Abstract for: Participatory Modeling in Environmental Systems: Learning from the System Dynamics Tradition

Participatory modeling has grown in popularity in recent years as a tool to investigate environmental systems and generate consensus among stakeholders around environmental problems. System dynamics has one of the longest track records of any modeling field of incorporating stakeholder input into model-building, and therefore has much to offer the growing field of participatory modeling. However, there are key differences between organizational and business systems, from which most of the system dynamics literature on participatory (or group) model-building derives, and environmental systems. These differences include: more variation in stakeholders’ goals and desired outcomes in environmental systems; less feasibility of assembling relevant stakeholders; greater temporal and spatial scale of the problems encountered and more exogenous drivers; more difficulty in collecting information relevant to the problem; and a greater need for specialized and scientific knowledge about the system being modeled. Participatory modeling efforts around the environment, whether using agent-based modeling, system dynamics, scenario development, or other methodologies, would benefit from the lessons contained in the system dynamics group modeling literature while taking into account the need for longer group processes and more involved data collection efforts that may arise with environmental problems.