Garard, J., Koch, L., Kowarsch, M.
Elements of success in multi-stakeholder deliberation platforms
in Palgrave Communications 4, 129, 06.11.2018
Peer Review , Scientific Assessments, Ethics, and Public Policy
Deliberation platforms are an important component of the multi-actor science-policy interface within the realm of environmental governance, increasingly characterized by the engagement of a diversity of actors. Deliberation platforms provide a mechanism through which stakeholders with diverse perspectives can both discuss problems and explore potential solutions related to environmental governance, integrating scientific and other knowledge. This study employs a Qualitative Content Analysis of 16 semi-structured interviews to investigate which elements of deliberation platforms are most central to their success and how these elements interact with one another from the perspective of public engagers. This fills a gap in the literature on the qualification of knowledge and experience of public engagers regarding the organization of multi-stakeholder deliberation platforms. Elements to consider in the organization of deliberation platforms were ranked, and five central elements were identified: (1) the selection of participants relevant to the topic and conducive to positive interactions, (2) openness as an attitude in both organizers and participants, (3) facilitation of interactions and the role of the facilitator, (4) communication and transparency between organizers and participants, and (5) fostering dialog between participants through various means. Different manifestations of these five central elements which can fit best within different particular contexts and suit various objectives are also investigated based on the interview material. The discussion summarizes the lessons learned with regards to organizing deliberation platforms from the perspective of public engagers, and explores the potential for trade-offs and co-benefits between central elements as a means to improve the efficiency and efficacy of organizing such platforms. Furthermore, the links between the central elements and social learning, as a particular, overarching objective of deliberation platforms, are discussed. This study is an important step towards further analysis of deliberation platforms, necessary in order to avoid the risks of convening actors with diverse perspectives to discuss politically-relevant topics. It provides insights relevant to public engagers and to future studies analyzing these increasingly important venues for engagement in environmental governance.