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Learning about learning: lessons from public engagement and deliberation on urban river restoration

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This paper provides a new discussion of how people learn through deliberative processes, drawing upon empirical analysis of a novel public engagement process for urban river restoration. Such critical evaluation is rare and yet will be crucial to both theoretical development and learning about engagement practice, not least in a policy area subject to strong regulatory drivers for public participation. The analysis supports two important learning mechanisms – the use of ‘gatekeepers’ of knowledge, interests and values, and the privileging of narrative. It provides new evidence of instrumental and communicative learning about shared priorities and criteria for effective river restoration that evolved through the deliberative process and directly informed the restoration scheme. It is important to question whether and how such site or context-specific learning might inform other restoration schemes. Finally, the paper questions the often ignored issue of expert learning, not least the issue of the link between individual and organizational learning.
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Keywords: Birmingham; deliberation; learning; public engagement; urban river restoration

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Environmental Research and Training, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2007-12-01

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