The authors are involved in a project aiming at the development of a methodology for participatory modeling as a tool for public participation in water resource management. In this paper, some examples of different degrees of stakeholder influence in six key dimensions of participatory modeling are identified and discussed. Arnstein's (A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 1969, 4, 216–224) critical discussion of different degrees of “real” decision-making power is taken as a point of departure to assess possible degrees of stakeholder influence. Can we as participatory modelers be sure that we are really inviting our research objects to an equal communicative relationship where local perspectives, knowledge and priorities are respected to the same extent as central and/or expert perspectives? This paper presents an approach that could be used as a tool for structured reflection to avoid unreflective tendencies towards expert knowledge dominance and low degree of stakeholders' real influence over the process.

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