ENVIRONMENTAL SECURITY IN HARBORS AND COASTAL AREAS:
MANAGEMENT USING COMPARATIVE RISK ASSESSMENT AND MULTI-CRITERIA
DECISION ANALYSIS FRAMEWORK
20-24 April 2005, Thessaloniki, Greece
White Paper on Stakeholder Involvement
RA + MCDA: How do Stakeholders Fit In?
Professional Training & Facilitation Services, PO Box 1249, Howick, KZN, South Africa, 3290
Zama Environmental, 224 SW 40th Terrace, Gainesville, Florida 32607, USA
Practitioners of risk assessment (RA) and multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) typically apply their craft
in contested settings. This requires a blend of high-level technical skills, combined with a clear
understanding of the larger context of social, economic, and political concerns that influence problem
situations. In this White Paper, we provide a review of the challenges faced by RA and MCDA practitioners
involved in the management of complex environmental problems, specifically in relation to stakeholder
engagement. Based on this review, six possible elements of best practice for stakeholder involvement are
presented. We also provide a Directory of Tools and Methodologies which can be used by facilitators, with
an indication of how each tool or methodology would be utilized to support stakeholder involvement within
the context of RA and MCDA. A brief description of selected tools and methodologies that assist with the
successful engagement of stakeholders in decision-making processes is detailed. The paper concludes with a
discussion of key issues and future challenges.
The requirements are many for decision makers involved in complex problem situations, especially when
dealing with the threat of potential environment or health risks. Project managers must balance the demands
of a wide variety of stakeholders with disparate needs, interests, and agendas. These stakeholders in turn
must deal with information at varying levels of complexity from social, political, and technical sources.
Charnley (2000) presents risk assessment as a way to include science in regulatory decision-making,
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especially when seeking to manage threats to health and the environment. Risk assessment is appealing
because it can provide a factual and defensible basis for the decision-making process. However, even the
apparently factual nature of risk assessment is subject to stakeholder bias: “Risk is a social construct, with
most people making decisions about risk based on a complex set of perceptions that include familiarity,
harm, benefit, values, dread, voluntariness, and other factors.” (Slovic, 1999 quoted in Charnley, 2000:
chapter 1, p 3) RA attempts to manage the uncertain nature of science, the subjectivity of stakeholder
values, and the complexity of ambiguous problem situations. The strength of RA is dealing with the
scientific or technical aspects of the decision, but the risk paradigm is not designed to easily handle value-
related factors: “The challenge is to maintain a role for risk assessment and to preserve the integrity of
science when decision-making is influenced by many nontechnical factors…. Doing so is particularly
challenging when risk management decisions are conducted as collaborative efforts among stakeholders with
differing technical knowledge levels, interests, goals, and world views.” (Charnley, 2000: chapter 3, p 1)
As decision makers have been required to work more inclusively with a wide range of stakeholders, the
dominance of technical factors over stakeholder values and broader social and political concerns represent an
inherent limitation of RA. As a result, many decision makers have begun looking for other tools to handle
this broader range of factors. Some suggest that MCDA pairs well with RA, as MCDA captures and
integrates a wide variety of both quantitative and qualitative factors, including stakeholder values, into the
decision making process. However, the quality of MCDA results is subject to the decision structure design
and the information and values inputs, as described by Bouyssou: “It is well known in Statistics that the
implementation of sophisticated data analysis methods cannot compensate for the weaknesses of the phase
consisting in gathering and preparing the data. The same is true for MCDA: applying sophisticated
aggregation procedures is of little use if the criteria have been built in an unconvincing way.” (1990: p 59)
Even though MCDA brings stakeholder values into the risk assessment context, it does not provide a
methodology for working with stakeholders to generate criteria, establish weightings, and work through the
results. (Banville et al, 1998) It was developed as an integration tool, not a “working-with-people” tool.
Practitioners are beginning to suggest that MCDA needs to be paired with stakeholder analysis and
collaborative planning methodologies in order to ensure that the process of deliberating over and selecting
MCDA building blocks is transparent.
