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$1M grant awarded to engage citizens in Alberta around climate change

A group of top researchers and practitioners in deliberation we’ve been involved in recently got some great news we wanted to share with everyone…

How can collective deliberation by citizens lead to wise and timely action on climate change, including by municipal and provincial governments? Alberta (Canada) will be a testing ground for this question over the next five years. An international team of scholars, NGOs, businesses, and governments will be addressing it, supported by $1 million in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and over $3 million in contributions from other sources.

The research team includes leading researchers and practitioners of deliberative democracy, environmental organizations, energy companies, municipal governments, and Provincial ministries. The project, called Alberta Climate Dialogue (ABCD), will help to convene groups of citizens within Albertan municipalities to shape policies on greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change, and also build province-wide deliberation and dialogue on climate issues.

Learning alongside citizens, the team will investigate how the design of citizen deliberations — how participants are selected, who participates, how the agenda is set, how often the citizens meet and for how long, whether policy makers are involved, and so on — shapes their social and political influence. The team will also explore the sorts of influence that citizen deliberations can have on climate issues, including informing and directing policy makers and processes, as well as shaping citizens’ knowledge, their sense of environmental citizenship, and their political capacities and networks. Through this work, we will seek to show how citizens can lead effective responses to climate change, and how political leaders and institutions can skillfully engage with citizens to develop policy.

This groundbreaking research project was initiated by NCDD member David Kahane (pictured), a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta. I am listed as a “collaborator” in the grant application and on the website, and the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) is a Partner of the project.  We plan to be as involved as resources will allow us to be, and to keep the network as informed as possible about project learnings and benchmarks.

The project website is at www.albertaclimatedialogue.ca and email can be sent to albertaclimatedialogue@gmail.com.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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  1. JayeL says:

    I think that change will start on the local level as this project demonstrates. I don't think imposing from the top down really works. Working from the bottom up is difficult, though since people are so busy. Can social media help?

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