Participatory modeling, by definition, involves engaging “stakeholders” in decision making. But determining which stakeholders to involve, when, and how is a delicate balance. Early writings on stakeholder engagement methods represent engagement along a linear continuum from non-participatory to citizen-controlled decision making.
Non-participatory methods could include stakeholders passively receiving pre-set information, with no input to content or delivery (eg., public information campaigns). Fully collaborative partnerships (eg., participatory action research projects) involve co-creation of knowledge, co-identification of issues, and co-framing of and implementation of solutions.
What can art contribute to participatory modelling? Over the past decade, participatory visual and narrative arts have been more frequently and effectively incorporated into scenario planning and visioning workshops.
We use arts-based techniques in three ways:
incorporating arts language into the process of visioning
delineating eco-aesthetic values of the visual and aural landscape in communities
engaging art to articulate challenges and solutions within local communities.
The arts based approaches we use include collage, drawing, visual note taking, map making, storyboarding, photo documentation through shared cameras, mobile story telling, performance in the landscape, drawing as a recording device, and collective mural creation.
They allow us to expand and deepen engagement strategies beyond the scope of traditional dialog tools such as opinion surveys, workshops, and meetings. And, they allow for both individual and collective work, from spending reflective time independently, to rejoining as a group to discuss process and products. They are also particularly effective in bicultural and multicultural settings.
Visual techniques can help foster a different type of discussion than one that is primarily verbal or quantitative because they involve participants in different patterns of thinking, questioning, and interacting.