climate change, public participation, engagement

We saw news reports on Friday of climate protests taking place all across the globe. From Bangladesh to Berlin, people of all ages turned out in astonishing numbers in a ‘climate strike’ to raise awareness of the consequences of a warming planet. At Delib HQ in Bristol, protesters passed close by our office on their way to City Hall. 

There couldn’t be a more appropriate time, then, for a public body to open up a conversation with its citizens on the subject, which is exactly what the Isle of Man did last week, in a challenge on Dialogue called Climate Change Emergency Action Plan. Island communities are more susceptible to the effects of climate change, like flooding due to rising sea levels, so it’s essential that residents’ comments and concerns about the future of their communities are heard. The Manx have had several recent opportunities to share their views on the matter by way of formal consultations, hosted on Citizen Space. This exercise is the latest in the Isle of Man government’s efforts to tap into the collective intelligence of islanders. 

Dialogue is a discursive tool that allows public bodies to facilitate thoughtful, constructive discussion with citizens and stakeholders on complex issues. Organisations around the world have used it to crowdsource ideas and comments on a huge range of topics. Contributors can rate others’ ideas out of five stars and leave comments, with the most popular ideas shown at the top of the page.

The Isle of Man have used Dialogue before. A challenge called ‘Your services, your money, your ideas’ received over 1300 ideas and many thousands more comments. This challenge is slightly different, in that the government has used individual ‘ideas’ as subject headings for which they’re seeking citizen comments. This will mean that moderators are able to easily separate comments out for the relevant departments to view.

The government wants citizens’ suggestions on green solutions for areas like agriculture, energy, transport and housing. Given how vocal Manx have been on previous consultation and engagement activities – a consultation on their Climate Change Mitigation Strategy 2020-30 got over 1000 responses – a high level of public participation is expected on this Dialogue challenge. The responses will inform future decision-making on the Isle of Man.

Open, considered discussion and debate is a key tenet of protest group Extinction Rebellion’s demands when it comes to the climate crisis, and deliberative democracy efforts are slowly making their way into the mainstream. Dialogue is an easy, intuitive way to have these discussions online without the mess and confusion of messaging boards or social media. It works in two directions: organisations encounter ideas and viewpoints they may not have otherwise considered; and their citizens feel that their insight is heard and valuable. The recent protests have made clear that this principle of open and honest discussion will be vital in navigating policy decisions relating to the mitigation of climate change; top-down conversation (like formal consultation) won’t be sufficient on its own. Dialogue is the ideal way to foster respectful discussion and debate.

To find out more about Dialogue, book a free demo and we’ll talk you through it.

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