Whether it is for research projects, for the elaboration and implementation of strategies and policies or for strengthening capacity to organise territories, ACTeon team mobilises skills, methods and tools adapted to the context, processes and territories specificities

Territorial diagnosis aims to provide an understanding of a territory’s overall specificities (environmental, social and economic characteristics, interactions between stakeholders…). The objective is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the studied territory and the scope of action available to stakeholders in order to influence the territorial dynamics underway. 1

Territorial diagnosis is an essential starting point for the development of a territorial project. It often builds on a collaborative work with different stakeholders of the territory. The first step consists in a field work to collect available data and to interview a diversity of local stakeholders. Subsequently, an in-depth work on both quantitative and qualitative collected data helps to provide a snapshot of the territory, shared with stakeholders.

ACTeon mobilizes its team’s skills and experience on territorial diagnosis for different sets of projects, like the development of water management master plans, or studies for agricultural supply chains implementation. The diversity of concerned sectors thereby involves all of ACTeon’s skills.

Foresight analysis is an approach, a state of mind, which postulates that projecting into the future enables a better assessment of short-term issues and objectives, and their adequacy with mid- and long-term. The team regularly applies the scenario- method which relies on:


  • The identification of an organizing question (ex: will water offer impacted by climate change be sufficient to satisfy future water demands in the territory?)
  • A time horizon (ex : 2030 or 2050)
  • The identification of the key decision factors and their past trends (ex : urban water demand : population, unit water consumption, efficiency rate of the distribution network, types of urbanization)
  • The exploration of past trends projected into the future ( ex : the population may tend to double)
  • The identification of potential breaking points in the trajectories (ex: which elements could explain that the population will not double?)
  • The development of contrasted hypothesis in the future time horizon to identify the panel of possibilities
  • The “story-telling” of these hypothesis
  • A discussion on the most desirable scenario and the identification of convergences and divergences
  • The definition of a backcasting strategy to reach the desirable scenario.

With support from its technical partners (Futuribles, EdF, IRSTEA, etc.), ACTeon leads foresight analysis in the field of environmental public goods:

These exercises can potentially be coupled with participatory methods or modeling.

For all field projects (Diagnosis-Study-Evaluation), ACTeon implements approaches and methodological tools based on Social Sciences and which aim at better understanding wide audience and stakeholders perceptions of a particular phenomenon. Social representations of water reuse (research project DEMOWARE), of water management issues (Study for the optimization of water governance in the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay), or of the interface between terrestrial, coastal and marine areas (research project “Draw me … a sea-land system) can for example be explored and analyzed.

The exploration and analysis of social representations are considered as social and collective constructions of symbolic images, attitudes, values and beliefs linked to an object, and always intend to strengthen capacity of stakeholders to act.This approach through social representations is therefore essential to understand the specificities of studied contexts or objects but also to strengthen skills and autonomy of stakeholders: decision-makers, technicians or users.

Tools mobilized, such as semi-structured interviews or focus groups, allow to gather qualitative information (stakeholders speeches, visual representations, etc.). Depending on the needs, quantitative tools (questionnaires) can be used on a complementary base to target a wider audience.

More globally, it can be highlighted that this comprehensive approach enhances stakeholders acknowledgement and, hence, motivations and involvement in projects.

ACTeon mobilizes its Social Sciences skills and experience gained on the field to implement these approaches.

Social acceptability should be understood as a “process of social negotiation linked to collective and communal deliberation ability 1 ».

Thus, social acceptability differs from the level of acceptance of a project by communities, which will be analyzed at individual level in terms of positive and negative behavior and at collective level in terms of agreements and disagreements.

As an iterative and dynamic process, a project’s social acceptability relies on diverse criteria which can be “worked on” over the time of a study and through diverse intervention strategies (information-persuasion-education) towards concerned groups on a specific territory.

The following aspects can be collectively “worked on” within stakeholders or users groups over the process of building up social acceptability:

Aspects Criteria
Socio-anthropological Attitudes and values
Secular and professional culture
Social representation
Cognitive Knowledge/individual and collective information bias and structuration
Contextual and territorial Territorial peculiarity/Governance
Experiential Types and methods of use 
Experiences relied to the studied object
Social Sociability/social influences/social determiners of behaviour

Being far from a utilitarian vision where social acceptability would be no more than a tool for making projects accepted, social acceptability enables to reinforce the “action power” of stakeholders and users, through social sciences-based approaches (particularly interviews and focus-groups)and interactive pedagogy (groups and collective learning dynamics).

On this intervention axis, ACTeon can mobilize its competences in social sciences, its thematic expertise and its skills and experiences in facilitation.

Some references about this expertise

CAP and Trade : the European research project CAP and TRADE (2010-2014) analyzed the impacts of quantitative water management approaches based on individual and transferable quotas trading. ACTeon has been in charge of analyzing the social acceptability of this management methods by building exploratory scenarios (methodological coordination and exploration within the context of Marais Poitevin).

DEMOWARE : the European research project intends to build up arguments towards policymakers in order to encourage waste/treated water reuse. Within this project, ACTeon is strongly involved in the working phase on social acceptability of waste/treated water reuse in the Vendée Greenfield. 

