Researchers develop new learning model to enhance citizen participation

ANI | Updated: Feb 08, 2020 17:58 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Feb 8 (ANI): To help citizens to become active members of the society, a team of researches has developed a method called Deliberative Walks, a model of participatory democracy that combines citizens' juries and development walks.
The course increased the participants' engagement in the society as well as their understanding of participatory democracy as a part of political decision-making.
Peter Ehrstrom, Head of Research in Regional Science, and Marina Lindell, Project Researcher at the Social Science Research Institute of Abo Akademi University in Vaasa, Finland, approached the question of how to make the citizen's participation better.
The method, Deliberative Walks, developed by Ehrstrom and Harri Raisio, University Lecturer at the University of Vaasa, saw bringing positive results.
The method is intended to be applied in matters concerning, for example, urban planning. It can help to find out the views of various groups of people on how a particular area should be developed.
"Some of the models of participatory democracy are too theoretical. In case a method aims primarily at collecting expert views, there is a risk that people with lower levels of education, for instance, feel that they are at a disadvantage. That would be unfortunate, as the specific purpose of participatory democracy is to listen to all opinions, not just those of the elite," said Ehrstrom.
The participants of the course included both a mixed group of both international and local students. They were assigned to deliberate on the planning of an area create new development ideas for the given area.
"The idea is to bring together people from various backgrounds and with different skills and to get them to discuss, deliberate, compromise and make decisions. As a result of all this, they should be able, as a group, to present and justify the conclusion they have reached together," added Ehrstrom.
"The ability to be open and receptive to new impressions, ideas and opportunities for cooperation is particularly important in today's world," Ehrstrom continued.
The course also had an educational aspect, to strengthen the participants' learning processes, it combined different teaching methods, both place-based and theoretical ones.
According to feedback from questionnaires and interviews, the course increased the participants' engagement in the society as well as their understanding of participatory democracy as a part of political decision-making.
Ehrstrom further said: "We should keep in mind that we need more than just active citizens. Many of our students will become decision-makers in the future, and it is important for them to understand that tools like this are available for decision-makers to engage citizens."
The course also boosted the participant's self-confidence to express and discuss their own opinions. (ANI)

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