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Communicating about Biodiversity, Public Engagement, and Climate Change

Summary and Keywords

The term public engagement (PE) refers to processes that provide a distinct role for citizens or stakeholder groups in policymaking. Such engagement is distinctive because it aims to create opportunities for mutual learning among policymakers, scientists, stakeholders, and members of the public. In so doing, PE involves a particular type of voice in public debate and policymaking that is different from more established discourses, such as those expressed through official policymaking channels, scientific institutions, civil society activists, or the public media. By the early 1970s, PE had emerged in the context of an overall democratization movement in Western societies through such innovations as the “citizen jury” in the United States and “planning cells” in Germany. Today, it is often more pragmatically motivated, such as in the European Commission, where PE is seen as a tool for responsible research and innovation that helps to anticipate and assess potential implications and societal expectations of research and innovation, as well as to design more inclusive and sustainable research policies.

The first global PE processes in history were created to incorporate citizen voices into United Nations (UN) conventions on biodiversity and climate change. Building on theories of deliberative democracy and tested PE practices, a new World Wide Views process was developed to provide informed and considered input from ordinary citizens to the 2009 UN climate summit. This and subsequent World Wide Views (WWViews) deliberations have demonstrated that PE may potentially open up policy discourses that are constricted and obfuscated by organized interests. A telling example is provided by the World Wide Views on Climate and Energy deliberation held on June 5, 2015, where nearly 10,000 ordinary citizens gathered in 76 countries to consider and express their views on the issues to be addressed at the UN climate summit in Paris later that year. In a noteworthy departure from prevailing media and policy discourses, two-thirds of the participating citizens saw measures to fight climate change as “mostly an opportunity to improve our quality of life,” while only a quarter saw them as “mostly a threat to our quality of life,” a result that was consistent across high-, middle-, and low-income countries.

Recent research on PE has indicated that when effectively implemented, such processes can increase the legitimacy, quality, and capacity of decision-making. Earlier aspirations for broader impacts, such as the democratization of policymaking at all levels, are now less prominent but arguably indispensable for achieving both immediate and longer-range goals. The relatively new concept of a deliberative system captures this complexity by moving beyond the narrow focus on single PE events encountered in much research to date, recognizing that single events rarely affect the course of policymaking. The evolving prospects for PE in biodiversity and climate change policy, therefore, can be seen as requiring ongoing improvements in the capacities of the deliberative system.

Keywords: biodiversity, climate change, public engagement (PE), deliberation, participation, activism


In a study of nine critical Earth-system processes, Rockström et al. (2009) found that human activities have pushed biodiversity loss and climate change across a threshold that divides a safe operating space from a dangerous zone of potentially catastrophic instability. In light of the magnitude of the threat posed by these imbalances and their sociopolitical characteristics—time is running out, the central authority needed to address them is weak or nonexistent, and policy responses thus far have discounted the future irrationally—biodiversity and climate change clearly fit the classification in Levin, Cashore, Bernstein, and Auld (2012, p. 124) of “super wicked problems.”

Coping with super wicked problems requires new approaches to policymaking. Levin et al. (2012) suggest the creation of “sticky interventions” (e.g., legislation that is difficult to reverse); entrenchment of support (e.g., coalitions based on mutual gains); and expansion through self-reinforcing processes (e.g., a movement toward healthy lifestyles promoted by the evolution of voluntary self-tracking technologies) as relevant strategies. However, the super wicked nature of such problems makes the effective use of these strategies a daunting prospect. In consequence, one general approach to super wicked problems is an orientation to collaborative problem-solving, extensive participation of citizens and stakeholders, and commitment to holistic and creative thinking (Raisio, 2009). Similar prescriptions for more collaborative, participatory, and integrative approaches have also been suggested in other fields, such as planning sciences (Forester, 1989), ecological economics (Funtowicz & Ravetz, 2003), environmental policy and risk management (Renn, 2008), and studies in deliberative democracy (Dryzek, 2010). The common concern in the practices that have emerged alongside these ideas is the inability of conventional policy processes to cope with an increasingly complicated world, in which control by authorities and experts has been eroded.

These policy strategies align with an increased reliance on new governance approaches that focus on the current and potential role of public engagement (PE) in contributing to international environmental policy. As we will explain in the next section, PE includes a variety of participatory and deliberative approaches to policymaking that are distinct from more conventional means of determining public views on policy issues (e.g., public opinion polls). These include public hearings, focus groups, stakeholder forums, and citizen deliberation. The rationale for these new tools is not only that they can provide a more informed and substantive picture of people’s opinions, but also that they can enhance the prospects of creative problem-solving. These views, it is theorized, are thus unique because of the information and learning that shapes their formation, and the way in which they and the people expressing them can be put to practical use to address policy problems ranging from the mundane to the super wicked. Reviewing recent studies on the impacts of PE, therefore, we will argue that, when effectively implemented, such processes can increase the legitimacy, quality, and capacity of decision-making.

While engagement strategies vary considerably, all of them entail communicating the views of various publics to officials and authorities, and many include considerable sharing and development of views among these publics as a prelude to transmitting the outcomes of this reasoning to decision-makers. For super wicked problems like biodiversity and climate change, then, PE can be seen as an important instrument in the environmental governance toolbox.

The questions of interest in this article are:

  • What is PE, and how does it compare to more traditional means of collecting public views on policy issues?

  • How can mini-public-based PE, exemplified by the first-ever global citizen consultation process WWViews, help address super wicked problems such as biodiversity and climate change?

  • In what ways can PE contribute to new governance capacities?

