Toward a methodological scheme for capturing societal effects of participatory sustainability research

Arnim Wiek, Sonia Talwar, Meg O'Shea, John Robinson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    72 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Sustainability research that strives to develop solution options to complex problems and involves non-academic partners has received increasing public attention. Given this trend, funding organizations, universities, and collaborating partners from business and government seek evidence for the effectiveness of such research. The article introduces a framework and methodological scheme for capturing the societal effects of participatory sustainability research. The framework was developed through literature review and a workshop with institutional agents. It accounts for both direct and tangible as well as indirect and less tangible effects. Effects include quality products, knowledge gains, increased decision-making capacity, enhanced networks, and transformational changes. Participatory research features linked to these effects include representativeness of participants, adequate level of interaction, and transparent incorporation of stakeholder inputs. The framework is translated into a methodological scheme, which we discuss based on exploratory testing. The testing revealed a number of challenges, including adequately incentivizing participation and dealing with memory distortion. We propose coping strategies such as collaborative participant recruitment, memory consolidation activities, and real-time study design. The article provides a constructive, yet cautionary aid to researchers, professionals, and funding organizations seeking to capture the societal effects of participatory sustainability research.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)117-132
    Number of pages16
    JournalResearch Evaluation
    Volume23
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

    Keywords

    • Evaluation framework
    • impact assessment
    • real-world impacts
    • stakeholder engagement

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education
    • Library and Information Sciences

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