Practitioners recognize the need to combine a technical view of environmental decision analysis with a
stakeholder view which takes into account social values. The National Research Council (NRC, 1996) has
published a useful guide which addresses dealing with risk in a democracy, where decisions are informed by
both scientific and technical information and also public concerns. The NRA sees risk characterization as a
process that includes both analysis and deliberation, which work together to create knowledge about the
problem situation and to make management decisions:
Risk characterization is the outcome of an analytic-deliberative process. Its success depends critically on
systematic analysis that is appropriate to the problem, responds to the needs of the interested and affected
parties, and treats uncertainties of importance to the decision problem in a comprehensible way. Success
also depends on deliberations that formulate the decision problem, guide analysis to improve decision
participants’ understanding, seek the meaning of analytic findings and uncertainties, and improve the
ability of interested and affected parties to participate effectively in the risk decision process. The process
must have an appropriately diverse participation of representation of the spectrum of interested and affected
parties, of decision makers, and of specialists in risk analysis, at each step. (NRA, 1996: p3)
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Analysis is usually associated with scientific and technical expertise, while deliberation is associated with the
decision making process which seeks to integrate expert and public interest. While much has been written to
address the analytic aspect of risk characterization, less has been written to address deliberation. It has been
suggested that decision analysis should integrate expert judgment with stakeholder values. (Stahl et al,
2002) Stahl points out that both elements are needed for a robust decision making process, which can enable
researchers to learn about social concerns, and at the same time allow stakeholders to understand more about
the implications of expert data. The possible principles of best practice with associated tools and
methodologies presented in this paper serve as a starting point to learn more about working with a wide
variety of stakeholders, balancing the demands of analysis and deliberation in the decision making process.
McDaniels and Gregory (2004) also emphasize the need to create a learning process within structured
decision analysis through participation of stakeholders and scientists. They propose that learning is seen as
an explicit objective of the decision making process. When learning becomes an objective, the participants
are given an opportunity to make decisions knowing that the decisions will be revisited as action plans are
implemented: “The prospect of adopting a policy for a period of time and then revisiting that decision when
more is learned and the tradeoffs are better understood is attractive to many participants because it changes
one-time decisions into iterative, sequential decisions.” (McDaniels and Gregory, 2004: p1924)
Stakeholders learn from one another as they embark upon a structured learning and decision making process,
sharing their understanding of both the technical analysis and the social values that create their
conceptualization of the problem situation.
RA and MCDA practitioners know that stakeholders are a vital element in any planning process, but how to
effectively engage stakeholders remains an elusive goal. MCDA assists decision makers to integrate and to
process diverse results of research from models, monitoring data, risk analysis, and stakeholder preferences.
However, without a methodology to guide practitioners through this complexity, working with people can be
frustrating: “Current practice treats stakeholder participation as a constraint – i.e. potentially controversial
alternatives are eliminated early…. Ultimately, this process does little to serve the needs or interests of the
people who must live with the consequences of an environmental decision.” (Linkov and Ramadan eds,
2004: p 27)
The strengths of both RA and MCDA are many, but without a methodology for stakeholder engagement, the
structured decision making process will be unlikely to provide stable and substantively agreed outcomes that
are required to take action for sustained environmental change. This White Paper presents three case studies
which detail numerous challenges faced when working with stakeholders to understand and to improve
complex environmental problem situations. Review of the case studies and the wider literature reveals six
possible elements of best practice in a stakeholder engagement process designed to support the effective
application of RA and MCDA.
Stakeholder engagement challenges: Three Case Studies
Stakeholder engagement has become a major element of both public and private sector strategic planning and
policy formulation in recent years. In the environmental arena, stakeholder engagement has become an
inevitable part of any significant environmental project. Increased access by communities to global
environmental issues through the medium of television, democratization and the recognition of the rights of
indigenous peoples, as well as the increasing professionalization of environmental groups, has fueled the
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process. Stakeholders are no longer satisfied with the “Three-‘I’ Model’: ‘inform, invite, and ignore.’”
(Daniels and Walker, 2001: p 9) It is acknowledged that the results of a decision-making process have a
better chance of being viewed as fair and credible when stakeholders have participated in the deliberation
process (Thibault and Walker, 1975). Here though, issues of legitimacy and trust, inclusion and exclusion,
as well as equality of access to the process, remain significant issues.
Stakeholder involvement has been widely documented across the globe. Three case studies are summarized
below which challenge the notion that participation in and of itself is the panacea for problem solving in
complex problem situations:
“Pursued simply for its own sake…the notion of community participation is potentially meaningless and its
application likely to mask what continue to be decisions made in the interests of elite groups. In the absence of
an explicit strategy for democratisation and capacity-building it is all too easy for state agencies and large
industries to engage with other stakeholders in ways that ultimately have little connection to, or influence over,
decision-making. While such engagement may lend an air of legitimacy to decisions in the short-term, it does
little to address the underlying conflicts of interest that characterise natural resource use and the difficulties these
create for the development of strategic and adaptive approaches to natural resource planning and management.”
(Jennings and Lockie, 2002)
In their study of coastal zone decision-making in the Lower Fitzroy and Port Curtis catchments of Central
Queensland, Australia, Jennings and Lockie identify a range of issues that provide a challenge to the view
that stakeholder engagement is a process that leads automatically to considered and democratic outcomes.
The stakeholders involved in the decision making process were plagued by fundamental differences in their
understanding of the problem situation, despite their participation in a cooperative planning process:
1. “.... Underlying an apparent consensus among the majority of stakeholders were deep divisions over
what such values and aspirations meant in practice.