In the next section, we will define and characterize PE as a category of tools for gaining a rich understanding of citizens’ dispositions toward specific policy issues by comparing it to more familiar approaches such as opinion polls and surveys. In the ensuing section, we will discuss lessons from the first global citizen deliberations that applied the World Wide Views (WWViews) method to generate informed and considered input to the United Nations (UN) negotiations on biodiversity and climate change (Fitzgerald, 2008). In the final section, we will examine the existing and potential capacities of WWViews in terms of the relatively new conceptual framework of a deliberative system (Stevenson & Dryzek, 2014; Parkinson & Mansbridge, 2012; Dryzek, 2010). This shifts the analysis from a narrow focus on single PE events to a more holistic view of the institutional linkages that are critical to effective PE.

PE and Deliberation

The term public engagement (PE) refers to processes that provide a distinct role for citizens or stakeholder groups in policymaking (Rask et al., 2016, p. 10).1 Such engagement is distinctive because it aims to create opportunities for mutual learning among policymakers, scientists, stakeholders, and members of the public. In so doing, PE involves a particular type of voice in public debate and policymaking that is different from more established discourses, such as those expressed through official policymaking channels, scientific institutions, civil society activists, or the public media. By the early 1970s, PE had emerged in the context of an overall democratization movement in Western societies through such innovations as the “citizen jury” in the United States and “planning cells” in Germany (Mann, Voss, Amelung, Runge, & Grabner, 2014; Gastil & Levine, 2005). Today, it is often more pragmatically motivated, such as in the European Commission, where PE is seen as a tool for responsible research and innovation that helps to anticipate and assess potential implications and societal expectations of technological change and to design more inclusive and sustainable research policies (European Commission, 2016; Rask et al., 2016).

These developments have transpired alongside and are interconnected with a changing landscape of science and technology in society. The key elements in these changes are (a) diversification of the people who participate in science, especially as reflected in the growing numbers of women and ethnic minorities in the scientific workforce; (b) direct participation by laypeople in the production of scientific knowledge and technological artifacts through practices such as citizen science and community-based research; (c) challenges to the authority of experts by laypeople; and (d) the emergence of dissident scientists who directly challenge research programs backed by powerful industry, government, and scientific institutions (Hess, 2007, pp. 47–68).

In a recent study on the responsible governance of research and innovation, Rask et al. (2016) identified five main tools used by practitioners under the heading of PE:

  • Public communication—Decision-makers use this tool to inform and/or educate citizens. Information flows in one direction, from sponsors to the members of the public, and no specific mechanisms exist to handle public feedback. Public communication can take the form of public hearings, public meetings, and awareness-raising activities.

  • Public consultation—This instrument is used to inform decision-makers about public opinions on topics that are currently on their agendas. These opinions are sought by the sponsors of the public consultation initiative who, unlike with public communication, do not prescribe the content of the communications. The information thus flows from citizens to sponsors. Focus groups, stakeholder consultations, and public opinion surveys are typically used for such consultations.

  • Public activism—Activists aim to inform decision-makers and create awareness in order to influence decision-making processes. The information flow is decidedly one-way—from citizens to sponsors—but not at the initiative of the sponsors, as characterizes public consultation. The repertoire of instruments for public activism includes demonstrations and protests.

  • Public deliberation—Deliberations aim to develop informed and reasoned views of ordinary citizens for the purpose of sharing them with decision-makers. The basic premise is that these more substantive views might affect policy because decision-makers have greater assurance that these views are grounded in relevant facts and formed through interaction with a diverse group of citizens. Information is exchanged between sponsors and public representatives, and a dialogue of at least an hour on each specific issue (and often much longer) is facilitated. Information at minimum flows in both directions between decision-makers and dialogue participants, and the process often includes experts as well. Different examples of this practice are consensus conferences, citizen juries, and deliberative opinion polling, but all of them create a mini-public (Goodin & Dryzek, 2006; Grönlund, Bächtiger, & Setälä, 2014) of participants who reflect the diversity of views and experiences among citizens.

  • Public participation—This instrument assigns partial or full decision-making-power to citizens on policy issues. Information is exchanged between sponsors and members of the public and supplemented by dialogue that varies widely across different cases. Information flows in two directions by way of cogovernance and direct democracy mechanisms such as participatory budgeting and youth councils, which typically operate at the local level. Binding referendums submitted by legislators to a vote of the people are also customary at the provincial and state levels. The recent Brexit vote mandating the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union is an example of a referendum that was both national and very consequential.

Public communication and consultation represent more traditional, often one-way models of interaction, in which authorities either communicate decisions or ask for limited feedback from the public regarding ongoing policy processes. Public activism is a more spontaneous field of activity that often aims primarily to raise awareness and mobilize supporters for a particular policy position, but it also can provide input to more formal policy processes. In either case, activism normally involves an attempt to change power relations, and in that sense partakes of political contestation more directly than the other PE tools. Public deliberation and public participation – ideally – aim to create meaningful policy-learning processes, in which heterogeneous experts, publics, and policymakers can meet and share ideas in a spirit of equality, respect, and creativity.

If we understand engagement as a substantial and sustained involvement of two or more parties (the Oxford English Dictionary lists marriages and the pledge of property as a security for future payment as early usages of the word), then communication and consultation are relatively minimal engagements between publics and agencies or authorities; activism is more sustained, but less oriented toward the actual collaboration of these parties; and deliberation and participation offer all parties the possibility of mutual change through reasoned and respectful discourse. Deliberation and participation, therefore, provide the clearest alternative to the conventional politics that is a major reason for the failure to tackle super wicked problems, because they engage the central players (authorities, citizens, and experts) in the policy process in substantial and sustained ways.

One of the basic approaches in developing public deliberation and participation is the creation of mini-publics, comprised of inclusive arrays of voices that participate in these processes. In order to understand the particular promise of PE based on mini-publics such as WWViews in supporting democratic deliberation and decision-making, they can be contrasted with more familiar mechanisms for accessing public opinion or representing interests of the civil society—namely, opinion polls, stakeholder involvement, and focus groups. The main differences among these methods are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Four Mechanisms for Accessing Public Opinion

Features of the Mechanism


Opinion Poll

Stakeholder Involvement

Focus Group

What is accessed?

