Q methodology to select participants for a stakeholder dialogue on energy options from biomass in the Netherlands

E.H.W.J. Cuppen, S. Breukers, M. Hisschemoller, E.J. Bergsma

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Stakeholder dialogues are proposed as a method for assessing complex ecological and environmental problems. Stakeholder dialogues aim to enhance mutual learning by generating and evaluating divergent knowledge claims and viewpoints, i.e. problem structuring. Problem structuring requires that the diversity of perspectives is represented in the dialogue. We argue therefore that stakeholder dialogues should involve procedures for stakeholder selection that allow for the identification of the diversity of perspectives as well as of stakeholders identifying with those perspectives. We explore the use of Q methodology as a tool for pursuing this goal. Q methodology can be used to uncover perspectives that exist within a particular (policy) field. We applied Q methodology to a stakeholder dialogue on energy options from biomass in the Netherlands to identify stakeholder perspectives on energy from biomass and to select stakeholders for the dialogue. In order to discuss the use of Q methodology for stakeholder selection, we compare this stakeholder selection with a hypothetical selection based on actor type (NGOs, knowledge institutes, industry, etcetera). Our analysis shows that, although often implicitly assumed, actor type is not a good proxy for perspective: the actor types appeared to be heterogeneous in terms of perspectives. This means that a stakeholder selection procedure based on perspectives will very likely result in a different group composition than a selection based on affiliation or actor type. The analysis however also shows that some actor types were more heterogeneous than others and that some perspectives are dominated by particular actor types. We conclude that Q methodology is a useful method for stakeholder selection in stakeholder dialogues and wrap up with a discussion of the results and the implications for the design and preparation of a dialogue process. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-591
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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