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This section discusses participatory assessment tools and methods with specific relevance for different stages in the policy formulation process.

Stage 1: Agenda Setting and Problem Conceptualization

Ultimately, it is the identification of stakeholders and the range of divergent views they represent which, apart from the organization of the dialogue itself, shapes the contents of the participatory assessment. Remarkably, participatory assessments often identify stakeholders in a rather intuitive way, according to their (assumed) position with respect to a certain issue (Hisschemoller 2005). They may use techniques such as random, stratified or snowball sampling. While these techniques may be helpful to assure representative, large sample sizes in quantitative research, their use for participatory assessment is disputable (Cuppen 2010; 2012a). From a learning perspective, representation implies the balanced inclusion of the variety of perspectives. Such 'discursive representation' (Dryzek and Niemeyer 2008, p. 281) asks for tools that enable a selection based on measured rather than assumed stakeholder perspectives. Examples of such tools are Q Methodology (for example, Cuppen et al. 2010) and the Repertory Grid Technique (van de Kerkhof et al. 2009), which allow for both qualitative and quantitative analysis. As for Q Methodology, a limited sample of respondents sort a set of subjective statements on a policy issue, according to a bell-shaped distribution that represents salience to the individual ('most agree' versus 'most disagree'). A subsequent quantitative analysis results in a number of (usually two to six) factors which can be interpreted as perspectives. The quantitative analysis enables the identification of respondents who can 'represent' each of the perspectives in a dialogue (Cuppen et al. 2010). The combined use of qualitative and quantitative research techniques via Q Methodology or Repertory Grid Technique reveals that perspectives cannot simply be 'read off from stakeholders' affiliations with business, environmental NGOs or other stakeholders. Actor types have been found to be heterogeneous with regard to perspectives (Cuppen et al. 2010; Vasileiadou et al. 2014).

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