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The dilemma of development and sustainability in the local context generates multiple interests and concerns. This dissertation arises from the challenge proposed by both concepts in the framework of decision making for urban planning. Its development has been guided by two main motivations. The first and most important is to discuss sustainable development in a context where little had been said, responding to how to improve the practices used for the prioritisation of actions during the planning stages of local development projects, taking as a case study the city of Cartagena de Indias (Colombia). The second, on the other hand, responds to the interest of contributing to the field of multicriteria decision making techniques.

The objective is to design a methodology to help those responsible for territorial planning to evaluate development strategies and projects. In particular, it focuses on the participation of different stakeholders and on the approach to sustainable local development. Therefore, the general research question is: how can a participatory multicriteria methodology help to evaluate local development projects with a sustainable approach? To answer this research question the present dissertation, of an exploratory and descriptive nature, has been designed, and developed from the application of three cases of iterative and complementary studies. The objective has been to propose a framework that systematically allows the taking of decisions and the integration of diverse positions, without trying to find a unique solution with the best decision model.

The proposed methodology has been developed from the combination of two techniques known from the field of Operations Research, Analytic Network Process (ANP) and Social Network Analysis (SNA). SNA is used to find out how the network of actors related to a problem is structured, to study and evaluate the relationships between the actors that make it up, to determine their degree of cohesion, the actors in the most relevant positions and the existing structural gaps. All of this permits the selection of participants in the decision making process carried out through ANP. ANP is a wellknown multicriteria decision method, which provides a framework for addressing decision making or problem assessment. It defines a prioritisation model as a network with complex, interdependent and feedback relationships between elements. The elements represent characteristics, requirements, conditions or criteria related to a problem, as well as possible alternative solutions. ANP is used to discover the opinions of the participants, to obtain their decision profiles and to reach a consensus on the prioritisation of projects and strategies. Additionally, this methodological proposal, based on the SNA-ANP combination, can be completed with other techniques, for example, geographic information systems to add some components that improve the decision.

The results suggest that this SNA-ANP methodology is a novel and useful combination for evaluating local development plans with a multicriteria, sustainable and participatory approach. The results establish a basis for proposing new applications and generating new discussions with the local administration and other actors. 

With the inclusion of the local and sustainable development approach in the decision framework, throughout this dissertation, the value of different heritages is highlighted, as is the promotion of a more adapted strategic planning and the recognition and inclusion of multiple groups of actors. In addition, the use of practical and replicable methodologies that account for the results is promoted, to be applied at different scales, in order to improve planning and prioritisation of actions.

The proposal has considered the dimensions of sustainability in decision models, the active participation of decision-makers and a better selection of participants. In short, it has facilitated the construction of a more participatory decision making process. Finally, it also allows us to explore future applications and to continue the discussion related to the problem of decision making during the planning and evaluation stages of strategic projects, whether for local sustainable development or for other types of objectives.

PhD Student Hannia Gonzalez-Urango
Directors Dra. Mónica García Melón
University Universitat Politècnica de València
Defense date
Scientific keywords Analytic network process (ANP), Cartagena de Indias, Social network analysis, sustainability