Evaluating public policies involves two dimensions:

  • Quantitative: measuring the effects of public action by comparing results to objectives and means, particularly using performance indicators;
  • Qualitative: judging the relevance of the objectives, which may lead to reconsider choices.(source)

Evaluation process therefore mobilizes criteria of efficiency (balance between means and results), effectiveness (achievement of objectives), internal and external coherence, relevance (answer to issues). Policy evaluation can be ax-ante (before implementation, “foresight”), in parallel (during the implementation, for example at mid-term) or ex-post (lessons learned-evaluation, “hindsight”).

ACTeon overtakes the aspects of performance and evaluation engineering based on the pair efficiency/effectiveness to develop policy evaluation with proven social utility, largely taking into account the implementation context as a fundamental success factor or constraint of public policy.

ACTeon also favours participatory approaches at various steps of the evaluation, seen as a collective process preparing subsequent phases (such as the second implementation phase or the construction of a new action plan).

To do so, ACTeon’s team mobilizes its expertise to:

  • accompany the definition of the evaluation analysis grid (wording and priorization of the evaluation questions, clarification of the evaluation field, mobilization of tools for analyzing the intervention logic of the policy);
  • collect, structure and process information, both quantitative (financial and economic databases) and qualitative (literature review and listening to stakeholders through diverse methods: interviews, focus groups, workshops, online suveys etc);
  • analyze and write the evaluative judgment and associated communicative synthesis;
  • produce shared recommendations.

ACTeon can combine expertise in sociology, economics, political sciences and geography.

Some references about this expertise

ACTeon leads or contributes to environmental policy evaluation studies on a regular basis (including writing recommendations), on behalf of various actors and in different thematic fields:

ACTeon has for several years developed a recognized expertise in the three main dimensions of environmental and natural resources economics:

  • Economic instruments
  • Environmental valuation methods
  • Economic tools for policy making.

Our expertise is particularly rich and specific: it combines theory (participation in European research projects, development of tools and economic evaluation methods) and practice (applied analyses and evaluations at local, national and regional scales; conducting surveys and recommendations for decision making) thus enabling an innovative and pragmatic approach to the main issues faced by policymakers.

Economic instruments

ACTeon has developed expertise in the evaluation and development of economic instruments to encourage better management of environmental resources, notably in the field of water. In this way, ACTeon has particular expertise with respect to cost recovery of water services, assessing the relevance of taxes and fees for the preservation of water resources and developing exploratory instruments such as nitrate taxes and payments for environmental and ecosystem services.

Economic valuation methods

Even if the environment is has no actual price, it is nonetheless of great value to mankind as recalled by the Millenium Ecosystem Assesment (2005), which highlights the variety of services provided by diverse ecosystems worldwide and the importance of their evaluation. In these lines, ACTeon mobilizes quantitative and qualitative valuation methods such as revealed preference methods (travel cost method, hedonic pricing) stated preference methods (contingent valuation, choice modeling), cost approaches (replacement costs and variants, averting behavior) and other methods (benefits transfers) to cover the entire range of environmental valuation methods.

ACTeon has particularly assessed the value of ecosystem services provided by European wetlands and the value of the Alsatian “Common Hamster”, an endangered species in France.

Using economic tools and instruments to facilitate policy making

ACTeon makes use of the previous economic methods and valuation techniques to develop tools that facilitate decision making such as social, governance, cost-benefit, cost-efficiency and multi-criteria analyses.
Through these
tools applied to different environmental fields, ACTeon advises on necessary policies and measures that need to be implemented in order to preserve the environment in the most efficient way and account for impacts at all levels of society.
For instance, ACTeon has carried out a cost-efficiency analysis for the implementation of the Marine
Strategy Framework Directive in France.

Supporting public policy-making often implies to provide assistance for the building of a strategy, a plan or an action program for a coming period. For example, in water management, River Basin Management Plans result in the development of strategies including objectives, operational guidelines and targeted actions. ACTeon makes recommendations on project leaders, deadlines and means of implementation where costs and financing sources are defined. A further example concerns territorial climate-energy plans or master plans that aim to define a territorial strategy through participative processes.

The development of territorial strategies calls for:

  • Preliminary steps of inventory, diagnosis of issues and definition of objectives related to the concerned policy. These steps need to be shared and approved by the stakeholders;
  • A policy contextualization and a foresight vision;
  • The translation of issues and strategic objectives into operational objectives and concrete actions. To do so, ACTeon mobilizes key stakeholders and experts concerned by the targeted policy (through workshops for example);
  • The definition of elements that constitute the action program in terms of: objectives, sizing, implementation, field of implementation (location and concerned stakeholders for example), leading, costs, mobilized means, deadlines…

For instance, ACTeon supported the development of territorial strategies in the following projects:

  • River Basin and Management Plans of Bièvre-Liers-Valloire, Siagne, Molasse miocène, Arve, Bassin houiller…
  • Departemental Sensitive natural areas scheme of Isère
  • Water departemental scheme of Vienne
  • National action plan for the common hamster
  • National action plan on protection measures related to wolf predation on pastoral systems in the French Alps