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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Postgraduate Courses (School of GeoSciences)

Postgraduate Course: Participation in Policy and Planning (PGGE11016)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryHow to engage the public and other stakeholders in decision-making is a key issue for sustainability and environmental management, both in the prevention of conflict by participatory planning or the resolution of conflict via mediation. Participation in Policy and Planning (PPP) presents and analyses theories and concepts relevant to participatory approaches to contemporary environmental planning and policy issues, using a variety of applied case studies and professional experience from visiting speakers.
PPP adopts a participatory approach to learning via a group exercise conducted during the afternoon sessions throughout the semester to examine a local planning problem, a current policy issue, or a live environmental conflict. At the end of the semester, the class presents its findings to the stakeholders they have interviewed, usually in a committee room at the Scottish Parliament.
Students also critically analyse participation challenges based on presentations from invited speakers and their own case study material.
This course enables students to explore and develop key transferable skills, including:
qualitative interviewing;
social research methods;
reflective practice;
Course description This full-day course incorporates several components:
- Introductory lectures: Short lectures introduce students to the key principles of participation and provide a framework for applying and evaluating effective participation in decision making.
- Key speakers: Speakers from various organisations are invited to talk about their practical experience of participation in helping to balance different interests.
- Skills workshops: Focussed workshop sessions enable students learn and practice skills and techniques that support the application of participatory techniques in practice (e.g. Stakeholder Analysis; Qualitative Interviewing; Facilitation).
- Group project: Students gain first-hand experience of participatory process design by working together on a research project to address a real problem provided by a local organisation(s). Students interview stakeholders, analyse the findings, and compile a report and recommendations. At the end of the semester, the findings are presented to stakeholders, usually in a committee room at the Scottish Parliament, hosted by an MSP.

Weekly lectures cover:
1) Values and beliefs
2) Conflict analysis
3) Representation of interests
4) Consensus and decision-making
5) Conflict resolution in theory
6) Participation strategies and techniques I
7) Participation strategies and techniques II
8) Partnerships and power
9) Community-led action
10) Participation and politics
11) Course review