**Informed and considered public opinions and reasoning

**Spontaneous public opinions and attitudes

**Stakeholder perspectives and interests

**Consumer, client, and user experiences

What contributes to decision-making?

**New arguments and insights

**Public evaluation of policies

**Evidence of public attitudes and opinion change

**Increased capacity

**Increased implementation power

**Feedback on new products

**Testing of new ideas

What limits its access to public opinion?

**Limited or no statistical significance

**Limited, distorted, and sensationalized information basis for accessing complex issues

**Represents organized interests

**Consumer perspective inadequate in political evaluation

Source: Rask and Worthington (2015, p. 9)

Compared to opinion polls, mini-publics provide access not just to public opinion, but to informed views that have been refined through structured reasoning. From a Eurobarometer (2013) poll measuring European citizens’ attitudes toward biodiversity, we know that a majority of the citizens were not familiar with what the term biodiversity meant (26% never heard of it, 30% had heard of it but did not know what it meant, and 44% had heard of it and claimed that they knew what it meant). Against this background, it makes little sense to pose more specific questions that would pose an even greater challenge for respondents. In contrast to public opinion surveys, mini-publics are based on the principle of informed discussion as a key element in opinion formation, which provides better access to citizen views about questions that are otherwise too complex or distant from their everyday lives to elicit meaningful opinions. In some contexts, such as countries where educational levels are low or big educational differences prevail among segments of the population, access to public opinion on issues such as biodiversity perhaps can take place only through processes where the provision of information and discussion precedes giving opinions.

Stakeholder involvement implies activities where a public agency engages a select set of individuals, groups, or representatives of those individuals and groups to work directly on specific issues. Stakeholders are thus individuals and organizations, or their representatives, who work with the agency primarily because they have an interest in the agency’s work and policies, which can motivate them to influence the agency’s future direction. PE, in turn, implies activities where an agency invites the public to participate in agency actions and hold the agency accountable for its decisions (EPA, 2001, p. 1). While this distinction is not followed by all scholars of environmental governance (e.g., Dietz & Stern, 2008, p. 3), it points to an important difference: stakeholder involvement—unlike PE—differentiates members of the public on the basis of their interests and stakes in the topic.

While the virtues of stakeholder involvement are widely acknowledged in the literature on environmental governance, there are also some noteworthy defects. When poorly managed, stakeholder involvement can make matters worse, as the vested interests of these groups can lead political consideration toward a dogmatic, myopic, and selfish mode of decision-making rather than a fact-regarding, future-regarding, and other-regarding one (Held, 2006). Mini-publics, by comparison, have certain potential advantages. Like juries selected from the citizenry that are used in legal proceedings, such as a criminal trial, the point of mini-publics is precisely to get access to the disinterested civic opinion of people who have no specific stake in the issue, thus ensuring more objective judgment than a person with a direct stake in the issue is likely to have. In addition, participation by disinterested laypersons in the evaluation of public policy issues not only involves common sense (which can be lost in disputes with highly technical content), but also ensures a mixture of world views that can help in enriching and evaluating the framing of policy problems at hand such that the voices of not only elite representatives, but less educated people, ethnic minorities, young and old generations, women, and people from the Global South, will be heard equally. At its best, common deliberation among these diverse groups can help to find areas of consensus that were not previously perceived. As an example, the World Wide Views on Climate and Energy meeting in 2015 produced a noteworthy departure from prevailing media and policy discourses that frame climate change in strictly negative terms: two-thirds of the participants saw measures to address climate change as “mostly an opportunity to improve our quality of life,” while only a quarter saw them as “mostly a threat to our quality of life,” a result that was consistent across high-, middle-, and low-income countries.2

Focus groups bear the greatest resemblance to mini-publics because with both methods, participants deliberate in facilitated small groups so that the arguments and viewpoints of the participants can be developed and expressed. Although nondirective interviews were initiated in the late 1930s by social scientists and these quickly evolved into group interviews (now called focus groups), business became the driving force behind a focus group industry that had $7 billion in sales in the United States by 2002 and roughly equal revenues in Europe, Asia, and Latin America (Krueger & Casey, 2009, pp. 2–3; Marketing Research Association, n.d., p. 1).

The biggest difference between focus groups and citizen deliberations based on mini-publics is their purpose. Focus groups are used primarily for business purposes, which often are directly connected with gaining a competitive advantage over an adversary or competitor. They are also used widely by political parties eager to devise strategies for defeating their opponents. The purpose of a mini-public, on the other hand, is to ascertain the views and reasoning of informed citizens, whose main interest in the issue being considered is what is best for society as a whole. The different purposes of focus groups and mini-publics also shape their methods: Focus groups generally do not provide scientific information to participants on the issue at hand, but this is a central feature of mini-publics because informed reasoning is a virtue in the public sphere. In addition, focus groups are normally sponsored by an entity such as a business or political party, which uses the results to advance its own organizational agenda, while mini-publics are generally not sponsored by the group (policymakers) that takes action on the results of a deliberation. The sponsors instead are government agencies that operate at arm’s length from the organizers of deliberations, or other entities that are not subject to the direct control of the audience, such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), science museums, and universities. Finally, not only are mini-publics intended to study citizens’ reactions to political programs or questions, but they also aim to help people to develop and express their views on political matters about which they previously knew little, or even nothing.

In sum, PE tools can be differentiated according to the intensity and continuity of the engagement, the extent to which officials and authorities must respond to the results of the engagement, and the public-mindedness of the participants. Deliberations and public participation are designed to meet these criteria of strong engagement, accountability, and public-mindedness. A key design element for accomplishing these goals is the formation of a mini-public to deliberate the policy issues that prevailing policy processes are not satisfactorily addressing.

