Course structure

The PPP course has three core components…

1. Introductory lectures

The course lectures explore environmental conflict and consensus building.  We focus on the role of beliefs, interests, values and power dynamics in stimulating conflict, and consider the ways in which more effective participation in policy and planning can help build consensus to prevent and resolve conflicts.

 2. Guest speakers

We review the decision making process surrounding particular policy and planning issues, hearing from visiting speakers engaged professionally in contemporary discussion and debate. Previous speakers have covered: renewable energy developments (particularly wind energy) in Scotland’s remote and ‘wild’ areas; deer management; the designations of marine protected areas; species re-introductions; and more. Speakers from various interests are invited to present their views on how participation is working in practice.

44 Wind turbines

Wind turbines in the Scottish Highlands

3. Group Project

In the afternoon sessions, students gain first hand experience of participatory process design by working together on a group exercise on a real problem provided by a local organisation.

Watch a short video about the 2014 project on food waste

Previous group projects have included:

  • 2017: Exploring stakeholders’ perspectives on the opportunities for developing a Community Food Hub in North Edinburgh (with City of Edinburgh Council, Adaptation Scotland and Nourish Scotland)
  • 2016: Increasing walking on the Royal Mile and closes in Edinburgh’s Old Town: Current needs and future engagement (with Sustrans, City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh World Heritage)
  • 2015: Exploring barriers to increased cycling at Edinburgh Universities and Colleges, and how these could be overcome with a ‘Cycle Friendly Campus Award’
  • 2014: An engagement strategy for managing food waste at the University of Edinburgh (with the University of Edinburgh Estates and Buildings department and Zero Waste Scotland)
  • 2013: An engagement strategy for considerate cycling in Edinburgh (with Edinburgh Council, University of Edinburgh, Spokes, Sustrans, Scottish Canals, Lothian and Borders Police)
  • 2012: An engagement strategy for car sharing in Edinburgh (with University of Edinburgh, Napier University, South East Scotland Transport Partnership)
  • 2011: Fairtrade at the University of Edinburgh (with Procurement and Accommodation Services, EUSA, Scottish Fairtrade Forum)
  • 2010: Transition University of Edinburgh (with Transition Edinburgh University, Green Groups and Initiatives)
  • 2009: Local Food Initiatives (with Edinburgh Council (Parks and Gardens), Bridgend Allotment Health Project, PEDAL, Changeworks, Soil Association Scotland)
  • 2008: Community Engagement for Waste and Energy Initiatives within Tenements in Edinburgh (with Changeworks, Edinburgh Stair Partnership, Edinburgh Community Backgreens Initiative)
PPP 2017 group work

Some PPP students preparing for interviews with stakeholders

Presentation at the Scottish Parliament

At the end of the semester, the group presents its findings to the stakeholders they have interviewed. The presentation normally takes place in at meeting room at the Scottish Parliament and students have the chance to report their findings back to the stakeholders involved in the project. The exercise gives students practical research experience of working collaboratively with environmental sustainability and social change, as well as the opportunity to develop their professional practice.


2017 PPP students taking questions from ministers at the Scottish Parliament after presenting the group project findings

PPP_2007-08_Scottish Parliament

PPP 2008 at Scottish Parliament

Course Assessment

  • A critical essay analysing participation in a particular policy issue (50%)
  • A report of the interviews conducted as part of the Group Project (20%)
  • A reflective journal about the Group Project (30%)

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