The use of multi-criteria evaluation tools in combination with participatory approaches provides a promising framework for integrating multiple interests and perspectives in the effort to provide sustainability. However, the inclusion of diverse viewpoints requires the “compression” of complex issues, a process that is controversial. Ensuring the quality of the compression process is a major challenge, especially with regards to retaining the essential elements of the various perspectives. Based on the lessons learned during a case study that assessed sustainable management options for the Urdaibai Estuary (Basque Country-Southern Europe), we propose a process in which the explicit elicitation of weights (the prioritisation of criteria) within a participatory multi-criteria evaluation serves as a quality assurance mechanism to check the robustness of the evaluation process. The results demonstrate that diverse individual priorities can be grouped in a reduced set of social preferences by means of cluster analysis reinforced with a deliberative appraisal among a wide variety of social actors. The approach presented retains relevant information regarding extreme and sometimes irreconcilable positions, allows an explicit social sensitivity analysis of the MCE process, and enables participants to learn from and reflect upon diverse social preferences without forcing their consensus.
Ecological Economics – Elsevier
Published: Dec 1, 2012
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