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Methodology

Knowledge brokerage needs professional mechanisms, as there is currently no standard model for linking research and policy making. Cutting-edge Internet technologies can ensure continuous exchange of information and knowledge, whereas face-to-face interactions nurture relations and build up trust while leaving room for informal exchange. RESPONDER will combine both in a demand-driven way, offering clearly defined interfaces to other networks, while establishing a unique position through its systemic approach.

RESPONDER uses the well-established method of “participatory system mapping” to make the different paradigms, contradicting approaches and trade-offs of sustainable consumption and economic growth explicit and serve as basis for much improved mutual understanding. Participatory system mapping combines the advantages of systems thinking, soft system analysis and modelling. It is based on the concept of system dynamics, which allows to focus on a problem and identify its scope and causes in the system structure. By focussing on ‘policy levers’, systems models serve as a basis for comparison of intervention options and therefore serve as an important feedback tool for learning and policy design.

RESPONDER’s system map will have the form of a causal loop diagram, also called ‘influence diagrams’. A causal loop diagram depicts causal relations between selected variables, focusing on positive and negative feedback loops and development trends. Most commonly, causal loop diagrams serve as the qualitative, structure-building step in modelling. Causal loop diagrams have been used widely.

This method was chosen as particularly fitting for the RESPONDER project:

  • The method fosters a shared understanding between the policy makers and researchers of the complex systems of consumer decision-making, economic growth and sustainability, their drivers and behaviour trends. This topical area is not only characterised by high complexity, but also by different disciplinary representations and actors from different communities with differing paradigms and rationalities. Constructing the map should help to elicit participants’ views about the problem causes and causal connections and thereby be a process for overcoming paradigmatic differences.
  • Such a process leads to an improved understanding of the system by the involved actors. The policy makers will benefit from a more systemic understanding and from the ability to consider a more concrete range of effects of policy options. The map thus offers a problem-solving framework. It is an opportunity to foster systems thinking of policy makers at an unprecedented geographical (EU-wide) and thematic scale.
  • Due to the complexity of the topical area, the map is needed to support knowledge brokerage as it serves as a conceptual focus for the exchange between policy makers and researchers. The map will help in formulating clear questions and providing usable answers, and scoping the problem. It will also serve as an internally consistent basis for comparison of policy options.
  • The system map serves as the framework for organising data and as the basis for identifying data needs, formulating policy-relevant indicators and future collection of qualitative and quantitative data.

© 2017 Institute for Managing Sustainability
Vienna University of Economics and Business, Welthandelsplatz 1, A-1020 Vienna

The RESPONDER project is funded by FP7 under
the Environment (including Climate Change) theme.