Collaborating on Deliberative Democracy: Learning Together on Wicked Issues in Alberta Climate Dialogue

David Kahane and Lorelei Hanson

This chapter emphasizes the necessity of collaboration to deliberative projects and evaluates the efficacy of collaboration in ABCD in order to develop criteria for effective collaboration in future public deliberation projects. David Kahane and Lorelei Hanson identify the development of trust; strong investment by outside partners; open communication; and sufficient time to resolve misunderstandings and disputes collaboratively as important factors to success. 

Chapter Takeaways:

  • ABCD was a complex collaboration involving academics, deliberation professionals, and others sustaining the project over its six years. The particular deliberation projects members of ABCD were involved in included partners from a municipal government, a water council, an energy efficiency NGO and joint university/city not-for profit. Add to this the fact that ABCD was funded as a research project, and there were many tensions and differences to be negotiated in the collaborative relationships necessary for creating a successful deliberation and social learning.
  • The strongest collaborations are forged when outside partners in deliberations were strongly invested in outcomes, and so take risks, work through challenges, and participate actively in the collaboration. Where collaboration with outside partners is intensive it will at times lead to disagreements, but also be the motivation to work these through. These negotiations help to surface misunderstandings, and clarify terminologies and commitments.
  • Social learning and trust building require time, and are deepest in projects that are sustained over years rather than months. When time pressure are intense, the tendency is to delegate and create other shortcuts around collaboration, but this can result in diminished learning and trust.
  • Social learning within collaboration does not necessarily correlate with prior relationships or how much learning or research are foregrounded as a desired outcome at the start of collaboration. Social learning requires a diversity of perspectives are included in the collaboration, and that time and resources are provided for relations of trust to be evolve, and for disagreements to surface and be resolved in order that new new collective capacities and common goals are realized.

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Each of the four deliberations that Alberta Climate Dialogue (ABCD) convened or participated in involved its own complex collaborations and context, and was enabled or constrained in distinctive ways, including the degree to which each used deliberation to engage citizens on climate change.
— David Kahane and Lorelei Hanson