A new approach for studying social, behavioral, and environmental change through stakeholder engagement in water resource management

Weston M. Eaton, Kathryn J. Brasier, Mark E. Burbach, Stephanie Kennedy, Jodi L. Delozier, Sara Esther Bonilla Anariba, Hannah T. Whitley, Walt Whitmer, Nicole Santangelo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


As public agencies and research institutions increasingly pursue involving stakeholders in making decisions, scholars and practitioners are calling for a more rigorous empirical understanding of engagement processes and their outcomes. However, effective research methodologies for stakeholder engagement research are limited due to the complex challenge of both linking engagement contexts, processes, and outcomes and conducting research in ways that meet both practical and scholarly goals. This paper outlines a method for studying stakeholder engagement contexts, processes, and outcomes in water resource management settings developed through stakeholder engagement efforts in five US project sites. In response to methodological needs identified in diverse scholarship on participatory approaches to water resource management, we describe a longitudinal, mixed-methods, case comparison, and participatory research design, for gathering evidence for social, behavioral, and environmental change outcomes while simultaneously supporting engagement processes. This paper describes the research design and data collection procedures we developed to study change through engagement. This design was intended to allow in-depth analysis of place-specific engagement processes and outcomes, as well as the ability to compare across contexts to illuminate drivers of differences. We present this research design as a framework for others considering similar approaches and conclude by discussing benefits and limitations of the research design and tensions across research on and with stakeholder participants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-403
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Comparative design
  • Longitudinal qualitative research
  • Mixed methods
  • Outcomes
  • Participatory research
  • Stakeholder engagement research
  • Water resource management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • General Environmental Science


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