New public governance studies have increasingly sought to highlight the importance of citizen engagement in local decision-making processes as a way to identify suitable approaches to matters of public concern. There is a particular absence of good theoretical development building upon empirical work exploring citizen participatory processes as potential sites for social learning. In this paper, we asked the overall research question of the extent to which a new citizen participation process can be designed as a social learning system to facilitate the integration of citizen types of interests and knowledge in local decision-making. To answer this question, the study’s results provided deeper insights into the internal social learning dynamics within one particular deliberately designed collective local decision-making process, the G1000 firework dialogue in Enschede, The Netherlands. Using Wenger’s concept of “communities of practice” (CoP) as a baseline for analysis, the results of this study indicated that the G1000 firework dialogue process encouraged the creation of activities that may be considered to correspond to the different structural dimensions of CoP and that new design-based models of citizen participation would benefit from adopting a more explicit incorporation of and orientation towards social learning practices and theories. Consequently, we argue that local governance should invest more in citizen participation processes that encourage and enable learning among different societal stakeholders with different interests through constructive dialogues over political matters.
- Social learning systems
- Communities of practice
- Common ground formation
- Participatory decision-making processes
- Participatory local governance