eParticipation Galore? Extending Multi-criteria Decision Analysis to the Public

Mona Riabacke, Joachim Astrom, Ake Gronlund


New approaches and tools are required because of the increasing request for public participation and democratic decision making. There are two particular major challenges associated with this namely, applications allowing for large numbers of users and the balancing of participation and expertise. This article tests a method attempting to achieve this by combining a multi-criteria decision approach with different forms of discussion and deliberation. The method involves relaxed requirements for user exactness in statements of opinion and was tested on 90 students aged 17-19. Is it possible to extend multi-criteria decision analysis to the public? In order to answer this question, our research focuses on (1) scalability, or the potential for increased participation, as well as (2) decision quality, i.e. whether the alternatives are reflected upon and if there have been reasoned judgments. The test and survey found both these criteria met. The findings suggest that the method can be used for large scale participation during a decision making process, but also that a participatory process is improved by lengthier deliberation and more than one point of measurement so that opinions can stabilize.

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