Participatory decision support for complex policy issues

The Risk and Resilience program has developed a number of decision-support and process-oriented methods. These tools help stakeholders and policy-makers make sense of the complex governance landscape, while clarifying trade-offs and synergies associated with alternative policy options. 

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© Rawpixelimages |

The engagement of public stakeholders is increasingly seen as an integral part of policy-making. By enhancing public awareness and bringing new and locally-oriented options to light, stakeholder processes can delineate the space for agreement or compromise, thereby enhancing the credibility and longer-term support for public policies.


  • PRA has been used in a number of cases such as SafeLand.

  • In 2017, the Water-Food-Energy Nexus Game was developed as part of a SE4 all/UNDP-CAPNET initiative to raise awareness of the decision-making complexity surrounding water-food-energy nexus issues.

Plural Rationality Approach (PRA)

Combining institutional mapping, semi-structured stakeholder interviews, and face-to-face deliberation, the PRA provides a structured diagnosis of complex policy issues and offers a step-by-step approach to stakeholder facilitation and policy co-designing.

Based on the Theory of Plural Rationality (TPR), this approach clarifies alternative (and often conflicting) stakeholder preferences supporting or opposing policy options/instruments. These arise due to deep-seated differences in "world views" – i.e. socially constructed beliefs as to how and to what extent individual choices should be restricted according to group norms and established rules. The PRA guides decision-makers and researchers through pluralistic policy-making, with an ultimate aim towards designing a socially-robust policy package that combines authoritative control, market incentives, and bottom-up collaboration. 

Role-playing games

Expressing common management challenges related to stakeholder interaction regarding socio-ecological systems used in action research and stakeholder engagement.

These participatory games combine both social and natural science insights to foster experiential learning. Participants make sense of the complexity associated with policy issues, and reflect on system inter-linkages and stakeholder plurality. The Risk and Resilience team in collaboration with partners have developed a number of such games including: the Flood Resilience Game; the Water-Food-Energy-Nexus Game, and the Narubu Game of Many Voices. 

Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA)

Development of methods for stakeholder preference elicitation and multi-criteria, multi-stakeholder decision analysis.

RISK has developed a spectrum of methods and tools for eliciting preference and factual information, as well as for robust evaluations of information, in complex and uncertain multi-stakeholder multi-criteria policy contexts, while enabling decision-makers to understand and utilize the information they are able to supply. The crucial issue in all these methods is how to assign qualitative and quantitative preference and factual estimates, as well as provide tools for the analyses, while maintaining as much information as possible during the process. These methods are currently being used in Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia for the analyses of energy policy in the MENA-SELECT project. The software used for these applications was developed by the Swedish company Preference Inc. 

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Last edited: 26 February 2020


Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer

Emeritus Research Scholar Equity and Justice Research Group - Population and Just Societies Program

Thomas Schinko

Research Group Leader and Research Scholar Equity and Justice Research Group - Population and Just Societies Program


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