Lessons from the First Global Citizen Deliberations

The first global PE processes in history were created to incorporate citizen voices into UN conventions on biodiversity and climate change.3 Building on theories of deliberative democracy and tested practices of PE, a new process called “WWViews on Global Warming” was developed to provide informed and considered input from ordinary citizens to the 2009 UN climate summit. This was followed by WWViews on Biodiversity in 2012 and WWViews on Climate and Energy in 2015.4

In taking deliberation to a global level, however, a variety of special challenges for citizen awareness and engagement arise. One problem is that the annual or biannual Conferences of the Parties (COP) among the countries that have signed these conventions take place “somewhere else” for all the citizen participants except those who live in the country that hosts each particular event. Second, the exceptional economic, policy, and scientific complexity of these issues and the arcane discussions that this spawns add to the sense that the matters being discussed are remote from everyday concerns, despite the ominous impacts of the problems that are being addressed. Third, the rather technical discussions and uneventful nature of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meetings make them a low priority for media coverage (Delborne & Schneider, 2012). Finally, entrenched and powerful interests narrow the scope of negotiations and obfuscate what is at stake (Oreskes & Conway, 2010; Stevenson & Dryzek, 2014, pp. 41–54). Notwithstanding these challenges, the three WWViews deliberations have demonstrated that PE can potentially open up these policy discourses, which until now have been remote from the concerns of ordinary citizens, constricted in the perspectives present at the negotiating table, and tightly controlled by insular entities both inside and outside government.

WWViews was invented by the Danish Board of Technology (DBT) in 2008–2009, which at the time was a technology assessment office in the Danish Parliament that was well known for its leadership in developing participatory assessment processes.5 The first project on global warming engaged nearly 4,000 citizens in 38 countries; the biodiversity deliberation had approximately 3,000 citizens in 25 countries; and the climate and energy event involved nearly 10,000 citizens in 76 countries. In the following discussion, we address the origins and basic characteristics of WWViews, as well as the dissemination activities that aimed at influencing the international biodiversity and climate change policies. In the last section of this article, comparing the experiences from WWViews with a recent international study on the impacts of innovative PE (Rask et al., 2016), we will cover the ways in which PE can contribute to new governance capacities and the challenges to its continued activity and effectiveness.

Origins and Characteristics

The design criteria for the project were developed by DBT and the early partners in the World Wide Views Alliance, which is comprised of organizations that manage WWViews deliberations at individual sites around the world (Bedsted, Gram, & Klüver, 2012, pp. 25–30). One ambitious criterion, “cheap and easy,” called for a process that could be managed under the varied conditions encountered by organizations in rich and poor countries alike. Others specified that deliberations should focus on issues currently on the agenda of policymakers, who are the primary intended recipients of the results; that results should be clear and comparable; and that the participant experience should be informative, reflective, and collaborative (Box 1).

Box 1. World Wide Views Design Criteria

  • Cheap and easy: All countries should, in principle, be able to participate, regardless of the economic status and general education level of their citizens.

  • Clear link to policymaking: The issues addressed must be of immediate relevance to policymakers.

  • Global and national: The results must be salient to both national and global decision-making.

  • Clear and comparable results: The results had to be comparable across countries and regions and easily communicated to policymakers.

  • Informed citizens: Citizens receive the balanced information necessary for them to understand the issues debated.

  • Deliberation: Citizens discuss their views in small groups to develop their own positions.

  • Qualitative and quantitative: The citizens make recommendations in their own words as well as voting on alternative answers to predefined questions.

Source: Danish Board of Technology (2009)

The WWViews participants are recruited to reflect as much as possible the distribution of the population in their respective countries in terms of characteristics such as age, gender, level of education, and income. The purpose of this strategy is not to create a fully representative participant pool, but rather to establish discursive representation, in which people from different walks of life deliberate together.6 People with a direct stake in the issues to be considered (in the case of biodiversity, for example, this would likely include occupations such as land developers or employees of land preservation groups) are not selected, in order to create a pool of participants who are connected to the topic primarily in their role as citizens. In advance of the deliberation, participants are provided a balanced information booklet on the issues to be discussed.

The actual deliberation is conducted in a single day, when the roughly 100 participants at each site discuss issues at tables of 6 to 8 people, with the guidance of a neutral facilitator. The deliberation day is divided into hour long discussions of specific policy issues, each of which is preceded by a short video presenting much of the same information found in the informational booklet. After each discussion, participants register their views by completing a voting slip on which they select from alternative answers to three or four key questions of interest to policymakers. The results are immediately tabulated and uploaded to a website, where responses from all the deliberations around the world are compiled.

Disseminating the results to policymakers and other interested parties is a crucial part of the project because its primary goal is to strengthen the policymaking process by incorporating the unique voices of citizens who have had informed discussions with their citizen peers on the topic at hand. The key elements in the design of the WWViews dissemination process are preparation of a results report (Bedsted & Klüver, 2009; Bedsted, 2012; Bedsted, Mathieu, & Leyrit, 2015); press conferences;7 local project managers making direct contact with policymakers in each country where a deliberation was conducted; side events featuring commentary on the results by policymakers, experts, and participants at the COP; and briefings of policymakers at the COP and in official meetings leading up to it. Social media and mass media are also contacted, although the results to date have been modest (Delborne & Schneider, 2012; Geddes & Choi, 2015).