2. Few stakeholders were able to articulate detailed aspirations for the long-term future of the coastal
zone and their own use of it.
3. Insufficient resourcing of stakeholder participation results often in the “burn-out” of volunteers faced
with the double burden of assimilating vast amounts of information in areas where they have limited
prior expertise, while earning no income as they do so.”
In South Africa the coming of democracy has seen similar challenges. Ashley and Ntshona (2003) present a
study of the Wild Coast, South Africa, where stakeholders were brought together to plan the creation of a
new national park that would simultaneously protect the environment and provide ready access for people:
1. “Within the institutional structure, there are champions of environmental concerns…. But there is no
one whose mandate is to protect and enhance community rights.
2. The approach to community involvement reveals deep ambiguities. On the one hand, this is supposed
to be a park like no other: the first national park run in partnership with residents. On the other hand,
the process and timetable simply did not allow for creation of such a community role.”
In the USA, the Fort Ord Army Base in California provides an example of chronic problems with a
stakeholder involvement process. (Beierle, 1998) A Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) was established by
the Department of Defense (DOD) in order to make cooperative decisions about environmental clean-up of
the Fort Ord surrounds; however, these representative stakeholder boards generated more conflict than
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1. Participation in the RAB amplified the conflict of stakeholders rather than bringing resolution. The
DOD brought in outside facilitators to resolve conflicts that paralyzed the planning process, with no
2. RAB membership was plagued by a lack of understanding between technical and non-technical
members, and an uncertainty about the purpose of the RAB.
3. The wider public was invited to attend RAB meetings; however, their participation was limited to
questions presented at the beginnings of a meeting.
4. In the end, the Fort Ord RAB achieved few of the goals it was designed to achieve, despite the
laudable intention to involve stakeholders.
Given the issues identified in the above cross-section of reports from different countries the question needs
to be asked “Where to now with the stakeholder engagement process?” For practitioners of RA and MCDA
two questions present themselves: “When are the outcomes of the stakeholder engagement process stable
enough to support the application of these techniques?” A second and related question is, “If stakeholder
engagement processes do not result in stable and substantively agreed outcomes can this be factored into RA
Emergent Best Practice for Stakeholder Engagement
Recent high profile disputes in the stakeholder engagement process may suggest that methodologies are
inadequate. The restoration work carried out in the Florida Everglades provides an example rich in
controversy and complexity, described in detail by Gunderson et al in Barriers to Bridges (1995). However,
a review of the literature suggests that key elements of a best practice process are beginning to emerge.
[Beierle (1998); Banville et al (1998); Yosie and Herbst (1998); Parker (2004); NRC (1996); and Stahl et
There are six possible elements of an emergent best practice for stakeholder engagement. The first element
is the need to have a set of guiding principles for the process. This would include principles such as
transparency, balance, continuity, and flexibility. Additionally, one should view the decision making process
as a learning process. These may be seen as the core values that guide the process.
The second element addresses the rules of engagement – where are the boundaries, what are our terms of
reference, etc? More specifically these can include the roles of participants and their mandates; a code of
conduct; participant accountability; milestones or timelines; a definition of what comprises “agreement.” A
further useful addition here would be to identify the basis for decisions that stakeholders may be expected
to make – such as rights-based decisions; values-based decisions; interest-based decisions; and power-based
The third key element is a set of broadly measurable outcomes or deliverables (“social” goals) that should
be aimed for. These include educating and informing the public, incorporating public values into decision-
making, increasing trust in institutions. These may be seen as by-products of the need to deliver a sustainable
and concrete outcome to any process. However, they provide the “cement” that ensures that the outcome is
embedded in a context that mutually reinforces the quality of the decision.
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A fourth element that emerges is the need for a proactive and systematic stakeholder research program
that precedes the formal engagement process. Who are the stakeholders in the process likely to be? Are we
able to identify particular characteristics (archetypes or typologies)? What is their history of engagement in
other processes, if any? Are there any “usual suspects?” This latter category of stakeholders may include
global, national, or regional players with a record of “disruptive behavior.” Is it possible to discern a
particular strategy adopted by them? Can we identify appropriate interventions to balance their influence so
as to prevent them dominating the process to its detriment and the detriment of other stakeholder groups?
A fifth element of best practice is the use of independent facilitators who enjoy the confidence and trust of
most/all parties to the process. Given current low levels of trust in government institutions and agencies in
many parts of the world, this credibility on the part of independent facilitators is crucial. Care should be
taken not to use a facilitator who may be seen to be always an “expert witness for the prosecution.”
