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Is the Jury Still Out? Toward Greater Insight in Policy Learning in Participatory Decision Processes—the Case of Dutch Citizens' Juries on Water Management in the Rhine Basin

Dave Huitema, VU University Amsterdam - Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM)
Corinne Cornelisse, VU University Amsterdam - Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM)
Bouke Ottow, Deltares


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This article discusses the potential for policy learning offered by participatory processes, specifically so-called citizens' juries. We establish the need for policy learning by pointing to the increased complexity of water management tasks and challenges. A conceptual discussion subsequently distinguishes between cognitive, normative, and relational learning. The public participation literature suggests that participatory processes will contribute to various forms of learning. We assess the truth of this assumption on the basis of three case studies: citizens' juries on water management in the Dutch part of Rhine basin. We analyze whether the three forms of learning have occurred among jurors, and among policy makers. We find high levels of cognitive, normative, and relational levels of learning for the jurors, but relatively low levels of learning for policy makers. We analyze the reason for this divergence.

Key words

citizen participation; citizens' jury; policy learning; Rhine river; water management

Copyright © 2010 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087