Fachbereich 9

School of Business Administration and Economics

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Participatory approaches in environmental and natural resource policy

This subproject focuses on participatory policy interventions that aim to foster pro-social behavior in social dilemmas (aka collective action challenges). Examples include multi-stakeholder workshops, mini-publics such as citizens’ assemblies and cabildos abiertos and participatory vision-building exercises. Potential applications include watershed management, the spatial coordination of land uses as well as communal renewable energy strategies. We analyze to what degree such interventions can affect social preferences and relevant beliefs that affect cooperative behavior within the group and of the group in the protection of nature, the sustainable management of natural resources and the provision of environmental services to society. In addition to lab and field experiments, this subproject also involves a conceptual integration of different models of human cooperation from social psychology, behavioral economics and cognitive sociology, as well as of different insights from research on participatory governance, collective action and institutional analysis, into a unified framework.

Contact persons in our team are Juan Felipe Ortiz-Riomalo and Prof. Dr. Stefanie Engel.



Prosocial behaviour and collective action in the Cañete river watershed

This sub-project in Peru is part of the sub-project on participatory approaches.

Multi-stakeholder workshops for building common understandings and collective agreements

The project aimed at fostering pro-social behaviour and collective action for sustainable resource management in the Cañete river watershed (which comprises the provinces of Yauyos and Cañete in the Lima region, Peru). For that purpose, we first conducted a series of three multi-stakeholder workshops that brought together representatives from the upper and lower sections of the watershed, the main water uses (i.e. agriculture, power generation and human consumption), and the national and sub-national authorities involved in land-use and water management in the river basin. The workshops were to facilitate common understandings and collective agreements on desirable social and ecological outcomes and courses of action. To guide participants’ interactions towards such common understandings and collective agreements, we employed economic games, social cartography as well as group moderation and deliberation techniques such as the Metaplan. Throughout the entire participatory process, participants were thus motivated to take a broader perspective than their own; that is, they were motivated to consider the broader watershed dynamics, each other’s perspectives and stakeholders’ mutual dependencies to work out and commit to collective agreements on desirable outcomes and courses of action. Via this website, you can consult the final report on the activities and outputs of the project (available only in Spanish) and a video of the central multi-stakeholder workshop (available only in Spanish). You can also check the published guideline describing and explaining, for replication, the methods and processes used within the participatory intervention. (An extended preliminary draft of the guideline which expands on the descriptions and explanations of the participatory methods, and which also contains supporting material, can be consulted here.) The recording of the presentation of the guideline is also available for public viewing. A video of a similar participatory process in Colombia can also be viewed here. Currently, a study comparing the participatory intervention in Peru with another similar process conducted in Colombia is under peer-review. The manuscript is available upon reasonable request, and a link to access it will be made available here as soon as the study gets published.

Study on perspective-taking and pro-social behaviour in natural resource management

To assess the impact of inducing perspective-taking on pro-social behaviour in this context, we also conducted a controlled study in form of an economic lab-in-the-field experiment. In this study, farmers from the Cañete valley (the lower section of the watershed) were induced to consider upstream farmers’ situation, thoughts and feelings before deciding on a donation for a sustainable development initiative in the upper watershed. In this watershed—as in other similar watersheds in the Andean region—, upstream farmers bear the economic cost of nature protection and are relatively less well-off than downstream farmers, who benefit the most from water provision downstream. The study suggests that perspective-taking can indeed trigger pro-social behaviour, most likely by inducing decision-makers (downstream farmers, in our case) to consider and care for the well-being of those whose perspective is being taken on. Here you can access the article of the study. You can also access previous presentations of the study, respectively delivered at the Seminar Series of the Cardiff Water Research Institute and the EAERE 2020 session on “Promoting pro-social behaviour”.