A sixth element in the engagement process is often mentioned in the literature but does not appear to be
explicitly addressed. This is the issue of ensuring the participation of less-advantaged participants through a
“pay for play” formula. The volunteers in the engagement process – often representatives of local
community or of aboriginal structures – are a key element but often lack the resources to participate fully
over an extended period. Some form of travel and subsistence allowance, attendance fees, or other direct
support should be considered. While this may be a controversial proposal, it will help to give weight to
groups that could assist to bring balance to the process. A formula for such support would see the “paid”
participants continuing to fund their own participation while “unpaid” participants received some minimal
level of support to assist in keeping them involved.
These six possible elements of best practice begin to answer the questions proposed above: “When are the
outcomes of the stakeholder engagement process stable enough to support the application of these
techniques?” and “If stakeholder engagement processes do not result in stable and substantively agreed
outcomes, can this be factored into RA and/or MCDA?” A review of selected tools and methodologies that
can be used to support a stakeholder engagement process in line with the six elements of best practice for RA
and MCDA is provided below.
Directory of Tools and Methodologies
Practitioners of RA and MCDA recognize the need to effectively engage with stakeholders. A wide and
evolving variety of stakeholder engagement tools and methodologies are available. Each has its strengths and
weaknesses, protagonists and detractors. Some of these approaches are relatively simple and are categorized
as tools, while others are more complex and are categorized as methodologies – being more encompassing of
the entire stakeholder engagement process. The choice of tools and methodologies is not straightforward.
The facilitator is influenced by the specific context of the engagement and needs to take a wide variety of
factors into account. A cross-section of these factors include:
- The relative sophistication of the stakeholder participants
- The information that is available on stakeholders and their opening stances
- The degree of learning implicit in the facilitative approach
- How familiar the participants are with the tools or methodologies
- The facilitator’s own repertoire of tools and methodologies
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- The degree of risk in using the tool or methodology – what if it fails?
- What the key issues are underlying the engagement?
- What it is hoped to accomplish through the engagement process?
- How much time is available to carry out the process?
- Is the facilitator acting as an independent party or does he/she have an agenda?
From this it can be seen that a contingency approach is appropriate. This avoids the risk of a one-size-fits-all
engagement process. The facilitator needs to discuss the options with the conveners and, in the interests of
transparency, the participants. Experience with facilitating such processes shows that the degree of trust the
participants have in the facilitator(s) and the stage in the facilitation process have a significant bearing on the
success of the engagement. Riskier tools and methodologies – those that go beyond the cognitive level of the
process into the affective (emotional) and behavioral arena may become appropriate if and as trust and a
sense of common purpose develop.
The Directory of Tools and Methodologies provided below is only a partial window into a wide range of
tools and methodologies (see Table 1). The directory includes six “Stakeholder Engagement Essentials,”
which are highlighted as the core issues that facilitators will face when they work with stakeholders in the
context of RA and MCDA, namely: (1) stakeholder mapping, (2) dealing with uncertainty, (3) dealing with
conflict, (4) understanding participants’ mental models, (5) negotiating trade-offs, and (6) transparency. The
Stakeholder Engagement Essentials have been used to rank each tool and methodology, thus giving an
indication of the degree to which each approach addresses these six elements of the facilitative process. This
ranking exercise is subjective in nature, and is not presented as a final judgment of any technique; instead, it
is intended that the ranking will provide a starting point for practitioners to research further any tool or
methodology that interests them. While key words and categorization within the Directory may prove
helpful in identifying appropriate tools and methodologies, they cannot substitute for sound judgment and
experience on the part of the facilitator(s) and those convening the overall process. The Directory catalogues
a range of tools and methodologies, which can be further explored through the references and citations
Table 1: Directory of Tools and Methodologies
A selection of tools and methodologies for stakeholder engagement to support the use of RA and MCDA
Stakeholder Engagement Essentials 1
Each of the tools and methodologies has been rated according to Stakeholder Engagement Essentials. These engagement
essentials are seen to be the core issues that facilitators will face as they work with stakeholders in the context of RA and MCDA:
(1) Stakeholder Mapping
(2) Dealing with Uncertainty
(3) Dealing with Conflict
(4) Understanding Participants’ Mental Models
(5) Negotiating Trade-offs
The number rating applied to the tools and methodologies is subjective and open to debate. The effectiveness of a tool or
methodology resides in at least two elements of any decision-making process: the purpose and design of the approach, and the
skills and abilities of the facilitator using that approach.
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Table 1: Directory of Tools and Methodologies (continued)
Meaning of Symbols:
• The Stakeholder Engagement Essentials boxes 1-6 contain three symbols:
■ = the technique strongly evidences the related stakeholder essential;
▪ = the technique evidences the stakeholder essential only in part or at a minimal level;
a blank box means that the technique does not include that particular engagement essential.
