Making dilemmas explicit through the use of a cognitive mapping collaboration tool

Julieta Matos Castano, Frederick van Amstel, Timo Hartmann, Geert Dewulf

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Dilemmas are pervasive in decision making. Although they offer the potential of reflecting on issues at stake from different perspectives, dilemmas often lead to paralysis for those encountering them. This study presents a three dimensional collaboration tool specifically developed to surface dilemmas in a multi-actor context. The assumption is that revealing and debating dilemmas encourage finding solutions that bridge the apparently competing demands that resulted in dilemmas in the first place. Our tool, called the ‘dilemma cube’, is based on cognitive mapping principles and allows a diversity of participants to share their interpreted actions, effects, and connections among different issues at stake. We tested our tool in a collaborative workshop for a multifunctional land use project in the Netherlands. Our results show that the ‘dilemma cube’ guided participants to share their interpretations about the project, revealing the interdependence of issues at stake. Revealing the socially-constructed nature of dilemmas in multi-actor contexts is the stepping stone to explore strategies that stimulate deliberation, and realize the opportunities of exploiting opposites in light of dilemmas.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)37-49
    Number of pages13
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


    • 3D
    • Cognitive mapping
    • Collaboration tool
    • Decision making
    • Dilemmas
    • Land use planning
    • Multi-stakeholder


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