Exploring the Processes and Perceptions of Citizen Engagement: An Analysis of Public Input in the Development of a Municipal Environmental Sustainability Plan

By Lorelei L. Hanson.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

There has been a shift towards increased public involvement in public policy development across many levels of government, both within Canada and internationally. Like many municipalities, the city of Edmonton is following the trend to increase citizen input into their planning and development processes. As a part of this, over the course of two years, the Office of the Environment sought out public input and feedback on their environmental strategic plan.
In this paper, I will discuss the citizen engagement processes that were undertaken as a part of the development of the city of Edmonton’s environmental strategic plan. Using data collected through participant observations and semi-structured interviews with individuals central to the development of the plan, I will analyse the discourse about, perceptions of, and activities undertaken to engage citizens in creating an environmental plan that will lead to a more sustainable and resilient city. The plan is intended to be transformational in some respects, and hence, a number of local councillors and citizen groups questioned its objectives and how citizens would be convinced of the need for such dramatic changes. With these questions in mind, I will also explore what might be done to broaden public input and support.

Keywords: Citizen Engagement, Public Input, Environmental Policy Development, Environmental Strategic Plan, Municipal Planning Processes

The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.85-96. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 256.662KB).

Dr. Lorelei L. Hanson

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Athabasca University, Athabasca, Alberta, Canada

I am a professor of environmental studies at Athabasca University, which is an open, distance university. My research interests include community sustainability, land trusts, environmental history, sense of place and the use of deliberative democracy in climate change policy development. I sit on several boards of environmental organizations including the City of Edmonton’s Environmental Advisory Committee and the Environmental Research and Studies Center. Within my community, I am a founding member of the River City Chickens Collective, which is trying to legalize the keeping of hens in Edmonton, and active in the local permaculture network. Last year I spent three amazing weeks in Cuba exploring the advances they have made in ecological food production and am now learning Spanish.