It is readily accepted that understanding socio-environmental challenges requires consideration of multiple stakeholder perspectives and knowledge claims. But a largely ignored question is ‘how best to analyse those competing perspectives and claims?’

This paper explores the development of a GIS-based methodology and its application to understand and map stakeholder knowledge. The authors find that combining Q-methodology (a research method used to study people’s “subjectivity”or viewpoint) with participatory mapping (gathering data using traditional methods such as interviews, questions, focus groups, all using some form of paper maps to allow participants to record spatial details) helps to overcome a significant problem in social engagement: representing the unclear connection between what people say or do and their underlying attitudes, values or beliefs.

The paper is based on a reflexive engagement with flood management and natural adaptive capacity in the Scottish-English Borderlands. The paper confirms how such topics can benefit from an appreciation of the wide range of stakeholders’ positions, as well as the underlying beliefs informing those positions and provides template for others interested in unpacking complex socio-environmental issues.