WWViews has received considerable criticism from deliberation studies scholars, and we address several of the project’s limitations and challenges in the final section of this paper. Nonetheless, most scholars have applauded WWViews for bringing together thousands of ordinary citizens for substantive discussions on urgent and complicated policy issues.8 Other indicators of success are reflected in the comments of participants, the formation and growth of the World Wide Views Alliance, deepening collaboration and institutionalization with the CBD and UNFCCC secretariats, uptake of WWViews-type activities by numerous organizations around the world, and increasingly effective dissemination of WWViews results to policymakers and stakeholders.

Surveys of participants have been administered immediately after each WWViews deliberation and extensively analyzed by Goldschmidt and colleagues (Goldschmidt et al., 2012; Goldschmidt, Tomblin, & Rask, 2015; Goldschmidt & Scheel, 2016). With few exceptions, positive responses to each of the 61 questions in the survey substantially outweighed neutral or negative assessments, in most cases by a high margin. For example, in the most recent survey, 96% of respondents strongly agreed9 that participants “were treated respectfully by the organisers” (Goldschmidt & Scheel, 2016, p. 23); 93% strongly agreed that similar deliberative processes should continue in the future (p. 26); and 83% want to participate in future events (p. 30).

WWViews would be impossible without the World Wide Views Alliance. Its primary objective is to organize deliberations and the dissemination of results at sites around the world, but alliance partners have contributed in numerous additional ways, such as contributing to results reports, recruiting participants to make presentations at COP side events, making presentations on WWViews at events such as the Rio+20 convention in 2012, and collaborating in research. The alliance now includes 166 members, many of which have organized deliberations in all three WWViews events (see Appendix); 90 of these organizations are located in developing countries, and their collaborations in WWViews deliberations and with other partners in the developing world have fostered considerable capacity building in areas with little or no previous experience with deliberation and other PE activities.

Institutional partnerships to initiate and coordinate WWViews have improved considerably over the three projects. WWViews on Global Warming was initiated and funded primarily by DBT. The need for institutional partnerships from within the UN system became a priority as DBT began contemplating a second deliberation on biodiversity, and ultimately the secretariat of CBD and the Danish Ministry of the Environment became coinitiators. These partners provided invaluable assistance in identifying and facilitating connections with people and events. For example, CBD helped DBT become part of the UN Decade for Biodiversity as a contributor to Aichi Target 1 of the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, which promotes broad citizen awareness of the values of biodiversity.

For its part, the Danish Ministry of the Environment facilitated meetings at the CBD’s COP 11 in Hyderabad, India, and cofinanced WWViews, as did the Villum Foundation of Denmark and the Japan Biodiversity Fund. Among the fruits of these institutional linkages was strong encouragement from a variety of players at CBD to conduct deliberations for each biennial COP, instead of at the end of the biodiversity decade in 2020 as DBT had been planning (Bedsted, Gram, Jørgensen, & Klüver, 2015). The COP also passed an official decision encouraging (CBD, 2012, p. 95)

parties, relevant organizations and stakeholders to support and contribute to communication initiatives, such as the WWViews on Biodiversity, which combine the implementation of Strategic Goals A and E regarding mainstreaming of biodiversity, participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity-building.

A new World Wide Views Alliance partner in 2012, Missions Publiques in Paris, was sufficiently impressed with the WWViews method that it organized the French National Debate on Energy Transition in 2013 using similar methods. With COP 21 of the UNFCCC scheduled for Paris in 2015, this project helped set in motion the visions and collaborations that evolved into WWViews on Climate and Energy, in which nearly 10,000 citizens participated. UNFCCC became a coinitiator and critical supporter of the project, along with DBT, Missions Publiques, the French National Commission on Public Debate, and the French government. The latter provided unprecedented backing, including financial support for deliberations in developing countries, an endorsement by French president Franḉois Hollande, organization of a WWViews briefing at the UN General Assembly meeting in September 2015, and sponsorship of citizen-based “100 Projects for Climate” to tackle climate change around the world after COP 21, the results of which were presented at COP 22 (UNFCCC, 2015; World Wide Views on Climate and Energy, 2015; Sconagmiglio, 2016).

The French National Debate on Energy Transition belongs to an additional category of WWViews successes—the use of WWViews and other deliberative methods by alliance members and others who learned about these methods and/or built the capacity to put them to use through their collaboration with the project. The first such case involved the alliance partner Simurg, an NGO in Uruguay whose principals were very conversant with PE but lacked the practical experience, credibility, and opportunity to act on this knowledge. As several members of Simurg wrote (Bortagaray, Lazaro, & Hererra, 2012, p. 181):

The WWViews consultation was the first exercise of this type ever implemented in Uruguay and has paved the way for other similar exercises, such as the consensus conference on nuclear energy conducted in autumn 2010 in the Science and Development unit of the School of Science [at the University of the Republic, with which Simurg had collaborated on WWViews]. Its only precedent was a series of audiences coordinated by the Ministry of Environment, a top-down process to get stakeholders’ voices in a decision-making process regarding the establishment of protected natural areas in the country. It could be said that Uruguay is taking its first steps toward active public participation in S&T (science and technology) matters, thus stimulating the transition of political and academic discourses around participation into concrete action, while introducing the new dimension of S&T into these discourses, which are traditionally centered on other social aspects considered of public interest.

Other discussions and developments that emerged from the synergies fostered by WWViews include a series of deliberations on biodiversity in municipalities in Ontario, Canada; a deliberation modeled on Climate and Energy with the global workforce of the French electrical company Energie, a European Union project on sustainable consumption; and the formation of the Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology network in the United States, which has conducted deliberations on the Barack Obama administration’s Asteroid Initiative for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in addition to managing WWViews projects in the U.S. (Bedsted et al., 2015, p. 15; Worthington et al., 2012; Tomblin et al., 2015).

