Participation Case Scout: New webtool identifies success factors for public decision-making processes

2022-03-14 How can environmental decision-making processes be made as successful as possible? The "ParticipationCaseScout" is a web tool that provides insight into 305 case studies on environment-related, often participatory decision-making processes. Users can use the tool to identify factors that might be useful in planning their own decision-making processes.

The web tool was developed by Prof. Dr. Jens Newig and Dr. Michael Rose from the Institute for Sustainability Governance in a transdisciplinary process together with students. It fulfills two functions: First, users* can browse and explore different case studies, for example to find best or worst practice examples that are similar to their own project. For example, if a city council needs to decide on an application to build a wind turbine in the area, employees* can use ParticipationCaseScout to search for similar cases using a variety of filters and compare the approach. "For example, users can see how others in similar situations have conducted the decision-making process and what the results were under those circumstances."

Second, customized success factors can be calculated for a specific procedural goal in a specific context. Depending on which success indicator is to be decisive for the procedure - in the case of the decision on the wind turbine building application, for example, this could be acceptance on the part of local residents - and under which contextual conditions the procedure takes place, the tool identifies factors that have statistically proven to be particularly conducive (or obstructive) in the past for similar objectives and conditions. Factors can include, for example, the presence of a qualified moderator, the time required for participating stakeholders, or access to expert knowledge.

ParticipationCaseScout follows on from the "EDGE" research project funded by the European Research Council. In this project, the research team led by Prof. Newig used a meta-analysis of numerous case studies to investigate how participatory processes influence the quality of decisions. "We found that the results could also be of interest to practitioners," says Newig. In two subsequent project seminars, students worked on the question of what role scientific evidence plays in questions about the design of public decision-making processes and in what ways such data could best be made available. "The students worked diligently to invite people from environmental public administration and consulting firms and conducted interviews and focus groups with them," Rose reports. One finding: stakeholders have made little use of scientific literature for planning decision-making processes because it is not necessarily readily and easily accessible.  The ParticipationCaseScout is an offer to close this knowledge gap. The initiators are particularly pleased that some of the invited practitioners have actively contributed to the development of the webtool.

The application possibilities of the web tool are unique in their form worldwide, the two scientists emphasize. The importance of scientific evidence for the consequences of political measures was demonstrated not least by the Covid 19 pandemic. "In our case, it's about social science knowledge that actors from administration, politics or agencies can use for orientation."


  • Prof. Dr. Jens Newig
  • Dr. Michael Rose