Participatory scenario planning

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1. Maike Hamann (biography)
2. Tanja Hichert (biography)
3. Nadia Sitas (biography)

By Maike Hamann, Tanja Hichert and Nadia Sitas

Within the many different ways of developing scenarios, what are useful general procedures for participatory processes? What resources are required? What are the strengths and weaknesses of involving stakeholders?

Scenarios are vignettes or narratives of possible futures, and when used in a set, usually depict purposefully divergent visions of what the future may hold. The point of scenario planning is not to predict the future, but to explore its uncertainties. Scenario development has a long history in corporate and military strategic planning, and is also commonly used in global environmental assessments to link current decision-making to future impacts. Participatory scenario planning extends scenario development into the realm of stakeholder-engaged research.

In general, the process for participatory scenario planning broadly follows three phases.

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Dealing with differences in interests through principled negotiation

By Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

How can the interests of a diverse group of researchers and stakeholders tackling a complex societal problem be understood and managed?

Interests arise when a person has a stake in something and stands to gain or lose depending on what happens to that something:

  • researchers commonly have a stake in advancing their work and careers,
  • stakeholders affected by a societal problem generally have a stake in improving the problem, and
  • stakeholders in a position to do something about a problem generally have a stake in improving outcomes for the problem through their sphere of influence.

Interests relate not only to personal conditions or stakes (self-interest), but also to principles such as reducing inequities and promoting justice.

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Creative destruction

By Keith McCandless

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Keith McCandless (biography)

My favorite part of working with groups is helping people notice and stop counterproductive behavior. We all have self-limiting individual and group behaviors. Of course, they are easier to spot in others than in ourselves. So, finding seriously fun ways to help people discover for themselves what they can stop doing is important.

I use an activity called TRIZ from Liberating Structures. The purpose of TRIZ is to:

  • Make it possible to speak the unspeakable and get skeletons out of the closet
  • Make space for innovation
  • Lay the ground for creative destruction by doing the hard work in a fun way
  • TRIZ may be used before or in place of visioning sessions
  • Build trust by acting all together to remove barriers.

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Resolving disagreements by negotiating agreements in the right way

By Lawrence Susskind

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Lawrence Susskind (biography)

How can interdisciplinary teams avoid getting stuck on questions like:

  1. What kinds of data do we need to collect?
  2. What methods or techniques should we use to analyze our data?
  3. How should we handle gaps or incongruities in our findings?
  4. What are the policy implications or prescriptions that follow from our findings?

I want to share some lessons I’ve learned about handling disagreements on these four questions.

Research Design

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Ten dialogue methods for integrating judgments

By David McDonald, Gabriele Bammer and Peter Deane

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1. David McDonald (biography)
2. Gabriele Bammer (biography)
3. Peter Deane (biography)

What formal dialogue methods can assist researchers in synthesising judgments about a complex societal or environmental issue when a range of parties with different perspectives are involved? How can researchers decide which methods will be most suitable for their purposes?

We review ten dialogue methods. Our purpose is not to describe the dialogue methods in detail, but instead to review the circumstances in which each method is likely to be most useful in a research context, bearing in mind that most methods a) were not developed for research, b) can be applied flexibly and c) have evolved into different variations.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 8. Generating ideas and reaching agreement

By Gabriele Bammer

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What skills for generating ideas and reaching agreement should every researcher involved in stakeholder engagement seek to cultivate? What key methods and concepts should they be familiar with?

The focus in this blog post is on generating ideas and reaching agreement, as well as recognising the “groan zone” between these two phases in a group process. Researchers will have diverse attributes and not everyone will be well-placed to cultivate the skills described here. Having an understanding of the skills can help in choosing the researchers best placed to undertake the stakeholder engagement.

Generating ideas: Brainstorming

For brainstorming to work well, it requires rapid-fire contributions, no holding back or self-censoring of ideas, and no discussion or criticism of the ideas proposed. It often involves a group of stakeholders (or stakeholders and researchers) sitting around a flipchart or whiteboard, with one person writing down the ideas as members of the group say them.

