Environmental Management

, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 249–262 | Cite as

How Participatory Should Environmental Governance Be? Testing the Applicability of the Vroom-Yetton-Jago Model in Public Environmental Decision-Making

  • Nikolas Lührs
  • Nicolas W. JagerEmail author
  • Edward Challies
  • Jens Newig


Public participation is potentially useful to improve public environmental decision-making and management processes. In corporate management, the Vroom-Yetton-Jago normative decision-making model has served as a tool to help managers choose appropriate degrees of subordinate participation for effective decision-making given varying decision-making contexts. But does the model recommend participatory mechanisms that would actually benefit environmental management? This study empirically tests the improved Vroom-Jago version of the model in the public environmental decision-making context. To this end, the key variables of the Vroom-Jago model are operationalized and adapted to a public environmental governance context. The model is tested using data from a meta-analysis of 241 published cases of public environmental decision-making, yielding three main sets of findings: (1) The Vroom-Jago model proves limited in its applicability to public environmental governance due to limited variance in its recommendations. We show that adjustments to key model equations make it more likely to produce meaningful recommendations. (2) We find that in most of the studied cases, public environmental managers (implicitly) employ levels of participation close to those that would have been recommended by the model. (3) An ANOVA revealed that such cases, which conform to model recommendations, generally perform better on stakeholder acceptance and environmental standards of outputs than those that diverge from the model. Public environmental management thus benefits from carefully selected and context-sensitive modes of participation.


Vroom-Yetton model Vroom-Jago model Decision support Environmental management Participation Stakeholder engagement 



The research was conducted as part of the project ‘EDGE - Evaluating the Delivery of Participatory Environmental Governance using an Evidence-Based Research Design’. The work was supported by an ERC Starting Grant (grant no. 263859) to J.N. The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Group on Governance, Participation and SustainabilityLeuphana University of LüneburgLüneburgGermany
  2. 2.Waterways Centre for Freshwater ManagementUniversity of Canterbury and Lincoln UniversityChristchurchNew Zealand

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