From monologue and aggregation to dialogue and deliberation: Innovative hybrid approaches to deliberation and collaborative governance
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The potential and limitations of digital deliberative democracy are examined. Current paradigms of community engagement are surfaced as a way of exploring why results have tended to be disappointing. An innovative platform, CivicEvolution is described, which addresses some of the deficits of online engagement by providing a clearly articulated promise, bargain and process, all of which are aimed at achieving deliberative mass. In addition, the value of combining online with face-to-face deliberation processes is proposed if deliberative mass is to be reached. This is exemplified in an innovative action research initiative in regional Western Australia to create a deliberative community and collaborative governance to develop a more sustainable future. This initiative combines large and small scale public deliberation processes, with online deliberation and social media. Some of the key lessons learned include the value of emergence and hence flexibility in deliberative design and implementation; and the need to constantly innovate to respond to the needs of those participating and to extend opportunities to those who are not. While the Internet may not be the civic participation ‘fix’ hoped for by many, it has an important role to play as an incubator, mobilizer and integrator of public thought.
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