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Making dilemmas explicit through the use of a cognitive mapping collaboration tool

Castaño, J. M., van Amstel, F., Hartmann, T., & Dewulf, G. (2017). Making dilemmas explicit through the use of a cognitive mapping collaboration tool. Futures, 87, p. 37–49.

Abstract: Dilemmas are pervasive in decision making. Although they offer the potential of reflecting on issues at stake from different perspectives, dilemmas often lead to paralysis for those encountering them. This study presents a three dimensional collaboration tool specifically developed to surface dilemmas in a multi-actor context. The assumption is that revealing and debating dilemmas encourage finding solutions that bridge the apparently competing demands that resulted in dilemmas in the first place. Our tool, called the ‘dilemma cube’, is based on cognitive mapping principles and allows a diversity of participants to share their interpreted actions, effects, and connections among different issues at stake. We tested our tool in a collaborative workshop for a multifunctional land use project in the Netherlands. Our results show that the ‘dilemma cube’ guided participants to share their interpretations about the project, revealing the interdependence of issues at stake. Revealing the socially-constructed nature of dilemmas in multi-actor contexts is the stepping stone to explore strategies that stimulate deliberation, and realize the opportunities of exploiting opposites in light of dilemmas.

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  • Realizing the potential of dilemmas in multi-actor contexts requires making them explicit.
  • A collaborative tool that makes dilemmas explicit, the “dilemma cube”, was developed based on cognitive mapping techniques.
  • The “dilemma cube” was tested in a workshop with stakeholders of a multifunctional flood defense project in The Netherlands.
  • The three-dimensional aspect of the tool allowed visualizing interdependent issues at stake, revealing project dilemmas that would have otherwise remained concealed.

Categories: Journal publications.

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