The YODA tool (an abbreviation of “Your Own Decision Aid”) has been developed for participatory decision processes with multiple criteria. It combines the perspectives of participating actors and their preferences with respect to selected, case-specific decision criteria. There are two different versions of YODA, tailored for different decision-making situations. YODA helps in finding the best compromise solution in complex choice situations, when the views and criteria of the different actors are in conflict.
YODA is a generic tool that has broad application potential e.g. in land use planning situations. It has been used in identifying potential peat production areas when supporting the regional land use planning process.
The YODA project tool supports identification of one alternative that best meets the objectives of the participating actors. This kind of choice situation can occur e.g. in various different strategy processes, when choosing the winner of a competition, or in everyday life when selecting a new home.
The YODA portfolio tool helps to identify the best project portfolio (a “briefcase” including more than one project). These kinds of decision situations are common e.g. in selecting protected areas for a specific region, in road construction projects or in peat production areas (see the example below).
YODA portfolio example: Where should peat production areas be located in Vaala municipality?
The YODA portfolio tool was used to identify potential peat production areas in the area of the municipality of Vaala. The work was part of the process of renewing the regional land use plan of Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland. The representatives of the Northern Ostrobothnia regional council selected the criteria that were used in the decision support process, and they also set a goal of identifying at least 2,000 hectares of potential peat production areas. The total area of peatland examined was 7,232 hectares.
The identification of potential peat production areas was organized in two workshops. In the first workshop, held in January 2017, a common understanding of those peatlands that were not feasible for peat production was achieved through the use of YODA. In these areas, the biodiversity values were high or the negative effects on water bodies were too large. In addition, certain areas were selected for additional examination. For the next examinations, the decision criteria were also fine-tuned. Then, the second workshop with a smaller number of participants was held in January 2017. In this workshop, the feasibility of peat production was evaluated with respect to the following decision criteria:
• Peat production area (the goal was to find at least 2,000 ha of potential peat production areas)
• Distance to groundwater areas
• Distance to the nearest settlement
• Degradation class of the peatland area
• Climate warming effect
• Phosphorus load on water bodies
• Number of properties within the potential production site
The participating actors were extremely satisfied with how easy it was to use YODA. In addition, they saw a large number of relevant decision criteria and the transparency of the process as very positive. The practical benefit of using YODA was realized when the regional land use plan was accepted by the regional authorities in summer 2018.
Link to regional land use planning report in Finnish.
How does YODA work?
The use of YODA follows these steps:
- The administrator of the decision-making process defines the problem in YODA. With the YODA project tool, only the best alternative will be identified, whereas YODA portfolio is used to identify a project portfolio that fulfills the defined goals/constraints.
- The administrator collects and saves in the YODA database the data that is needed in the decision-making process. These data include the decision criteria used, as well as the alternatives (projects) and their values with respect to all the decision criteria (e.g. profitability, biodiversity, climate warming effects, etc.). For some criteria, the administrator can set constraint or goal levels if these are relevant for the decision-making situation at hand. These can be e.g. available funding or production targets.
- The administrators send the webpage link to the participating actors and supply them with usernames and passwords. At the same time, additional instructions regarding the use of the tool can be given. Alternatively, a meeting can be arranged.
- The participating actors define through YODA’s visual user interface the acceptance thresholds for each decision criterion. In this way, they accept or reject alternatives and decrease/increase the feasible set of choices.
- Through the YODA tool, the solutions from individual participants are collected and combined. The analysis of results identifies whether a solution that is acceptable for all participating actors can be found.
- Often, there is a need for a meeting where the identified combined solution is examined and further discussed.