficient manner. While a plan’s outcomes for marine environments and coastal communities may be of particular interest, these results cannot be separated from planning processes. The field has yet to fully develop the guidance necessary for this critical consideration of how features of an MSP process and external factors interact with plan performance and outcomes. To fill this gap we used a literature review and expert discussions to identify 19 enabling or disabling conditions of MSP within four major categories: Plan Attributes, Legal Context, Plan Development and Social Context, and Integration. We propose semi-quantitative scoring and the development of narratives to operationalize the framework as part of a comprehensive methodology for MSP outcome evaluation. Applying the framework can add depth to quantitative MSP evaluation, shed light on questions of outcome attribution, and inform plan adaptation. Evaluating MSP outcomes in the explicit context of the enabling or disabling conditions identified here can stimulate discussion around what works in MSP and provide a path forward for assessing the benefits and costs of MSP worldwide. By identifying conditions instrumental to effective MSP, and alternatively, conditions hindering a plan, the framework can be used to guide plan adaptation and promote learning across the wider MSP community.
Enabling conditions for effective marine spatial planning