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Re-inspiring Public Deliberation, Collaboration and Learning for Water Policy and Management through Web 2.0

Congress: 2008
Dr Roderic Gill Director, Centre for Ecological Economics and Water Policy Research, University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351 Australia email: Fax: +61 2 67733237 Tel: + 61 2 67733998

Keyword(s): collaboration, integration, web 2.0, integrated water resources management, communication, engagement
AbstractIntroduction This paper addresses and merges several contemporary themes in relation to water resources management: collaboration, integration, transparency and a movement towards more ‘distributed’ (rather than traditional ‘top-down’) governance models. In addition, a major challenge is to frame these concepts by the reality of complexity (of complex systems) and by the necessity to approach effective communication on the foundation of genuine reflexivity in relation to the (sometimes divergently) different ways of seeing and knowing that shape the understandings of all parties to any conversation. These concerns can be purposefully addressed through thoughtful and innovative application of contemporary internet-based communication afforded by the latest generation of web-based interactive technologies described as Web 2.0. Objective The objective of the paper and of the work that it summarises is to present a synthesis of theoretical and tool-based responses to the contemporary rhetoric of integrated, participative water resources management and policy making. Methods Various theoretical and philosophical domains are woven together in this discussion. While the seemingly simple task of working with contemporary internet-based technologies as the foundation for more inclusive conversations on water resources issues might seem to belong in the domain of computer science, the technology described in this paper should really be regarded as just an interface through which to engage with some sound and long standing philosophical and theoretical traditions. The paper describes the meshing of long-standing theoretical domains such as communicative rationality, transdisciplinary theory, the tradition of deliberative democracy, organisational learning and systems thinking with the Web 2.0 toolbox. The result is one pathway through which to give ‘real legs’ to the rhetoric of water policy frameworks such as Integrated Water Resources Management and genuinely inclusive water visioning processes. The theoretical core summarised here has occupied the attention of over 10 recent Phd research investigations supervised by the author over the past five years. However, at least as much space will be devoted to describing ‘how the theory works in practice’; to be consistent with the aim of outlining an informed but practical ‘praxis’ for initiatives such as Integrated Water Resources Management. The proof of concept watergateway initiative will be described as a practical illustration of how one might go about meshing the theory and practice of communicative water policy making. Results For many people, the ideas and technological possibilities of Web 2.0 as an instrument of water policy making may appear rather abstract or intimidating. Everyone seemingly wants to have ‘wiki’s, blogs and related web fora’, but few give consideration to why and how these technologies can really help the cause of effective communicative policy making. The author’s ‘proof of concept’ Web 2.0-based open interactive watergateway initiative is presented as a practical pathway for community-engaged water policy and management. Conclusion This paper is a survey of the ideas and practice of one theoretically sound and procedurally informed pathway through which to implement the contemporary rhetoric of integrated, participative water resources management and policy making.
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