Not Just an Innocent Flock of Sheep : Learning through a Walks and Talks Engagement Initiative at a Swedish Local Government

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Demediuk, Peter (2010) Not Just an Innocent Flock of Sheep : Learning through a Walks and Talks Engagement Initiative at a Swedish Local Government. International Journal of Learning, 17 (3). pp. 51-66. ISSN 1447-9494


Community engagement initiatives enable citizens to participate in the work of local government, and have the potential to generate learning that can lead to good decision making, sustainable government and stronger communities. This practice-based paper explores the learning that occurs through a Swedish local government’s ‘walks and talks’ initiative. The ‘walks’ are a rather special type of public meeting in which public officials ‘hit the streets’ with residents in order to literally hear and see concerns first hand, and to reflect on possible priorities for action and alternative solutions. The ‘talks’ are open public meetings that can vary in size and scope; they can tackle the broad range of issues like those faced by newly arrived migrant families or consider narrower questions such as safety in a particular area. The engagement has been driven by the desire of politicians to break a perceived disconnect between the inhabitants and the municipality, and for the instrumental purpose of zeroing-in on priority problems and debating potential solutions in a better fashion than previously. As it transpires, the learning from this ‘home-grown’ initiative transcended expectations. Citizens gained a reality-check about what their municipality and the now less-resourced welfare state can offer them, and also learnt about the needs of others and strategies for moderating their own demands. Whilst the public learnt to compromise and prioritise, public officials learned about new citizen-centric ways, structures and processes that brought community needs and expectations and government action into better alignment. The experiences of the walks and talks have also acted as an educational process by giving public officials the motivation and competencies to adjust the management of other operations in a way that gives inhabitants more voice and choice in services and infrastructure.

Item type Article
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Accounting
Historical > FOR Classification > 1501 Accounting, Auditing and Accountability
Historical > FOR Classification > 1605 Policy and Administration
Historical > SEO Classification > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work)
Keywords ResPubID20958, citizen participation, community consultation, community engagement, education, learning, local government - Sweden
Citations in Scopus 0 - View on Scopus
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