In sum, citizens who have participated in WWViews strongly endorse citizen deliberations and overwhelmingly express interest in participating in future events; a global infrastructure of organizations to implement deliberative projects has been assembled; partnerships with nations and secretariats in the UN system to initiate and promote WWViews deliberations have been forged; and the method has been adapted by public and private organizations and NGOs to bring deliberative processes to bear on important issues from the local through global levels. The expanded capacity represented by these developments is perhaps the key resource for the effective dissemination of WWViews results and sensibilities.

Even if the quality of WWViews deliberations was high and unblemished, their value would be minimal in the absence of a tangible contribution to biodiversity and climate policy discourses. As in other areas, the results of dissemination efforts that aim to enhance these discourses have improved with each succeeding project. For example, the two side events during COP 15 in 2009 were hard to discern amid the “tsunami” of information at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009,10 but at COP 21, WWViews was part of four side events and invited to numerous public presentations organized by other groups. Likewise, policymakers barely noted the WWViews results in 2009 despite vigorous efforts to gain their attention (Bechtold, Ornetzeder, & Sotoudeh, 2012; Herriman, White, & Atherton, 2012), but in 2015, the French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development, and Energy presented the results of the climate and energy deliberations to a major NGO meeting and to policymakers throughout French-speaking Africa prior to COP 21. Table 2 presents examples of the main categories of dissemination, ranging from simple information transfer to the incorporation of the deliberative results into policy discourses by policymakers, and indicates how these activities have expanded over time.

Table 2. Dissemination Outcomes: Enhanced Policy Discourses

Type of Dissemination

Examples of Dissemination Activities

Information transfer

  • 3,000–4,000 Results Reports distributed at last two COPs (2,3)

  • Results, interviews, documentaries, and participant information materials on project website (1,2,3)

Public dialogues

  • Official side events at all COPs, numerous invited appearances by WWViews staff in other COP side events (3)

Targeted dialogues

  • Hundreds of bilateral meetings of WWViews staff and alliance members with country delegations and stakeholder groups to present and discuss WWViews results (3)


  • Two books on WWViews, at least nine reports on WWViews produced and distributed by alliance partners for WWViews C&E (1,2,3)

Propagation of results

  • French minister of ecology, sustainable development, and energy Segolene Royal presents WWViews results throughout French Africa and at a pre-COP 21 conference attended by 1,000 stakeholder groups (3)

  • Head of International Climate Action Network cites WWViews results in speeches and press conferences (3)

Policymaker response

  • Secretary general of CBD organizes and participates in a special event (2)

  • Secretary general of UNFCCC reflects on value of WWViews results for policymakers (3)

(*) Numbers in parentheses indicate WWViews projects (first, second, or third) in which these outcomes were strong.

In principle, the dissemination of deliberative results to the “empowered spaces” of authoritative decisions (Stevenson & Dryzek, 2014, pp. 8–10) can have two types of impacts. The first is inclusion of a broader range of discourses than are normally heard or heeded in empowered spaces. The strong embrace by a significant majority of WWViews participants of the view that measures to address climate change are an opportunity rather than a threat is but one example of a unique citizen contribution to an otherwise constricted discourse that was made possible by deliberation. Table 2 documents a diverse and growing dissemination of WWViews that substantiates its presence in these discourses.

The second impact is a conceptualization and capacity building of international environmental governance that is based on the notion of an informed and active citizenry. The role of civil society organizations in global governance has clearly contributed to a more open policy process (Dryzek & Niemeyer, 2008, p. 491), but deliberation and public participation can deepen this trend by bringing ordinary citizens directly into the process (Figure 1). Here too, there are tangible outcomes, such as the Record of Decision at COP 11 of the CBD, which acknowledged the importance of deliberative processes like WWViews, advocated their continuation in the future, and suggested improved integration of such deliberations with the decision-making process. Small in itself, this development manifests a presence of the idea that participation in global governance should include channels for the informed voices of ordinary citizens.

Communicating about Biodiversity, Public Engagement, and Climate ChangeClick to view larger

Figure 1. Impacts of WWViews.

Overall, WWViews has demonstrated the feasibility of expressing the voice of global citizenship by orchestrating an international set of mini-publics and linking them to the COP process (Figure 1). In the next section, we will take a closer look at the ways in which this process has contributed to a new understanding of the role of PE in international environmental governance, as well as the new capacities that are generated through it.

Developing the Capacity for Deliberative and Participatory Governance

WWViews in many ways represents the cutting edge of PE practice, as its design reflects several of the transitions that have taken place recently in this field (Rask et al., 2016). These transformations are depicted from top to bottom in Figure 2.

Communicating about Biodiversity, Public Engagement, and Climate ChangeClick to view larger

Figure 2. Transformation of the field of public engagement (PE).

WWViews has paid particular attention to the systemic dimension of PE activity by emphasizing codesign with the users of knowledge; extensive interaction among practitioners, policymakers, stakeholders, and citizens; and embedding of the deliberative process in a broader polity context. This is far from a narrow focus on the quality of a single deliberative event, which for a long time was the key concern for PE researchers and practitioners (see Box A in Figure 2). Reflecting recent theories of deliberative democracy, WWViews aims at operating under the paradigm of public deliberation rather than the paradigms of public communication or consultation, even though some compromises may have occurred due to institutional pressures from the side of the United Nations (Box B). By focusing on the themes of biodiversity and climate change, WWViews addresses broad societal challenges rather than narrow technical, social, or environmental problems, such as typical siting problems in local environmental decision-making (Box C). WWViews applies well-tested methods of public participation by hybridizing them in novel ways (Box D). By composing mini-publics based on culturally sensitive selection criteria, WWViews has sought new means of providing societal and political representation to international politics, in addition to more established systems such as statistical surveying or existing structures of political representation (Box E).

