Effective public engagement methods in sustainability field

Public engagement is a recognized principle of governance for sustainability. The primary ambition and function of POPE-supported, sustainability-oriented public engagement is to develop new thinking, research, ideas, and policies that can help solve global problems – ubiquitous challenges that require the exchange of knowledge and practices. Tackling these effectively will require cooperation and coordination among several actors.

Public engagement in sustainability is a challenging task due to economic, technological, cultural and psychological barriers. Modern society is more knowledgeable and active in the fields of climate and sustainability compared to a few decades ago. However, more efforts should be made to increase awareness, critical thinking and knowledge sharing.

Knowledge and learning networks should be cultivated within the community. These networks should foster a culture of openness and inclusion, be transparent, and involve multiple stakeholders. The knowledge generated in Sustainable Development Challenge (SDC)-oriented public engagement cases will prepare stakeholders to advocate more effectively, create or co-create policy, and spread critical information to users. More informed and savvy users can better anticipate the impacts of disruptive technologies on their own lives and are more likely to realise the full value of these technologies, creating opportunities for greater prosperity, and can better protect themselves from their potential negative consequences. Knowledge sharing can activate fruitful dialogues with government while enhancing its own learning and its awareness of evolving societal needs.

We have collected some examples of PE projects and methods that specifically address sustainability.

  • Method: building networks through online platforms.

Application: CAPS – Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation:

The CAPSSI project builds online platforms targeted to a broad audience to increase awareness of sustainability issues. The networks built on these platforms are designed to create collaborative solutions and new forms of social innovation on topical issues, such as sustainability, environmentally-friendly lifestyle changes, and the transformation of production processes. All these activities broaden participatory channels in a democracy. The platforms enable the exchange of best practices and offer other mechanisms for collaborative learning between students, researchers, civil society initiatives, entrepreneurs and policymakers.

For more information: https://capssi.eu/

  • Method: MISC- framework

Application: MISC – Mapping Innovations on the Sustainability Curve:

This methodological framework is proposed for facilitating sustainability transitions by ‘Mapping Innovations on the Sustainability Curve’ (MISC). The framework consists of dynamic system maps reflecting the structural characteristics of sustainable systems and includes insights on economic and monetary transitions. It allows for the exploration of missing links and leverage points in a transdisciplinary and participatory context, resulting in an ‘ecosystem’ of possible transition initiatives at different levels, where various actors can discuss ways to leverage transitions in a transdisciplinary setting. The focus is on how this ‘social transition’ can be facilitated, using a methodological framework that is based on insights from systems theory and process ecology as well as on the literature on economic and monetary innovation. This framework gives different actors (representing politics, academia, business and civil society) ways to map transition-related innovations in a semi-structured manner, following the outline of a curve that visualizes the sustainability parameters of systems.

For more information: https://cidd2015.sciencesconf.org/52807/document

  • Collaborative game

Application: FUTURA, Multi- touch Tabletop Collaborative game

FUTURA is a game that was designed to engage the public with issues of sustainability. This is a role-based simulation game implemented on a multi-touch table top. This game demonstrates that small groups of people can be immediately engaged, can participate collaboratively, and can gain a basic awareness of sustainability issues.

For more information: https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/978-3-642-23771-3_16.pdf

More methods:

  • Participatory Modelling, Integrated Assessment Focus Groups


  • Reflexive Interactive Design


  • Knowledge Atelier


  • Hackathon