John Robinson, David Maggs, Jon Saltor, Michael Robinson, Robert Gardiner, Roy Bendor, Sidney Fels & Stephan Sheppard, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Meg Holden, Simon Fraiser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Ann Dale, Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC, Canada

Sarah Burch, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada

Presentation Title: Emergent dialogue, municipal climate response, and imaginary words: Exploring climate change innovation and engagement processes at the community scale




The locus of innovation and activity on climate change and sustainability has strongly shifted around the world to the municipal or community level. Yet, there is still much to learn about how best to engage communities and citizens in exploring sustainable futures. This presentation reported on two streams of work. The first is ongoing work on community-scale climate innovation. A recently completed study developed 11 case studies of community climate leadership in British Columbia (BC), Canada and implemented a number of processes of peer-to-peer learning and information exchange. The second stream of work focuses on processes of engaging citizens on climate change and sustainability issues. The results of several decades of work in BC on using landscape visualization and participatory backcasting techniques for such engagement, focusing on recent work on multi-channel (landscape visualization workshops, scenario tools, social media, tabletop games, art, mobile apps and computer games) engagement processes were summarized.

Key Lessons Learned

  • It is possible to engage significant numbers of citizens actively in interactive processes of community engagement focused on the future of their cities.
  • Different channels of engagement (social media, tabletop games, mobile apps, scenario workshops, computer game-like tools, art, etc.) have different affordances for community engagement, attract different demographics, and thus allow different kinds of issues to be explored.  Such processes need to be both ‘true to life’ and ‘fun to use’.
  • It is more fruitful to use processes of emergent dialogue than of persuasive communication when issues are contested.

Policy/Practice Implications of Research

  • Procedural approaches to sustainability that are open to different views and formulations of the problems may offer fruitful ways to engage the public and policymakers.
  • How issues regarding climate change and sustainability are framed is important.  For example, when dealing with citizens, speak to what they know, where they live and their expectations.  Frame the issue around what they want their city to look like.  Climate change is too remote, too outside their day to day lives, and thus more difficult to use as a topic of engagement.
  • Knowledge co-production is key to framing and developing issues.

Knowledge Gaps and Needs

  • Affordances and opportunities of different channels of public engagement.
  • Finding the best way to engage with the arts community.
  • Connecting the results of participatory community engagement processes to policymaking and decisionmaking at different scales and levels.
  • How best to undertake emergent dialogue processes based on a procedural approach to sustainability.