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Co-producing deliberative space: Reflections from city level water forum initiatives in India and Nepal

Hemant R Ojha, University of Canberra

Tue 17 November 2020

11:00am - 12:00pm

Virtual seminar

Seminar recording is available on our YouTube channel.


There is now an increasing level of endorsement of the deliberative approach to governance, bolstered by evidence of benefits in legitimacy, inclusion, social learning, and even the quality of governance outcomes. In the Global South, however, entrenched power asymmetries and political cultures that tend to ignore, if not actively suppress, the practice of deliberation in political decision making continue to challenge efforts to improve deliberation in governance. In this paper, I reflect on some recent and ongoing action research initiatives supporting urban water forums in four cities in India and Nepal. Locally engaged research team partnered with academic research groups from Europe and Australia to design and test urban water forums as an experiment to expand deliberative space on issues related to water management, access, and resilience to climate change. The forums were co-organised by local research groups and city level governments, inviting representatives of all major social groups that have an interest in or are concerned with the problems of water in the city. Over a period of five years, these experiments show that locally engaged research practice can stimulate open dialogues, self-reflections (especially among the powerful groups), system-wide collective thinking, and an appreciation of the longer-term environmental risks in city level planning and decision making. However, seeing through the lens of co-production, these gains in deliberation that emerged in the context of transnational research partnership are less likely to effect new modes of co-production in governance, without larger, deeper and system-wide processes of change and transformation. This experience suggests that small-scale innovations in deliberation can meet co-production limit but can still show directionality and confidence in larger and deeper changes in the system.

About the speaker

Hermant R Ojha is Adjunct Associate Professor at the Center for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance and Senior Policy Advisor at the Institute for Study and Development Worldwide (IFSD) in Sydney.

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