• Two columns labeled “Ease” 2 and “Cost” 3 contain number rankings based on a scale of 1-10:
For ease of use: 1 = the tool is easy to use; 10 = the tool is complex to use, requiring more start-up time
For cost of use: 1 = least expensive; 10 = most expensive
Stakeholder Ease Cost
TOOLS Engagement Essentials
1 2 3 4 5 6
OPEN SPACE TECHNOLOGY (Owen, 1997) ▪ ■ ■ ■ ■ 4 3
Participants identify agenda; voting
Participants determine agendas; powerful process
ASSUMPTION SURFACING (Mason and Mitroff, 1981) ■ ■ ■ ▪ ■ ▪ 2 2
Make underlying visible
Identify choice; assumptions; alternative assumptions
BOUNDARY RELAXATION (Martin, 2000) ▪ ▪ ▪ ■ ▪ 2 2
Two stage: identify; explore relaxation
Not-ing problem; exploring; boundary brainstorm
BULLET PROOFING (Kepner and Tregoe, 1965) ■ ▪ ▪ ▪ 4 2
Identify vulnerabilities and difficulties
Informal Kepner Tregoe; brainstorm “what if”
CATWOE (Checkland, 1999) ■ ▪ ■ ■ 2 2
Issue-defining tool; system definition
Customer; actors; transformation; worldview; owners; environment
CONSENSUS MAPPING (Hart et al, 1985) ▪ ■ ■ ■ ▪ 5 6
How best to organize network of activities
Generate ideas; form groups; cluster ideas; ‘strawman’ map
CONSTRAINED BRAINWRITING (Backoff and Nutt, 1988) ▪ ▪ 2 2
How best to organize network of activities
Primed sheets; individuals add ideas; sheets exchanged
FACTORS IN 'SELLING' IDEAS (van Gundy, 1988) ▪ 2 2
Factors to bear in mind when selling an idea
Context & content; timing, audience, idea champion, language, need,
FOCUS GROUPS (Stewart and Shamdasani, 1990) ■ ▪ ■ ▪ 4 4
Free-wheeling discussion but focus & agenda
Facilitated & recorded discussion; high facilitation demand
The “Ease” of use column is used to indicate the relative simplicity or complexity of the tool or methodology presented. In
general, tools are easier to use than methodologies because their scope is narrower and they deal with step-by-step processes.
The “Cost” column is used to indicate the relative expense involved in using a particular tool or methodology. The actual cost of
implementation is dependent on numerous factors which would be project-specific, such as size of project or cost of consultants.
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Table 1: Directory of Tools and Methodologies (continued)
Stakeholder Ease Cost
TOOLS Engagement Essentials
1 2 3 4 5 6
FORCE-FIELD ANALYSIS (Majaro, 1988) ■ ▪ ▪ ■ 2 2
Identify driving & restraining forces
Identify forces; map; ways to remove restraining; increase driving
FRESH EYES & NETWORKING (van Gundy, 1988) ▪ ▪ 3 2
Test clear problem statement on third parties
Use of informal settings; network of contacts; possible internet groups
GOAL ORIENTATION (Rickards, 1974) ■ ▪ ▪ ▪ 2 2
Checklist approach identifying difficulties
Problem description; needs; difficulties; constraints; clear problem statement
HELP, HINDER (Henry and Martin, 1997) ■ ■ ▪ ▪ ▪ 3 3
Identify people/things that help/hinder
Identify help/hindrances; how to build or circumvent; plan of action
IDEA ADVOCATE (van Gundy, 1988) ▪ 2 2
Identify champion for a particular idea/approach
Allocate; research; present; discuss & decide; avoid power/status imbalances
IMPLEMENTATION CHECKLISTS (Isaksen et al, 1994) ■ ■ ▪ 2 2
Identify key elements of implementation
Resources; motivation; resistance; procedures; structures; risk, etc.
NOMINAL GROUP (IMPROVED) (Fox, 1987) ▪ ▪ 3 3
Generate ideas anonymously
Pre-meet; initial ideas, add new ideas; transcribe ideas; discuss; vote
INTERPRETIVE STRUCTURAL MODELLING (Warfield, 1982) ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ 2 3
Collection of items of data needing ranking
Computer-aided paired comparison by each group member; priority; severity, etc.
NEGATIVE BRAINSTORMING (Whiting, 1958) ■ ■ ▪ ▪ 2 2
Brainstorming what could go wrong?
