Community engagement by local government promises an opportunity space for learning and adaptation by the institution, its politicians, public officials, and the community. This paper examines what happens in practice at Swedish local governments by applying a capabilities framework based on intellectual capital and community capacity to interrogate learning and capacity changes that result from a wide range of engagement initiatives such as: citizen advisory panels; participative budgeting; deliberative referendums; and neighbourhood tours. The information flows from community engagement initiatives are analysed in terms of single, double and triple loop learning, and examined to see whether, in metaphoric terms, an answer or dialogue or ideas or learning ‘machine’ is at work. The nature and effect of learning varies widely. For instance in a referendum initiative, the central objective is to increase community capacity – especially in terms of educating less-privileged members in information communication technologies which can be used to increase their interface with friends, relatives and public and private institutions. In contrast, in a citizen panel initiative, improving community capacity is not an issue, and the situation is very much of providing an answer machine. Themes and variations between the cases are noted and opportunities for further research are proposed.
|Keywords:||Community Engagement, Community Consultation, Local Communities, Learning, Capabilities, Intellectual Capital, Sweden|
Senior Lecturer, Centre for International Corporate Governance Research, School of Accounting, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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