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Designing Participation Processes for Water Management and Beyond

Yorck von Korff, Lisode; Cemagref UMR G-EAU
Patrick d'Aquino, CIRAD
Katherine A Daniell, Cemagref UMR G-EAU; Australian National University
Rianne Bijlsma, Deltares


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This article addresses the question of how to design participation processes in water management and other fields. Despite a lot of work on participation, and especially its evaluation, this question has received little attention in the research literature. However, it is important, because previous research has made it clear that participation may yield important benefits for humans and the environment but that these benefits do not occur automatically. One precondition is sound design. The design of participation processes has been addressed in detail in the so-called “craft” literature but more rarely in the scientific literature. This article helps close this gap by systematically analyzing and comparing five design guides to determine whether it is possible to combine them into a more robust guide. The article confirms that possibility and presents a preliminary outline for such a guide. Principles for participatory process orientation are presented, as well as numerous partially iterative steps. The adaptive process is laid out in a way intended to help designers determine the objectives of the participation process and the initial design context, and make preplanning choices that eventually lead to the selection of suitable participation mechanisms. There are also design tools that facilitate this work. We discuss how our findings are largely compatible with previous research on participation, notably the work on criteria for “good” or “effective” participation processes. We also argue that our article advances research on an important remaining question in the scientific literature on participation: What process should be chosen in which context?

Key words

Design guides; participation; water management

Copyright © 2010 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087