Tear-down method; useful to identify how to deal with hostile criticism
NOMINAL-INTERACTING TECHNIQUE (Nutt, 1984) ▪ ▪ ▪ 3 3
Useful for ill-structured and obscure problems
Private ideas; pooling of ideas; discussion of ideas; prioritization-initial then final
QUESTIONS AND DECISIONS (QnD) (Kiker et al, 2005) ■ ▪ ■ ■ 4 3
Web-based modeling platform; stakeholders discuss environmental implications
Discuss problem situation; build quick model; iterate scenarios with stakeholders
RISK COMMUNICATION (Morgan et al, 2002) ■ ▪ 7 8
A mental models approach to developing risk communication
Influence diagram; mental models (interviews & transcriptions); test communication
TYPOLOGY OF STAKEHOLDERS (Fottler et al, 1989;Savage et al, 1991; Blair et al, 1990) ■ ▪ ▪ 4 2
Stakeholders seen as threat and/or collaborators; suggestions to manage each one
Maps and matrices, influence diagramming, and questionnaires
CONFLICT ASSESSMENT FRAMEWORKS (Carpenter, 1988; Wehr, 1979;Wilmot, 1998) ■ ■ ▪ 4 2
Conflict analysis chart and mapping, dynamics continuum
Conflict assessment guide to include attempted management solutions to conflict
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Table 1: Directory of Tools and Methodologies (continued)
Stakeholder Ease Cost
METHODOLOGIES Engagement Essentials
1 2 3 4 5 6
SOFT SYSTEMS METHODOLOGY (Checkland, 1999) ■ ■ ▪ ■ ▪ ■ 6 8
Structuring complex problem situation with attention to social constructs
Finding out; purposeful activity models; debate; take action to bring improvement
COLLABORATIVE LEARNING (Daniels and Walker, 2001) ▪ ■ ■ ■ ▪ ■ 6 8
Policy development in context of environmental conflict
Assessing conflict including stakeholders; mapping; training; design; facilitation
ALTERNATIVE SCENARIOS (Miller, 1987; van der Heijden, 1996) ■ ▪ ▪ ▪ 5 6
Qualitatively different descriptions
Identify specific decision & environmental forces
CHARETTE (Mossman, 1972) ▪ ▪ ■ ■ ■ ■ 8 8
Intensive two-week process
Community plans – social, economic, physical; consensus – no votes
COLLECTIVE NOTEBOOK (CNB) (Haefele, 1962) ▪ ■ ▪ 6 5
Idea incubation and generation
Participant idea for day; “priming” information; extended process
DECISION SEMINAR (Laswell, 1960) ■ ■ ■ ▪ ▪ ■ 7 6
A routinized social science research facility
Clarify goals; describe trends; analyze conditions; project; select
DIALECTICAL APPROACHES (Mason et al, 1981) ■ ▪ ■ ■ ▪ ■ 5 4
Use creative conflict to identify/challenge
Proposal and counter-proposal; plan & counter-plan; present/probe
METAPLAN INFORMATION MARKET (Schnelle, 1979) ▪ ■ ■ 6 7
Communication tools to develop common understanding
Standard cads; presentation conventions; simple procedural rules
Tools and methodologies reflected in the Technique Directory are drawn from a variety of sources, but in particular from
Martin (2000) Technique Library B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change. The Open University Business School.
Review of Specific Stakeholder Engagement Tools and Methodologies
In the two sections that follow, we provide a brief description of selected tools and methodologies to give the
reader a sense of the range of possibilities available. Tools are distinguished from methodologies by the
scope of implementation. Tools are smaller interventions that may be used to address a smaller element of a
stakeholder process: such as, a conflict resolution technique, or a participative mapping exercise.
Methodologies are larger interventions that can be used to structure or contain the whole of the stakeholder
Three tools are described in brief: Stakeholder Mapping, Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing, and
The Questions and Decisions Model.
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A variety of two- and three-dimensional mapping tools are available to categorize stakeholders. These can be
useful in strategizing around the degree of participation one should be seeking to secure and what level of
difficulty particular stakeholders may pose. One typology of engagement (Parker, 2004) suggests that, in
order of increasing levels of involvement, one should categorize stakeholders as follows: enlist for
communication and dissemination; inform for understanding; consider for response or input; involve for
commitment and expertise; and, consult for authority. This is one of many approaches to categorizing
stakeholders in terms of their anticipated demands/needs for differing levels of involvement in the
engagement process. Other ways of categorization include those used by Mitchel, Agle and Wood (1997).
Their typology recognizes eight categories of stakeholder: Dormant, Discretionary, Demanding, Dominant,
Dangerous, Dependent, Definitive, and Nonstakeholders—resulting from overlapping spheres representing
Power, Legitimacy, and Urgency. Using a variety of such categorization tools can provide a rich picture of
overlapping stakeholder motivation and needs.
Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing (SAST), developed by Mason and Mitroff (1981), is a useful
tool for structuring stakeholder debate about the assumptions that underlie a policy or plan. Participants are
assisted to create a map for exploring their assumptions through a five-step process, namely: (1) group
formation; (2) assumption surfacing and rating; (3) debate within groups; (4) debate between groups; and (5)
final synthesis. SAST is a useful tool to help channel strident debate into a productive structure. Groups can
be formed by dividing people according to who advocates a particular strategy or who has a vested interest,
thus assisting people who hold conflicting views to carefully define their position and debate their
assumptions with other stakeholders in a constructive manner.