Previous group projects

Previous group projects have included:
2018: Stakeholders views on the future of low carbon heat for Edinburgh (with Vattenfall, Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage, and City of Edinburgh Council).
2017: Examining the role of the arts in the low carbon transition (with Creative Carbon Scotland, Creative Scotland, Transition Edinburgh, and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation)
2016: Exploring the potential for developing a community food hub in North Edinburgh (with City of Edinburgh Council, Nourish, and Adaptation Scotland)
2015: An analysis of student cycling behaviours at universities and colleges (feeding into the development of a Cycle-Friendly Campus Award by Cycling Scotland, with Cycling Scotland and Sustrans)
2014: An engagement strategy for managing food waste at the University of Edinburgh (with the University of Edinburgh Estates and Buildings department and Zero Waste Scotland)
2013: An engagement strategy for considerate cycling in Edinburgh (with Edinburgh Council, University of Edinburgh, Spokes, Sustrans, Scottish Canals, Lothian and Borders Police)
2012: An engagement strategy for car sharing in Edinburgh (with University of Edinburgh, Napier University, South East Scotland Transport Partnership)
2011: Fairtrade at the University of Edinburgh (with Procurement and Accommodation Services, EUSA, Scottish Fairtrade Forum)
2010: Transition University of Edinburgh (with Transition Edinburgh University, Green Groups and Initiatives)
2009: Local Food Initiatives (with Edinburgh Council (Parks and Gardens), Bridgend Allotment Health Project, PEDAL, Changeworks, Soil Association Scotland)
2008: Community Engagement for Waste and Energy Initiatives within Tenements in Edinburgh (with Changeworks, Edinburgh Stair Partnership, Edinburgh Community Backgreens Initiative)
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesThere is a cap of 5 on the number of non School of GeoSciences students ¿ please contact the course secretary ( for available space prior to registering on this course.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  31
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 50, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 146 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) There are three assignments in PPP:
Assessment 1: Interview report (20%) submit in Week 6
A fieldwork report of two interviews conducted with stakeholders relevant to the group project. This includes analysis of qualitative data (methodological training is provided during the course).
Assessment 2: Self-reflective journal (30%) submit in Week 10
This is a reflective writing exercise, conducted using an online journal in Learn. Students reflect on their own engagement in the group exercise and how the theoretical material presented in the course lectures relates to their professional practice.
Assessment 3: Essay (50%) submit in Week 12
A critical essay, drawing on the theories and practical experience presented during the course. Students have a choice of two essay topics.
Feedback ¿I thought that the way all of the information was presented was really useful - the links between lecture content, skills and project work made the aims of the course really clear. All the materials were also really easy to find on learn¿
¿This was the most organised course that I have taken in my whole university experience and because of this, my marks have excelled as well as my academic confidence. Everything I needed was put on LEARN, as well as announcements every week prior to class which outlined what was expected and will happen.¿
¿The opportunity to participate in a real project was the best way that I have studied a course and PPP met and exceeded my expectations for the course.¿
¿The content of the course is very useful and its format is excellent for a 'participation' course. The group project was challenging but the assignments gave us a chance to analyze everything we have learned from it and once you look back it is amazing how much you have gained.¿
¿Was really great to take a course that was so interactive and dependant on working as a group. Really developed the interpersonal and self-growth skills that are often lacking from university courses. Was great to participate in such a big project and see its development.¿
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Have in-depth theoretical and applied knowledge of participation in environmental decision-making.
  2. Develop applied understanding and practical experience of ways in which information and communication can be used to achieve more effective participation in environmental planning and policy processes.
  3. Analyse critically the role of beliefs, interests, power, lobbying and political initiatives in participatory processes related to the environment.
  4. Gain practical experience of working with stakeholders on a real-life participation problem through a group exercise.
  5. Develop transferable skills, including: facilitation, communication, interviewing, qualitative data analysis, reflective practice, mediation, leadership, negotiation and professional practice.
Reading List
Indicative reading list:
Acland, A. (2008). Dialogue by Design. A handbook of public and stakeholder engagement. Surrey: Dialogue by Design. Available online: [last accessed August 2014].
Assadourian, E. (2008) Engaging communities for a sustainable world. Chapter 11 in State of the World: Innovations for a Sustainable Economy, The WorldWatch Institute, 25th Anniversary Edition. Available online: [last accessed August 2014].
Braun, K. & Schultz, S. (2010) " ... a certain amount of engineering involved": Constructing the public in participatory governance arrangements. Public Understanding of Science 19(4): 403-419.
Carter, C. (2006). Environmental Governance: The Power and Pitfalls of Participatory Processes. Aberdeen Discussion Paper Series, The Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen. [last accessed August 2014].
Cooke, B. and Kothari, U. (eds.) (2001). Participation: the new tyranny? Zed Books, London.
Derkzen, P. and Bock, B. (2009). Partnership and role perception, three case studies on the meaning of being a representative in rural partnerships. Environment and Planning C 27: 75-89.
Escobar, O. (2011). Public dialogue and deliberation: A communication perspective for public engagement practitioners. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Beltane - UK Beacons for Public Engagement. Available online: [last accessed August 2014].
Faulkner, W. (2011) Dialogue in public engagement: A handbook. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Beltane -UK Beacons for Public Engagement. Available online: [last accessed August 2014].
Lemos, M. and Agrawal, A. (2006). Environmental governance. Annual Review of Environmental Resources 31: 297-325.
Raymond C.M., Fazey, I., Reed, M.S., Stringer, L.C., Robinson, G.M. and Evely, A.C. (2010). Integrating local and scientific knowledge for environmental management: From products to processes. Journal of Environmental Management 91: 1766-1777.
Redpath, S., Young, J., Evely, A., Adams, W.M., Sutherland, W.J., Whitehouse, A., Amar, A., Lambert, R., Linnell, J.D.C., Watt, A. and Gutierrez, R.J. (2012). Understanding and managing conservation con¿icts. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28(2): 100-109.
Reed et al. (2010). What is Social Learning? Ecology and Society, 15(4):
Reed, M.S. (2008). Stakeholder participation for environmental management: a literature review. Biological Conservation 141: 2417¿2431.
Reed, M.S., Graves, A., Dandy, N., Posthumus, H., Hubacek, K., Morris, J., Prell, C., Quinn, C.H., Stringer, L.C. (2009). Who¿s in and why? Stakeholder analysis as a prerequisite for sustainable natural resource management. Journal of Environmental Management 90: 1933¿1949.
Sidaway, R. (2005). Resolving Environmental Disputes: from Conflict to Consensus. London, Earthscan.
van den Hove, S. (2006). Between consensus and compromise: acknowledging the negotiation dimension in participatory approaches. Land Use Policy 23: 10-17.
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Facilitation; communication; interviewing; qualitative data analysis; reflective practice; mediation; leadership; negotiation and professional practice.
KeywordsParticipation,mediation,negotiation,conflict,planning,engagement,knowledge exchange,consultat
Course organiserDr Emily Creamer
Tel: (0131 6)51 4671
Course secretaryMrs Elspeth Martin
Tel: 0131 535 4198
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