Multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) provides a well-established family of decision tools to aid stakeholder groups in arriving at collective decisions. MCDA can also function as a framework for the social learning process, serving as an educational aid in decision problems characterized by a high level of public participation. In this paper, the framework and results of a structured decision process using the outranking MCDA methodology preference ranking organization method of enrichment evaluation (PROMETHEE) are presented. PROMETHEE is used to frame multi-stakeholder discussions of river management alternatives for the Upper White River of Central Vermont, in the northeastern United States. Stakeholders met over 10 months to create a shared vision of an ideal river and its services to communities, develop a list of criteria by which to evaluate river management alternatives, and elicit preferences to rank and compare individual and group preferences. The MCDA procedure helped to frame a group process that made stakeholder preferences explicit and substantive discussions about long-term river management possible. ?? 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.