Conceptual and Methodological Advances
Edited by Henk A. Becker and Frank Vanclay
Mark Fenton, Sheridan Coakes and Nadine Marshall Introduction Social impact assessment (SIA) has seen the development of a wide range of techniques, methods and procedures for the assessment of social and community impacts. The techniques themselves are dispersed along a qualitative–quantitative continuum, and rely on participatory or desktop procedures, using either primary or secondary data sources. Calls for multiple methods and the need to triangulate using diﬀerent assessment techniques, while furthering the methodological rigour within the ﬁeld, contribute to an ever-increasing emphasis on method and technique within SIA research. It is argued that, although many of these techniques certainly make a signiﬁcant contribution to SIA research and practice, there is nevertheless a critical need to develop broader theoretical and conceptual frameworks within SIA that would guide the implementation and use of these techniques. This is not an argument for an omnipotent theory of SIA, or an argument for a singular methodological approach. However, it is argued that we should begin to deal with the clutter of techniques, methods and procedures that occupy the conceptual space of SIA. What is needed is conceptual frameworks which assist in organizing and providing direction for both theoretical and methodological inquiry and development. As Rapoport (1985: 256) has indicated, ‘conceptual frameworks are neither models nor theories . . . models describe how things work, whereas theories explain phenomena. Conceptual frameworks do neither, rather they help us to think about phenomena, to order material, revealing patterns’. Within both SIA and environmental impact assessment (EIA), procedural frameworks...
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