Ways to consensus: Schiphol airport

economic-growthOne approach is to identify the different perspectives at play on a contentious issue. Here’s an example from the Netherlands, about the debate over whether to expand Schiphol airport. Stakeholders were locked in disagreement, with two contradictory views:

  1. narita-airport
    Narita airport protest
  1. The economic advantages made expansion essential
  2. The environmental costs meant that no expansion could be allowed

An academic called Michel van Eeten used a statistical approach called Q-Methodology to identify three other views, which various stakeholders had, but which weren’t coming out in the public debate. They were:

  1. The needs of society should be considered as the airport grows
  2. The need for ecological modernisation of the aviation sector
  3. The need for sustainable solutions to the growing demand for mobility

This pointed to ways out of the deadlock. First, there were actions like creating enforceable noise standards that would improve matters whether or not expansion took place. Second, people on both sides of the expansion debate supported arguments 3., 4. and 5., so these arguments held promise for creating common ground and a more constructive debate on the question of expansion. Indeed, about a third of the stakeholders thought that at least one of arguments 3., 4. and 5. was more important than their stance on 1. and 2.

As so often, where there is heat, and where there is light turned out to be two different places.

Source: Michael J. G. van Eeten, Narrative Policy Analysis, in Frank Fischer, Gerald J. Miller and Mara S. Sidney eds, Handbook of Public Policy Analysis: Theory, Politics, and Methods, CRC Press, Boca Raton, New York and London, 2007, pp 263 – 266