Penn, Alexandra S. and Knight, Christopher J.K. and Lloyd, David J.B. and Avitabile, Daniele and Kok, Kasper and Schiller, Frank and Woodward, Amy and Druckman, Angela and Basson, Lauren
Participatory development and analysis of a fuzzy cognitive map of the establishment of a bio-based economy in the Humber Region.
PLoS ONE, 8
Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM) is a widely used participatory modelling methodology in which stakeholders collaboratively develop a ‘cognitive map’ (a weighted, directed graph), representing the perceived causal structure of their system. This can be directly transformed by a workshop facilitator into simple mathematical models to be interrogated by participants by the end of the session. Such simple models provide thinking tools which can be used for discussion and exploration of complex issues, as well as sense checking the implications of suggested causal links. They increase stakeholder motivation and understanding of whole systems approaches, but cannot be separated from an intersubjective participatory context. Standard FCM methodologies make simplifying assumptions, which may strongly influence results, presenting particular challenges and opportunities. We report on a participatory process, involving local companies and organisations, focussing on the development of a bio-based economy in the Humber region. The initial cognitive map generated consisted of factors considered key for the development of the regional bio-based economy and their directional, weighted, causal interconnections. A verification and scenario generation procedure, to check the structure of the map and suggest modifications, was carried out with a second session. Participants agreed on updates to the original map and described two alternate potential causal structures. In a novel analysis all map structures were tested using two standard methodologies usually used independently: linear and sigmoidal FCMs, demonstrating some significantly different results alongside some broad similarities. We suggest a development of FCM methodology involving a sensitivity analysis with different mappings and discuss the use of this technique in the context of our case study. Using the results and analysis of our process, we discuss the limitations and benefits of the FCM methodology in this case and in general. We conclude by proposing an extended FCM methodology, including multiple functional mappings within one participant-constructed graph.
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