Current environmental problems are often extremely complex, uncertain, and affecting multiple actors and institutions across sectors and scales. Earth System Governance (ESG) is a field of research that is highly relevant for understanding social interactions across scales and sectors and addressing complex problems. ESG refers to the broad collection of formal and informal rules, mechanisms, and networks ranging from the local to the global scale which deal with environmental changes. ESG can be seen as both an empirical phenomenon and as a political project. It refers to a social phenomenon observed in the interactions and activities of many international regimes, bureaucracies, local and transnational activists groups, and expert networks. At the same time, it is also a political effort to unite stakeholders, aiming to strengthen the institutions and networks addressing complex governance challenges associated with ESG.
In the article we argue that participatory research is one very important way to appeal to ESG both as a social phenomenon – as a way to better understand the complex empirical dynamics associated with ESG – and as a political endeavour – by engaging different stakeholders in (academic) research and fostering processes of learning. We present four examples of participatory research methods in ESG research, and discuss their respective objectives and challenges. This demonstrates the unique contributions different methods can make towards addressing the complex characteristics of ESG.
The article is available here.