The final tool to be discussed briefly is the Questions and Decisions ™ (QnD™) screening model system,
which is a tool used to integrate ecosystem, management, economic and socio-political factors into a user-
friendly model/game framework. (Kiker et al, 2005) QnD is written in object-oriented Java and can be
deployed as a stand-alone program or as a web-based (browser-accessed) applet. The model can be
constructed with any combination of detailed technical data or estimated interactions of the
ecological/management/social/economic forces influencing an ecosystem. The model development is
iterative and can be initiated quickly through conversations with users or stakeholders in a scenario-style
gaming process. Model alterations and/or more detailed processes can be added throughout the model
development process. One particular application of QnD shows how the model can be used to support
discussions with a multi-disciplinary scientific team. (Kiker and Linkov, 2005) In this case study, QnD
created common ground to integrate specialized studies into the larger perspective of the team effort. As
each specialist added his/her part into the whole, they were able to see their own area and other disciplines
represented within the QnD design pictures. The QnD development process maintained each participant’s
attention on the larger problem situation and the objectives of the whole team, rather than the isolation and
problem fragmentation that can be created by a specialist view.
Three methodologies are presented, which have been chosen because they may assist practitioners create the
foundation needed for successful implementation of RA and MCDA: The Strategic Choice Approach, The
Collaborative Learning Approach, and Soft Systems Methodology.
Friend and Hickling (1987) developed a methodology for dealing with complex choice situations which they
called “the Strategic Choice Approach.” The methodology is set out in their book Planning Under Pressure:
Biggs and Kiker (2005) RA + MCDA: How do Stakeholders Fit In? Page 11 of 18
The Strategic Choice Approach. The origins of the methodology came out of work they conducted at the
Institute for Operational Research, a unit of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London.
The methodology has been extensively tested by the authors, particularly in contested local government
settings. Early work in the Coventry Municipal Council in England led the authors to the view that:
- people held continually shifting views about issues and boundaries;
- persistent pressures favored incremental or piecemeal approaches rather than comprehensive
- there was a continuing dilemma of balancing urgency against uncertainty; and
- there were persistent difficulties in distinguishing technical from political aspects of the
The methodology involves seeing the choice process as involving working into problems initially as distinct
from working towards decisions later. Four major skills are seen as being necessary in the choice process –
shaping, designing, comparing, and choosing. People in choice situations are seen as favoring one of three
broad approaches to clarifying the initial uncertainty in the choice process – “We need more information,”
“We need more coordination,” “We need clearer objectives.”
The methodology identifies a ten-stage process leading from “Foundations” through to “Horizons.” An
analytic method “Analysis of Interconnected Decision Areas” (AIDA) forms a key part of the process.
AIDA is a formalized way of recording key elements of a decision situation and labeling them, which lends
itself to being computerized (something the authors have subsequently done). The need to understand,
communicate, and manipulate concepts such as “Decision Area,” “Decision Link,” Decision Graph,”
“Problem Focus,” etc is an essential skill on the part of the facilitator. Further information on AIDA can be
found in Nature (1965), the operational research literature (Luckman, 1967) and in Cook and Morgan’s
Participatory Democracy (1971).
The methodology offers an apparently effective way of approaching and working through highly contested
choice situations. However, an in-depth knowledge of the approach and superior facilitating skills appear to
be key components in the use of the methodology.
Daniels and Walker (2001) have developed a multi-methodology approach, presented in their book, Working
Through Environmental Conflict: The Collaborative Learning Approach. The authors present four
foundations of the collaborative learning approach, specifically -- conflict management, collaboration, the
application of learning theory, and systems thinking. This approach has developed within the context of
natural resource management and policy development, and several case studies are provided in the text.
Theory and practice are both clearly presented with specific techniques for designing and implementing
collaborative learning projects.
The Collaborative Learning Approach has numerous successful applications to its credit and presents a
robust methodology. However, there are particular challenges faced by all participative methodologies.
These flow from the belief that participants will give up their own agenda in favor of finding a common
ground for all stakeholders. The facilitator proceeds from the standpoint that participants will cooperate with
the process. Daniels and Walker express this sentiment as follows: “If the stakeholders will strive to give the
process a chance, the facilitators will strive to conduct a process that is efficient, promotes civility, respects
Biggs and Kiker (2005) RA + MCDA: How do Stakeholders Fit In? Page 12 of 18
the knowledge and time that participants contribute, and fosters learning.” (2001: p16) Such methodologies,
though they are participative, do not necessarily deal well with stakeholders who are single-minded in their
goal to lobby for their agenda above all else, and who may be willing to sabotage the process if their agenda
is not being achieved. For this reason, it is important to engage in a stakeholder research program to
determine who the stakeholders are and what challenges they may present in planning sessions.
