Stewart, E. Jacobson, R.D. and Draper D. (2008) Public participation geographic information systems (PPGIS): challenges of implementation in Churchill, Manitoba. The Canadian Geographer / Le G´eographe canadien, 52(3), 351–366.
Public participation geographic information systems (PPGIS) increasingly are utilized in geographic research, yet researchers rarely are provided with guidance on how to implement PPGIS in an appropriate and effective manner. This article reports on the process of research that explores responses to current and future local tourism development offered by a sample of residents using a modified PPGIS approach called ‘community action geographic information system’ (CAGIS). The conceptual development of CAGIS is reported and the challenges encountered during its implementation in Churchill, Manitoba during 2005–2007 are reviewed. It is suggested that researchers wishing to conduct similar research should undertake thorough preliminary fieldwork to assess the likelihood of finding agreement on a common problem; acquiring adequate resources; establishing collective responsibility for the project’s outcome; attaining stakeholder support; developing trust and meaningful relationships; and incorporating indigenous knowledge appropriately. Feedback of results to community members also should be an integral part of the research process. A number of feedback mechanisms are reported, including an interactive weblog, which helped facilitate communication between heterogeneous groups in Churchill. Although ambitions for a truly participatory GIS approach to this project have been set aside, it is held that PPGIS can yield positive outcomes for communities and academia. Sharing this research experience will be useful to others who venture into PPGIS research, especially in northern communities.