A recent international study of innovative PE identified capacities that are regularly reported to result from such processes (Rask et al., 2016). Capacities of dynamic governance included anticipation,11 reflection,12 and transdisciplinarity.13 Continuity14 was recognized as a capacity that helps to balance dynamic governance while sustaining dynamism in the long run. Other capacities included public awareness raising, civic and professional competence building, and action initiation.

In many respects, dynamic governance is the goal of WWViews. It has contributed to that goal by subjecting the international climate and biodiversity policy process to the systematic reflection of global publics composed of dozens of national mini-publics. The dynamism is thus manifested by the informed, deliberative, and intellectually inclusive mutual learning among key players in these policy processes—most importantly, ordinary citizens—as well as by the design and implementation of the world’s first global citizen deliberation. Perhaps more important than creating this unprecedented deliberative process was the formation of the global World Wide Views Alliance, which put it into practice and is now available for organizing similar procedures for other topics at multiple levels of governance.

With the basic design and infrastructure for implementing it in place, DBT and its collaborators are in a position to strengthen this program. The most prominent needs identified by researchers include overcoming biases in representation, developing more nuanced framings of complex questions, better attention to the multilevel (local and global) nature of international environmental policy issues, finding a way to elicit and transmit citizens’ voices, and improving the sporadic political and media attention that the program has gained to date (Rask, Worthington, & Lammi, 2012; Rask & Worthington, 2015).

The new agreement from the Paris climate summit in 2015 shifts the action in global climate policy to the implementation of national commitments, opening up a new domain (of implementation and focus on diverse national settings) in which deliberation, public participation, or both could play a pivotal role in making the agreement responsive to popular aspirations and effective in addressing climate change. Viewed in terms of capacity building, therefore, the successes in dynamic governance have generated a need for sustained innovation as the focus shifts from a global climate policy framework to implementation nationally and locally.

Turning to the specific dimensions of capacity for deliberative democracy, anticipation is a key dimension for dynamic governance, but it is mostly relevant in the WWViews case to the extent that better recognition of public views can apprise policymakers of likely public responses to different policy options. This is a typical function of focus groups and, as noted in Table 1, it entails less engagement than deliberative democracy can produce.

On the other hand, transdisciplinarity, understood here as the capacity of holistic thinking and acting by mobilizing knowledge, expertise, and other resources across and beyond scientific disciplines for better addressing societal challenges, has played an important role in the WWViews process. One manifestation of transdisciplinarity is the briefing materials and videos for participants that draw on diverse fields in the social and natural sciences. Another is the facilitated dialogues that draw on these materials, as well as the diverse knowledge bases of the participants. From an institutional perspective, however, the orchestration of the path-breaking collaboration among universities, think tanks, foundations, public agencies, NGOs, science museums, and other parties interested in global deliberations was an especially innovative and significant achievement (see the list of WWViews Alliance members in the Appendix). On many occasions, such collaboration stimulated institutional boundary work (e.g., in the cases where science museums stretched their concepts slightly more toward political activity). Transdisciplinary collaborations not only resulted in better mobilization of research for public policy and deliberation, but quite interestingly, in several spin-offs15 that are both important in themselves and helpful in the process of creating new means for addressing societal challenges.

Continuity of WWViews can be modeled as a formalization process that is typical of many successful PE processes (cf. Rask et al., 2016, p. 44). An idea of organizing a global citizen deliberation was put forth in 2008, and an intense process of resource mobilization followed, leading to the completion of the WWViews on Global Warming project the next year. With the completion of ensuing WWViews projects and the institutionalization that accompanied it, WWViews has become a program with a larger portfolio of multiple projects that are managed and coordinated as a loosely coupled system, with the objective of achieving specific outcomes and benefits for the partner organizations. Further formalization can potentially make WWViews become a part of the official structures of the COP negotiations. This transformation from project to program signifies a shift from individual events to an emerging system of global citizen deliberation in the COP context (Figure 2). While an enduring and effective connection between deliberation and the formal policy process is critical to increasing the political relevance of PE, this relevance poses the challenge of finding and maintaining what Stevenson and Dryzek (2014, p. 24) call a “critical distance”: close enough to be recognized by policymakers, but far enough to retain autonomy from them.

The development of new methods and capacities for international environmental policy is both a pragmatic and political dilemma. Different conceptions of the desired way forward prevail among various institutional players: practitioners such as DBT, national and global policy actors, and academic observers, to name a few. A conceptual model of the capacity expectations is depicted in Figure 3.

Communicating about Biodiversity, Public Engagement, and Climate ChangeClick to view larger

Figure 3. A map of governance capacities.

Looking at the capacities just described, we observe that academic observers tend to have higher expectations of the qualities and dynamic capacities of WWViews than is currently feasible. In particular, academic critique keeps emphasizing the importance of developing the reflexive capacity by including more discourses and alternative arguments from the publics consulted. Continuity, on the other hand, is a commonly shared concern for most actors: and for the satisfaction of these parties, WWViews has gone further in political institutionalization of PE than probably has ever been seen before.

The process of innovating global governance structures and approaches is far from smooth. As we have discussed in two books on WWViews (Rask, Worthington, & Lammi, 2012; Rask & Worthington, 2015), this field is characterized by conflicting conceptions of the appropriate methods, rationales, and expected outcomes of PE activity. Among the main dividing lines are policymakers’ persistent interest in measuring and increasing public awareness, which is linked to politicians’ and UNFCCC/CBD supporters’ of WWViews calls for quantitative results, while participants indicate in comments and elsewhere that they want something that they shape more profoundly, and that includes listening to their voices rather than just counting their votes. The latter is echoed in the scholarly comments, presuming that the best that PE can do to contribute to international environmental policy lies exactly in the creative ideas born in the fertile grounds of deliberation. These ideas can help dissolve political impasses by proposing new solutions or creatively redefining policy issues. An example from World Wide Views on Global Warming, (where citizens made recommendations for addressing global climate change) was a suggestion for the carbon footprinting of products, which takes a novel approach rarely considered at the COP negotiation tables (Lammi, Repo, & Timonen, 2012).

