Community participation in sustainable transition decision-making

Transitions away from fossil fuel are, unfortunately, very rare, which means it has been difficult to find case studies of where the community has participated in sustainable transition processes. In order to draw upon the knowledge of others in determining a framework for participation in transitions (one subject of my PhD) it has been necessary to cast the net more widely. In reviewing the literature I have therefore looked at environmental decision-making in general, with a focus on Australian case studies. This is because context is important, especially when needing to understand the legislative environment in which transition decisions will be made.

I have written up a summary of 49 papers that represent a range of topics from the siting of wind farms and mines, to energy transitions, and natural resource management (references listed below). In all cases, decisions needed to be made and the community was engaged to varying degrees to participate in making these decisions. The review also draws upon key transition, policy, and governance scholarship.

I won’t be posting the summary publicly for the time being as I am still unclear about future publishing and copyright. For now I have created a rough summary in diagram form of the key points. This is still very much in draft and I will refine as the PhD proceeds.

Principles for community participation in sustainable transitions (draft)

STARTING: Setting up for success

  1. Engage early
  2. Open problem setting to a wide audience
  3. Be honest about intent
  4. Recruit for diversity

LEARNING: Collaboratively building knowledge and an evidence base for change

  1. Facilitate knowledge sharing
  2. Build domain literacy
  3. Make information accessible
  4. Respect and use local knowledge

ENGAGING: Proceeding with equitable and accessible participation

  1. Offer multiple ways to take part
  2. Use local and experienced facilitators
  3. Encourage collaboration
  4. Embed engagement in operations (rather than as a stand-alone unit)

BUILDING: Enabling participation for the long-term

  1. Design for ongoing participation (including ends)
  2. Be honest about influence
  3. Share evaluations publicly
  4. Design for short- and the long-term engagement
Principles for community participation in sustainable transitions

REFERENCES

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Beer, A. (2018). The closure of the Australian car manufacturing industry: redundancy, policy and community impacts. Australian Geographer, 49(3), 419–438. https://doi.org/10.1080/00049182.2017.1402452

Beer, A., Weller, S., Barnes, T., Onur, I., Ratcliffe, J., Bailey, D., & Sotarauta, M. (2019). The urban and regional impacts of plant closures: new methods and perspectives. Regional Studies, Regional Science, 6(1), 380–394. https://doi.org/10.1080/21681376.2019.1622440

Bohnet, I. C. (2015). Lessons Learned from Public Participation in Water Quality Improvement Planning: A Study from Australia. Society and Natural Resources, 28(2), 180–196. https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2014.941446

Brown, G., & Raymond, C. M. (2014). Methods for identifying land use conflict potential using participatory mapping. Landscape and Urban Planning, 122, 196–208. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2013.11.007

Browne-Yung, K., Ziersch, A., Baum, F., Friel, S., & Spoehr, J. (2020). General Motor Holden’s closure in Playford, South Australia: Analysis of the policy response and its implications for health. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 79(1), 76–92. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8500.12390

Browne–Yung, K., Ziersch, A., Friel, S., Freeman, T., & Baum, F. (2021). Deindustrialising economies, plant closures and affected communities: Identifying potential pathways to health inequities. Health Promotion Journal of Australia. https://doi.org/10.1002/hpja.564

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Kimberley Crofts

Kimberley Crofts

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Strategic designer and researcher on a quest for sustainable futures through a PhD in participatory methods.