Analyzing the Contribution of Participatory Environmental Planning to Social Learning

Project lead

Matthias Buchecker

Project staff

Raphael Gaus

Project duration

2014 - 2033


The research project studies the role of social learning in the context of participatory negotiation processes based on the case study of a complex planning project in the field of natural hazard management and use of natural resources.

Recent scientific literature suggests that efficient integrated management of natural hazards and natural resources requires achieving a shared problem understanding through social learning and that social learning is notably fostered within the framework of participatory negotiation processes among relevant stakeholders. However, essential aspects of the concept of social learning and its interdependency with participatory environmental planning have not yet been researched sufficiently. Although in the last years new approaches have been developed to describe stakeholders’ problem understanding based on mental models, the systematic analysis and the conceptualization of social learning remain crucial challenges. This project contributes toward a comprehensive understanding of the concept of social learning.

Goals, Research Questions and Methods

The project aims at studying in what way participation stimulates social learning of directly involved stakeholders, what effects are revealed in their wider community, and what role power relations and shared identities play. In order to address these questions, the entire participatory negotiation process and the problem understanding of various stakeholders of a case study are iteratively analyzed by means of qualitative and quantitative methods. Data will mainly be collected through problem-centered interviews and standardized questionnaires. Thus, conclusions regarding conceptual aspects of social learning and principles for an efficient participatory management of natural hazards and natural resources will be derived.