Q Methodology to Support the Design and Evaluation of Stakeholder Dialogue
Most of today’s pressing societal problems—such as issues related to energy supply, food, biodiversity and mobility—are characterized by scientific uncertainties and high stakes. Policymakers have to deal with situations in which different people (scientists and stakeholders) have different ideas about what exactly the problem is and how it should be solved. These types of policy problem have been labelled wicked problems. Stakeholder dialogue can be used as a vehicle to inform policymaking on wicked issues. A stakeholder dialogue is geared towards learning about the diversity of perspectives on a problem and its potential solutions. This process of problem structuring needs to be supported by specific tools, methods and procedures. One of the biggest challenges for stakeholder dialogues is to find methods that can be used to design and evaluate dialogues in a way that does justice to the wicked nature of the policy issue at stake. Q methodology is a useful and appropriate method for selecting stakeholders who represent the diversity of perspectives and for evaluating the learning about perspectives that occurs in stakeholder dialogue. This article demonstrates how Q methodology was applied for these purposes in a stakeholder dialogue on sustainable bioenergy in the Netherlands.