Participatory Modelling in Natural Resource Management: A Comparison of Four Case Studies


  • M. Hare Swiss Federal Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (EAWAG), Dubendo
  • R.A. Letcher Integrated Catchment Assessment and Management Centre, The Australian National U
  • A.J. Jakeman Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, The Australian National Universit


integrated assessment, stakeholder, co-design, decision makers, participation.


The need to understand what might constitute best practice in participatory methods for resource management is becoming ever more important as the requirement for a high level of participation becomes prescribed in the environmental directives of the EU and elsewhere. Since there are numerous potential stakeholders who may participate, various different goals of participation and many potential participatory methods designed to achieve them, there is a need for better understanding of how the methods can be practicably applied to particular stakeholders and for what purpose. As input into this process, this paper presents an overview of four natural resource management projects carried out using participatory modelling methods involving stakeholders in the co-design and social learning of management solutions. From these case studies, a description is elicited of the different types of participatory process structures adopted, as well as an analysis of the influences behind the selection of stakeholders and their level of involvement. Six influences in the design of such structures are identified and illustrated with examples: project goals, democratic participatory goals, existing power structures, stakeholder numbers, researchers’ normative beliefs and the scale at which decisions need to be supported. These influences place limits on the freedom of practitioners to develop the type of processes they might otherwise intend. Classification of the process structures according to the level of involvement of stakeholders and their scale of action leads to a discussion about a particular problem of co-design processes: a scale of action mismatch. That is, some process structures, due to the influences mentioned above, end up not involving all the necessary decision makers in the co-design of management solutions. As a result, there has to be additional methods employed to ensure that the results of co-design, i.e. a set of management options, can be passed on to and adopted by excluded decision makers. The paper concludes by briefly looking at examples of possible methods, such as process extensions, e.g., consultation meetings and information campaigns, and the adoption of institutional safeguards.