Participatory experts/stakeholders based analyses
In this group we include methods aimed at eliciting expert/stakeholders knowledge in order to assess landscape-related phenomena, e.g. assess values. A wide number of participatory approaches have been proposed to elicit and collect opinions and preferences from experts, stakeholders or the wider public. Among these, we find focus groups, citizen's juries, individual interviews, opinion polls, and the Delphi method.
Focus groups include a wide range of definitions. The main distinguishing feature is the idea of getting knowledge of the opinion of a group of persons on a specific topic by having them grouped together and allowing them to discuss of the issue, with possibility of interactions. This is the main difference with individual interviews which aim to individual answers (see Howley et al. 2012). The interaction and the discussion in the focus groups allow for an open format which can lead to original results not limited a priori by researchers and the discussion of (to some extent) unfamiliar topics.
Citizen's juries are conceptually different from focus groups because the aim is to represent "the broader community, in which decisions are reached by mutual agreement" and can be considered a deliberative method (Howarth & Wilson 2006: 2).
The main characteristics of the Delphi method are an iterative process that shall lead to reach a consensus between the participants (usually experts). This is performed with the aid of questionnaires polled more times. Between two polls, the questionnaires are updated and opinions are disseminated. By this way, opinions and ideas should converge to a consensus between the participants (Navrud 2003).
General Purpose and Application
Participatory methods can be used in different stages of an evaluation or of a research process. They are usually used to deal with complex issues for which empirical information is not readily available but is accessible to some people, or when the information that is needed reflects the values/opinion of different stakeholders. Participatory methods are increasingly used as they provide relatively cheap and qualitative information in a reasonable time. Low statistical robustness could affect the meaningful of the results. However, as stated by Kuhnert et al. (2010) in using experts' knowledge, a rigorous design of the elicitation process will lead to a level of rigour comparable to the collection of empirical data.
The experience of the project ( AT, PL) shows the practical importance of interactively involving stakeholders in the process since the beginning. It also confirms in general the relevance of stakeholder involvement for landscape and agriculture issues related to second order effects, particular in relation to the lack of data, importance of preferences and values, and amount of qualitative issues in landscape valorisation.
The project also shows the complementarity between more structured approaches, such as stakeholders based multi-criteria analysis and simple presentations followed by moderated discussions in answer to precise questions.
On a more specific level, empirical results from two different case studies reveal how simple surveys among targeted experts using narrow well defined questions may yield already very relevant information, particularly for scoping purposes in view of further research.