Nadine Gottschalk, M.Sc. Environmental Science – Soil, Water and Biodiversity
To act against biodiversity loss in agriculture, participatory approaches involving farmers as co-designers are a possible solution to improve financial incentives on the EU level. However, not much research focuses on examining participatory processes, especially in the form of dialogue events. Thus, this study examined the dynamics of a dialogue event as part of the co-design project ECO2SCAPE. Drawing on the theoretical frameworks of communicative rationality and symbolic interactionism, the research aimed to understand the social interactions during the dialogue and assessed the effectiveness of the dialogues in terms of openness, inclusivity, and equal participation. The study builds on one dialogue observation and six semi-structured phone interviews with participants of the observed dialogue event. The results showed that biodiversity protection symbolises for farmers a trade-off between conservation efforts and economic viability as well as farmers are burdened and demotivated by their societal image as environmental villains. In addition, the participants of the event actively engaged in an open and inclusive discussion to reach mutual understanding and common ground, whilst the participation was not equal. However, farmers were intentionally empowered to contribute to the discussion. In the end, it can be recommended that dialogues must provide positive results to challenge the notion of farmers as environmental villains, guarantee comprehensibility and build learning opportunities, and strengthen trust and collaboration among the participating stakeholders.