Additionally, it is useful to ensure that the facilitators are well versed in conflict resolution.
The third methodology to be discussed in brief detail is Checkland’s (1999) Soft Systems Methodology
(SSM). SSM has been widely used and thoroughly developed in a variety of contexts over the past thirty
years. The methodology is around four main activities: (1) finding out about the problem; (2) formulating
relevant purposeful activity models; (3) Debating the situation using the models; and (4) taking action in the
situation to bring about improvement. Checkland provides numerous tools that support these four stages of
analysis and planning. Amongst these tools is rich picture building which is useful as a starting point for
exploratory conversations with stakeholders. SSM also proposes the use of the mnemonic CATWOE, useful
for stimulating a critical look at the problem situation and deciding which elements should be included in
models. The letters stand for Customers, Actors, Transformation, Weltanschauung (worldview), Owners,
and Environment. By describing the problem situation in terms of CATWOE, participants are encouraged to
think through the different perspectives and many assumptions that permeate the problem situation.
Additionally, by clarifying the transformation that is desired, the scope of the problem situation at different
levels of complexity is clarified and constructive debate is fostered.
SSM should be differentiated from hard systems modelling in which the model is seen to be a picture of
reality. SSM is not designed to create a picture of the actual system. Instead, SSM helps to generate
conversation and learning. The learning and insight that is generated is used to explore the problem
situation, to find new insight, which in turn generates the ability to take action to improve the situation.
Discussion: Key Issues and Future Challenges
In order to make progress within the management of complex environmental challenges, we need to move
forward from the impasses that seem to characterize current high-profile stakeholder engagement processes.
This move forward will require a process of integration and evolution. At the same time a greater focus
needs to be placed on learning and on proactive stakeholder approaches.
An initial setting out of four key priorities to be addressed on the path to more effective engagement and
decision-making in contested public settings is proposed as follows:
1. Models and modeling/decision approaches such as RA and MCDA need to become more nuanced
and transparent. The literature suggests that such a process has begun. Such approaches must
incorporate the need to generate knowledge and understanding among participants. This as distinct
from a technical approach that uses models to find the single best solution from a predetermined set
of options. The modeling process needs to become less hidden and more transparent where lay
participants are concerned. The “what if” process needs to become an easily comprehended part of
the interface between RA/MCDA practitioners and stakeholders.
Biggs and Kiker (2005) RA + MCDA: How do Stakeholders Fit In? Page 13 of 18
2. The stakeholder-engagement facilitation process needs to be “professionalized.” Certain of the case
studies in this paper, as well as the wider literature, indicate that the failure of the stakeholder process
can often be attributed to a poorly considered, poorly resourced and indifferently implemented
facilitation process. The facilitation process needs to be seen as an integral and key component of any
public process seeking to find common-ground solutions. As an adjunct to this – all stakeholder
engagements processes should be followed by a rigorous debrief process to identify key learning that
can inform future processes. Such learning should consider the techniques used, the outcomes
secured, the stakeholder interaction process, the things that worked and the things that did not. In this
way the capacity of institutions to run effective stakeholder engagement processes will be enhanced
through a process of institutional learning.
3. Where public stakeholder engagement processes are concerned, careful thought needs to be given as
to whom the ongoing custodian(s) of the process should be. In private organizations the management
of the stakeholder interface is a key part of the institutionalized strategic management process.
Specific managers are given the task of managing this interface on a routine basis. The seemingly
episodic and project-based nature of public agency stakeholder engagement means that the
engagement process is often the responsibility of project managers or project technical experts. Such
a management process means that (institutional) learning from one process often dies with the project
closeout. Public institutions need to see the engagement process as a continuous process – periods of
calm interspersed with areas of high activity. Suitable structures are needed to ensure that the
institutional memory is regularly updated and maintained from one engagement process to the next.
4. Stock needs to be taken of the current status of the stakeholder engagement process. This paper
suggests that an early form of best practice is emerging. Such best practice is not much concerned
with the use of specific techniques but rather with what makes for a competent overall process.
Identified elements of possible best practice should be subjected to a rigorous review process. If the
elements survive this review, they should be incorporated into standard institutional operating
In conclusion it is important to note that the stakeholder engagement process is an evolving, not a static,
field. Technical issues can be expected to become more complex and difficult to explain. Stakeholder
groups can be expected to seek new ways to further their agendas. Under these circumstances the
stakeholder engagement arena can be expected to remain a volatile and challenging one.
The authors are grateful to Dr Greg Kiker and Dr Igor Linkov for their advice and assistance in drafting this
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