Since its development in the late 1990s, MCM has been used in a wide variety of contexts including the appraisal of options for energy strategy; food production; environmental policy consultation; radioactive waste management; obesity policy; and public health responses to the shortage of kidney donors.
Postgraduate student project
Molly’s interdisciplinary doctoral thesis at the University of Sussex passed with flying colours - using MCM to help research alternative approaches to the ‘good governance’ of new stem cell technologies. Molly used MCM to interview 57 experts and stakeholders coming from a wide variety of backgrounds in the US and UK. A rich array of findings concerning reasons for uncertainty, agreement and disagreement, allowed her to make a series of policy prescriptions concerning more ‘reflexive’ policy making in this increasingly crucial area. Read more here.
Major collaborative academic research project
In the European Commission funded PorGrow Project, running between 2003 and 2006, Erik Millstone led a consortium of 27 researchers in 9 countries in an in-depth investigation of public policy options for responding to the obesity epidemic. The study involved interviews with more than 180 respondents, all examining 12 different strategies and any further variants that they wished. Options illuminated in detail included educational measures, labelling regulations, controls on marketing, fiscal interventions, food standards, transport and planning policies, ‘technological solutions’ and reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. The results were widely disseminated and discussed at major policy events in the European Union. Read more here.
Co-operative industry/NGO exercise
Sue Mayer at Genewatch worked with Andy Stirling at Sussex University and Christine Drury, then Strategy Director at Unilever, to use MCM to explore underlying reasons for disagreement over proposed introduction of GM foods in the UK. Twelve leading figures were interviewed from GM producing firms, government bodies, scientific advisory committees, university research institutes and environmental organisations. The open, accessible nature of the method helped ease confidence in the approach. Results were published widely and presented to the most senior government minister on this issue. Read more here.
Collaborative appraisal in the health sector
Gail Davies worked with a team at University College London in a ‘deliberative mapping’ process involving four citizen’s panels in the London borough of Camden, looking at health strategies for addressing the national shortage of kidneys for transplant. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, each panel comprised twelve men and women from all walks of life, with no prior knowledge of the complex technical and moral issues involved. With careful facilitation, these groups undertook the MCM process over a period of a few weeks, linked with a parallel expert process. Engaging with the Department of Health, the National Health Service and National Institute for Clinical Excellence as well as many industry and stakeholder groups, the results shed important light on alternative ways forward. Despite the wide uncertainties and disagreement, some particular policies came out clearly preferable to others. Read more here
Pathways in and out of Maize in Kenya
John Thompson and the STEPS Kenya team used MCM to analyse prospects for ‘broadening out’ and ‘opening up’ alternative innovation ‘pathways in and out of maize’, and to assess the responses of various actors, including farmers, scientists, policy makers, and private sector and civil society representatives, to rapid environmental, social and technical change in the maize system. They found that the growing concern with climate change could be an opportunity to challenge conventional practices. However, obstacles remain: for example, farmers’ concerns about their ability to sell different produce, and the reluctance of agro-dealers to grow root crops such as sweet potato. Read more here.
Opening up climate geoengineering appraisal
Jason Chilvers and Rob Bellamy worked with a team of academics at the University of East Anglia, using MCM and Deliberative Mapping (DM) to investigate climate geoengineering proposals in relation to alternative strategies for addressing global climate change. The research used MCM to ‘open up’ appraisal of the climate geoengineering proposals by situating them in context with alternative options for tackling climate change and engaging with diverse perspectives from academia, citizens, civil society, government, and industry. Compared with other, more narrowly framed assessments of climate geoengineering, a radically different view of option performance emerged. Despite mapping vast uncertainties and divergent perspectives, climate engineering proposals were consistently outperformed by alternatives designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (such as renewable energy technologies and lower carbon living). Read more here.