The Impact of Status and Brainstorming in Participation in Small Group Deliberations
Scenario planning first gained traction within corporations as an energy transition management tool, but recently gained popularity within sustainability. It is a process for exploring potential futures and thinking critically about complex decisions that involve high degrees of uncertainty. It is also effective in shifting mental models and engaging diverse stakeholders, making it ideal for complex sustainability problems. Scenario-planning insights are typically used in strategic planning, further aligning with sustainability’s commitments to action-oriented solutions. However, as a participative process, success hinges on equitable participant engagement that is threatened by power imbalance. The current pilot study uses an experimental design to explore the impact of explicit acknowledgement of status differential and pre-event brainstorming on participation in a small group task. The task was selected based on its parallels to scenario-planning interactions. Twenty-four triads engaged in group deliberation while wearing devices that gather data to measure interactions. Afterward, participants completed a participation perception survey. Despite the popularity of brainstorming, results of the pilot study point to the utility of status concealment over individual-level brainstorming to bolster participation. Ultimately, this work contributes to a more nuanced understanding of participation in service of more robust, pluralistic sustainability decision-making.
Acknowledgements to David Lovis-McMahon and Camille Basilio for their support with the statistical analysis of this data.
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