Framework of Participatory Impact Assessment (FoPIA)

Participatory Impact Assessment is a method that uses stakeholder input at all stages. This includes definition of scenarios, assessment of impacts and integration of results in a multi-criteria analysis (MCA).


The FoPIA framework was developed by Morris et al. (2011) for the assessment of land use scenarios in European regions. Three stages can be distinguished:

1. Defining Scenarios: After the general topic of the assessment has been set, stakeholder interviews are conducted to determine the form that policy interventions or management changes are likely to have within the different national circumstances. For example, farmers could be asked what types of climate change mitigation measures are likely to be introduced in their country. Land use scenarios are then designed based on the identified interventions or management changes.

2. Assessing Scenario Impacts: In a second step, a stakeholder workshop is conducted where participants (as experts) assess the likely impacts of the scenarios on nine impact categories. Of these categories, three represent the ecological dimension, three the economic dimension and three the social dimension of sustainability. The assessed impacts are then compared to sustainability limits set by the workshop participants.

3. Integrated Evaluation: Finally, a multi-criteria analysis is conducted. Participants assign weights to each impact category that reflect the importance they attribute to it. This allows the calculation of an overall score for each scenario and a ranking of the different scenarios according to this score. A more detailed description can be found in the section on multi-criteria analysis.

While FoPIA was originally developed for policy impact assessment in a European context, several case studies have since proven its adaptability and suitability for non-policy situations (Hermanns et al., 2017) and for use in non-European countries , and in particular for developing countries (König et al., 2013; König et al., 2014; Schindler et al., 2016; Graef et al., 2018).

Graef F, Hernandez L E A, König, H J, Uckert G, Mnimbo M T. 2018. Systemising gender integration with rural stakeholders' sustainability impact assessments: A case study with three low-input upgrading strategies. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 68, 81–¬89. DOI:10.1016/j.eiar.2017.10.004

Helming, K., K. Diehl, T. Kuhlman, T. Jansson, P. H. Verburg, M. Bakker, M. Perez-Soba, L. Jones, P. Johannes Verkerk, P. Tabbush, J. Breton Morris, Z. Drillet, J. Farrington, P. LeMouël, P. Zagame, T. Stuczynski, G. Siebielec, S. Sieber and H. Wiggering. 2011. Ex Ante Impact Assessment of Policies Affecting Land Use, Part B: Application of the Analytical Framework. Ecology and Society 16 (1): 29. Online: (accessed 09 August 2019)

Hermanns T, Helming, K, König, HJ, Schmidt K., Li, Q., Faust H. 2017. Sustainability impact assessment of peatland-use scenarios: Confronting land use supply with demand. Ecosystem Services. DOI:10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.02.002

König H J, Uthes S, Schuler J, Zhen L, Purushothaman S, Suarma U, Sghaier M, Makokha S, Helming K, Sieber S, Chen L, Brouwer F, Morris J, Wiggering H. 2013. Regional impact assessment of land use scenarios in developing countries using the FoPIA approach: Findings from five case studies. Journal of Environmental Management 127, S56–¬S64. DOI:10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.10.021

König H J, Zhen L, Helming K, Uthes S, Yang L, Cao X, Wiggering H. 2014. Assessing the impact of the Sloping Land Conversion Programme on rural sustainability in Guyuan, Western China. Land Degradation & Development 25, 385–¬396. DOI:10.1002/ldr.2164

Morris J B, Tassone V, De Groot R, Camilleri M, Moncada S. 2011. A Framework for Participatory Impact Assessment: involving stakeholders in European policy making, a case study of land use change in Malta. Ecology and Society 16 (1), 12. DOI:10.5751/ES-03857-160112

Schindler J, Graef F, König H J. 2016. Participatory impact assessment: Bridging the gap between scientists' theory and farmers' practice. Agricultural Systems 148, 38–¬43. DOI:10.1016/j.agsy.2016.07.002