public participation

Experimenting with distributed approaches – Case study: A ‘national-level’ distributed dialogue on bioenergy

Marta Entradas

An emerging thread in the public participation debate is the need for innovative and more experimental forms of dialogue to address weaknesses of previous structured deliberative methods. This research note discusses an experiment with a distributed approach to dialogue, which used bioenergy as a case study. We discuss the potential of the model to attract a variety of publics and views and to inform policy. This is done with a view to refining future dialogues and increasing the involvement of scientists and other practitioners at the science-policy interface.

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Popularizing dissent: A civil society perspective

Judy Motion, Shirley Leitch, C Kay Weaver

This article theorizes civil society groups’ attempts to popularize opposition to genetic modification in New Zealand as deliberative interventions that seek to open up public participation in science–society governance. In this case, the popularization strategies were designed to intensify concerns about social justice and democratic incursions, mobilize dissent and offer meaningful mechanisms for navigating and participating in public protest. Such civic popularization efforts, we argue, are more likely to succeed when popularity and politicization strategies are judiciously integrated to escalate controversy, re-negotiate power relations and provoke agency and action.

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Assessing the quality of a deliberative democracy mini-public event about advanced biofuel production and development in Canada

Holly Longstaff, David M Secko

The importance of evaluating deliberative public engagement events is well recognized, but such activities are rarely conducted for a variety of theoretical, political and practical reasons. In this article, we provide an assessment of the criteria presented in the 2008 National Research Council report on Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making (NRC report) as explicit indicators of quality for the 2012 ‘Advanced Biofuels’ deliberative democracy event. The National Research Council’s criteria were selected to evaluate this event because they are decision oriented, are the products of an exhaustive review of similar past events, are intended specifically for environmental processes and encompass many of the criteria presented in other evaluation frameworks. It is our hope that the results of our study may encourage others to employ and assess the National Research Council’s criteria as a generalizable benchmark that may justifiably be used in forthcoming deliberative events exploring different topics with different audiences.

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Slovenian social scientists’ understanding of public knowledge and participation in sustainable development: from deficit to mutual learning

Pika Zaloznik (JCOM)

Public participation in decision-making has in the last decades become a common refrain in political and scientific discourse, yet it does not often truly come to fruition. The present study focuses on the underlying issue, that of the construction of the difference between scientific and public knowledge and its consequences. Through discourse analysis of scientific texts on sustainable development three distinct groups of Slovenian social scientists were discerned that differed in their views on the relationship between scientific and public knowledge and consequently the role and nature of public participation in decision-making processes. With a rise in participatory practices the preponderance of the deficit model found in this study remains problematic.

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