Environmental policy student becomes a researcher and an entrepreneur
Understanding and investigating complex environmental conflicts requires a multidisciplinary approach. Conflict resolution could use, among other things, the understanding of social psychologists, lawyers and economists, as well as knowledge of game theory.
Peltonen’s own background is in environmental policy. He obtained his Doctor of Administrative Sciences degree from the University of Tampere in 2003. The doctoral dissertation focused on the conflict-driven emergence of environmental policy in Tampere from the 1950s to the 1990s.
Since then, Peltonen has been involved in social scientific environmental research, including urban and regional studies He has participated in a number of research and development projects dealing, among other things, with adaptation to climate change, disputes over urban planning and neighbourhood relations, and conflicts related to mining projects.
Peltonen is also actively involved in the work of Akordi, a consultancy company which acts as a neutral mediator in difficult and controversial environmental planning and decision-making processes. He's one of the company’s two founding members.
Peltonen’s time as a visiting researcher in the United States in 2012–2013 was a key stimulus for setting up his own company. During the visit, he familiarised himself with conflict resolution practices and with the activities of the Consensus Building Institute, among other things.
“I learned about consensus building methods in the US. I saw how multilateral conflict situations are approached there. The US has a long history of developing interesting, alternative dispute resolution methods, for example, to avoid costly legal proceedings.”
In particular, Peltonen is interested in an interest-based negotiation theory approach, in other words, how to build acceptable solutions that stem from the parties’ needs and interests instead of bargaining between demands and pregiven positions during the negotiations.
Research-based knowledge for impact assessment
Peltonen has experience in mediating environmental conflicts, but he emphasises the difference between the roles of a researcher and a mediator.
A researcher is not a mediator. A conflict researcher can help to understand conflicts and their backgrounds, and approaches to dealing with conflict processes. However, environmental research and environmental researchers, too, can play an important role in conflict resolution when reliable, up-to date information on the impacts of different options is needed to inform the negotiations. Researchers can model changes in land use or water resources, and make the parties understand the consequences of land use change in a given area.
Peltonen currently leads the CORE project funded by the Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland. The project examines and develops collaborative approaches that anticipate and prevent conflict when tackling environmental decision-making challenges. He also leads a project examining the current state and opportunities of mediation in Finland, which is funded by the Government’s analysis and research activities. The project will provide a national overview of the various practices of mediation, such as mediation in criminal and civil matters, workplace mediation and peer mediation in schools. The aim is also to set a course for mediation of environmental conflicts in the future.
- Professor of Environmental Conflict Resolution, University of Eastern Finland, 1 June 2021–.
- Doctor of Administrative Sciences (Environmental Policy), University of Tampere, 2003.
- Professor of Environmental Conflict Resolution (fixed term), University of Eastern Finland, 2016–.
- Founder and Board Chair, Akordi Oy, 2013–.
- Visiting Researcher, Tufts University, United States, 2012–2013.
- Senior Researcher, University of Eastern Finland, 2012–2013.
- Senior Researcher and Research Coordinator, Finnish Environment Institute, 2011–2015.
- Research Director, Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, Helsinki University of Technology and Aalto University, 2008–2011.