New Forms of Decision Making


Selection of the Right Methods

There is a wide range of methods to be used for different kinds of procedures and situations. Often, different methods are combined. The different methods of new forms of decision making can be divided into three groups – according to the level of participation intensity (further details in PFEFFERKORN, GOLOBIC, ZAUGG-STERN & BUCHECKER (2006): table on pages 58-62):

  • Level 1: "Information" is one-way communication and therefore often not considered as participation. It can be important in the beginning of a decision making process. It is also relevant for those who just want to be informed and not participate intensively in a procedure.
    Examples: mail, information leaflets, posters, exposition
  • Level 2: "Consultation" offers a dialogue, information and opinions can be exchanged. Citizens can give feedback to plans or projects, but they have no influence on the further use of their feedback. Therefore, their influence on final decisions remains often marginal.
    Examples: interviews, hearings, workshops, participatory evaluation
  • Level 3: "Co-decision making": At this level, the participants can directly influence the final decisions. Thus, the methodological requirements are higher than on the other participation levels.
    Examples: co-operative planning processes, mediation procedure.

Restoration of Protection Forests in Hinterstein (Germany)

Hinterstein is threatened by rockfall, debris flows and avalanches. With the help of a mediation the bad state of the protection forest was improved. (Source: Rainer Kwiotek / ZEITENSPIEGEL)
Hinterstein is an idyllic mountain village outside Bad Hindelang and lies nestled in a narrow high valley. It is surrounded by a high-lying forest on steep, 40 degree slopes. The forest has been badly affected by the bark beetle; it is diseased and thinned out. Without a strong mountain forest to protect it, Hinterstein is threatened by avalanches and rock falls. Since 1987 a total of one million Euros has been spent on restoring it, with little success. The saplings failed to grow as chamois and deer nibbled away at the tender shoots. But in a project unique in its kind, forestry scientists at the Technical University Munich carried out a mediation process in which a joint agreement was concluded by all the parties concerned: hunters, forestry owners and proprietors of water bodies, local authority representatives and associations. While the hunters undertook to keep the afforestation zones free of red deer and chamois, the foresters agreed to provide the optimum fencing for the new plantations.

The forest owners dispensed with any land clearance operations and ski tourists were routed around the areas at risk. Initially the mediation proved tenuous and marked by the deep mistrust of the participants. But provided all those concerned observe the pact, there will soon be a new answer to the question posed in Eichendorff’s song:
Wer hat dich, du schöner Wald, aufgebaut so hoch da droben? [O mighty forest so high above, who put you there?] The answer being, we all did.
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Further Readings & Links

As the main base for this tutorial, this "Future in the Alps" report analyses which new forms of decision-making are the most promising with regard to sustainable development.