Policy Sciences

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 23-46

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Diversity and constructive conflict in stakeholder dialogue: considerations for design and methods

  • Eefje CuppenAffiliated withFaculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology Email author 


Diversity is generally recognized as a key issue for learning in stakeholder dialogue on wicked sustainability issues. Yet the question on how design of stakeholder dialogue and supporting methods actually enhance learning in stakeholder dialogue deserves more attention. This paper presents constructive conflict as a central design issue for stakeholder dialogue. This means that a dialogue entails the articulation of a diversity of perspectives and the confrontation of claims and ideas based on these perspectives. Building on three properties of diversity (variety, balance and disparity), the methodological implications of constructive conflict as a central design issue will be derived. These implications are structured according to three design steps: stakeholder identification and selection, articulation of perspectives and confrontation of claims and ideas. It is argued that social scientific methods are needed to support design of stakeholder dialogue. Q methodology is presented as an example that was used in a stakeholder dialogue on sustainable biomass in the Netherlands to identify stakeholder perspectives, to select stakeholders and to structure the dialogue. The paper wraps up with conclusions on constructive conflict as a design issue.


Constructive conflict Diversity Participatory method Learning Stakeholder dialogue Q methodology