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A tool for transforming resistance to insights in decision-making

By Gemma Jiang

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Gemma Jiang (biography)

Do you encounter resistance from your team members, especially in regard to difficult decisions? How might decision-making processes be better facilitated to generate insights instead of resistance?

I describe a conceptual framework and an accompanying practical tool from Lewis Deep Democracy (2021) that can transform resistance to insights in decision-making processes.

The conceptual framework: Understanding how decision making generates resistance

It is important first to understand the consciousness of a team. If you think of a team’s consciousness as an iceberg, the ideas and opinions that are expressed are the conscious part above the waterline, while those that are not expressed are the unconscious part below the waterline. If decisions are made based only on the team’s expressed ideas and opinions, those below the waterline will likely form resistance. This is often what happens with “majority rules” democracy.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 7. Listening and dialogue

By Gabriele Bammer

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What skills should every researcher involved in stakeholder engagement seek to cultivate? What key tools for engaging stakeholders should they be familiar with?

In the next two blog posts, I present key skills and tools that are essential for engaging with stakeholders. Understanding these skills can help teams decide who would be best among their members to be responsible for stakeholder engagement. Those involved in stakeholder engagement can also work to strengthen these skills to underpin other useful methods such as surveys, interviews, focus groups and participatory modelling.

This blog post presents skills involved in listening and dialogue. The next presents tools for generating ideas and reaching agreement.

Listening to understand

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Developing facilitation capacities in graduate students

By Gemma Jiang and Robert Hacku

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1. Gemma Jiang (biography)
2. Robert Hacku (biography)

What does it take for graduate students to become good at facilitation? What skills do they need to learn and how can such skills best be imparted?

A facilitator is someone trained in the skill of shaping group dynamics and collective conversations. In cross-disciplinary research, thoughtful facilitation is necessary to enable effective interaction across disciplines and sectors.

We describe an apprentice facilitator program developed in a cross-disciplinary research team comprised of nine faculty and 15 graduate students from four academic institutes, representing six disciplines.

Five apprentices were selected from the graduate students on the team. The program was one semester long and took on average one hour per week.

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A framework for identifying diversity in epistemic communities, linguistic variety and culture

By Varvara Nikulina, Johan Larson Lindal, Henrikke Baumann, David Simon, and Henrik Ny

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1. Varvara Nikulina; 2. Johan Larson Lindal; 3. Henrikke Baumann; 4. David Simon; 5. Henrik Ny (biographies)

How can facilitators take into account diversity stemming from epistemic communities, linguistic variety and culture when leading workshops aimed at co-production in transdisciplinary research?

Although facilitators are skilled in mitigating conflicting interests and ideas among participants, they are often poorly prepared for dealing with these other types of diversity.

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How informal discussion groups can maintain long-term momentum

By Kitty Wooley

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Kitty Wooley (biography)

What does it take to motivate competent professionals to show up for mission-focused conversation on their own time? What is the result? How can interaction, knowledge exchange, and knowledge transfer be achieved when some participants are meeting for the first time – especially if they’re coming from different kinds of organizations and hierarchical levels?

In this blog post, I describe the experience of Senior Fellows and Friends, a group meeting for conversational events that has kept its momentum for 17 years, over 91 meetings, and become an organic engine of opportunity for new and midcareer leaders.

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Six lessons for implementing technological change in developing country communities

By Jonathan Ensor, Daniel Vorbach, Steven Johnson and James Moir

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1. Jonathan Ensor (biography)
2. Daniel Vorbach (biography)
3. Steven Johnson (biography)
4. James Moir (biography)

How does the provision of new technology, infrastructure or community institutions interact with the social setting, especially at the village community level in developing countries? How does this interaction determine the sorts of changes that are experienced? Given this interconnection between the technical and social worlds, what are the implications for the design and implementation of interventions? And what does this more holistic perspective suggest that implementing agencies should be considering and advocating for alongside their on-the-ground activities?

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