Policy forums are lightly institutionalized and stable forms of governance networks which include state authorities, interest groups, stakeholders and scientists and deal with policy problems in a given issue area. Especially new complex issues in domains such as climate change or energy policy are supposed to be better governed in a horizontal, informal and inclusive way within policy forums, as compared to the traditional hierarchical forms of political decision-making let by the state administration. This research project analyzes the role that such policy forums can play for the functioning of water and environmental governance. More specifically, it asks a) what outputs policy forums produce and how they contribute to decision-making and conflict resolution in water and environmental policy, and b) how the design, the management and the interactions within policy forums affect their ability to produce outputs. To answer these questions, the project aims at analyzing policy forums at two levels, i.e. the level of forums themselves as well as at the level of members of policy forums. For that purpose, we compare several Swiss policy forums in the environmental domain (such as “Water Agenda 21”, “Energy Switzerland”, “Knowledge Transfer Forest Switzerland”, “Forum Biodiversity”).