This article is a combination of a methodological article and a treatise examining some of the theories that underpin participatory methods in stakeholder engagement in science. Emphasis is placed on methods that involve the co-design of structured products (maps, models, games, stories, etc.) that can be interpreted by both scientists and non-scientists – thus creating “sides rather than top-down or top-down results. bottom-up perspectives.
The authors describe how some established and new methods (participatory agent-based modeling, co-construction of computer games, and participatory social network mapping) can be used to engage stakeholders in iterative and constructivist communication, enabling researchers and stakeholders to co-create a structured “reality”. The authors discuss how these approaches support and contribute to scientific productions that better represent the reality of the participants.
The authors examine the impacts of these approaches used in ecosystem services, agricultural adaptation and disaster risk management. They find that such representations provide opportunities for communication and spaces for reflection and constructivist learning. They conclude that structured outcomes allow stakeholders (participants and researchers) to mirror their human-environmental system to collaboratively reflect on gaps and issues of understanding.