New competences and actions created by WWViews have been abundant. They will continue to play an increasing role in the future work enhancement of international environmental governance.


In this article, we have introduced the concept and practice of PE and discussed how it compares to more traditional means of collecting public views on policy issues (Table 1). As we have seen, PE relies on particular methodologies that are increasingly oriented to a system for deliberation rather than one-off events, and that emphasize two-way communication, focus on societal challenges, and encourage methodological hybridization and development of new ways of political representation (Figure 2).

We have also discussed the ways in which mini-public-based PE, exemplified by WWViews, can help to address wicked problems such as biodiversity and climate change. We found that, when done well, PE can improve the quality, legitimacy, and capacity of decision-making (Dietz & Stern, 2008). The quality of decision-making can improve as a “greater variety of messages” is included in the empowered spaces of policymaking (Lindblom, 1991, p. 293; Stevenson & Dryzek, 2014). Legitimacy improves as well, along with a new model of international environmental policy, where there is room not only for the representation of national delegates and powerful advocacy and civil society groups, but also for ordinary citizens or the global publics (Figure 1). Even more so, the quality and legitimacy of decision-making increases when there is evidence that the new discourses really enhance existing discourses of policymaking (Table 2).

Finally, we discussed the ways in which PE can contribute to new governance capacities. Comparing WWViews to a recent international study of innovative PE, we drew a capacity map of WWViews that depicts alternative ways in which PE can be seen as a process, which contributes to better governance capacities (Figure 3). In particular, we found that WWViews has been effective in increasing the dimensions of transdisciplinarity, action orientation, and competence building—all aspects that are highly important in the process of implementing international environmental policy decisions.

Overall, we found that the various synergies and capacities that WWViews has fostered are part of an emerging deliberative system that puts citizen perspectives at the core, not the periphery, of international environmental policy. WWViews is far from a perfect model for the United Nations or other agencies of international policy, but the model is strikingly unique, and it provides an important baseline for future democratization and capacity development of international environmental policy.


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                                                                                                      Appendix: World Wide Views Alliance Members


                                                                                                      World Wide Views on

                                                                                                      Global Warming


                                                                                                      Climate and Energy



                                                                                                      Jeunes Volontaires pour L’Environnement


                                                                                                      Burkina Faso

                                                                                                      Agence CORADE





                                                                                                      Action Pour un Development Equitable, Integre et Durable




                                                                                                      Cape Verde

                                                                                                      Association pour la Defense de Environnement et le Developpment



                                                                                                      Université de N’Djamena

                                                                                                      Democratic Republic of the Congo

                                                                                                      CODED; RCP Network; Jeunes Volontaires pour L’Environnment; Actions Communautaires pour le Developpment Integral


                                                                                                      Organisation des Laics Engages du Sacre Coeur pour le Developpment del Kimbondo



                                                                                                      Care International in Egypt



                                                                                                      Ethiopian Youth Climate Coalition


                                                                                                      The British Council, Ethiopia



                                                                                                      Association Gabonaise pour les Nations Unies



                                                                                                      Young Volunteers for the Environment—The Gambia



                                                                                                      Community and Family Aid Foundation



                                                                                                      National Environment Trust Fund



                                                                                                      Region Atsinanana


                                                                                                      Region Vakinakarata


                                                                                                      British Council Malawi



                                                                                                      Association Malienne d’Eveil au Dèveloppemente Durable


                                                                                                      Gouvernance en Afrique



                                                                                                      Organisation nongouvernementale (ONG) BiodiverCites


                                                                                                      L’Association des Enseignants des Sciences de la Vie et de la Terre au Maroc



                                                                                                      Arquitectos sin Fronteras Espana—Grupo Mozambique


                                                                                                      Impacto—Projectos e Estudos Ambientas



                                                                                                      Reseau de la Jeunesse Nigerienne sur les Changements Climatiques



                                                                                                      National Centre for Technology Management


                                                                                                      Obafemi Awolowo University



                                                                                                      Nile Basin Discourse Forum



                                                                                                      Université Gaston Berger



                                                                                                      Environment Education Section, Ministry of Environment, Energy, and Climate Change


                                                                                                      South Africa

                                                                                                      Ikwhezi Community College of Education


                                                                                                      Department of Education and Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, and Rural Development


                                                                                                      OneWorld Sustainable Investments



                                                                                                      Jeunes Volontaires pour L’Environnement



                                                                                                      Monastir Regional Council



                                                                                                      Choice Africa



                                                                                                      Food Rights Alliance, Uganda



                                                                                                      Talent Africa



                                                                                                      Young Volunteers for the Environment—Zimbabwe





                                                                                                      Groupe Energies Renouvelables, Environnement et Solidarités



                                                                                                      Integrated Community and Industrial Development Initiative Bangladesh


                                                                                                      University of Dhaka



                                                                                                      Global Village of Beijing; Friends of Nature


                                                                                                      State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences


                                                                                                      UNEP—Tongji Institute for Environment for Sustainable Development



                                                                                                      French School of Henri Matisse



                                                                                                      Centre for Environment Education (CEE)—Bhubaneswar


                                                                                                      Centre for Environment Education (CEE)—Dehli


                                                                                                      Centre for Environment Education (CEE)—Ahmedabad


                                                                                                      Centre for Environment Education (CEE)—Chennai


                                                                                                      Centre for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharial Nehru University


                                                                                                      Bangalore, Centre for Social Markets


                                                                                                      Energy and Resources Institute



                                                                                                      Dana Mitra Lingkungan (DML)


                                                                                                      Peduli Konservasi Alam Indonesia Foundation


                                                                                                      Resource Foundation for Environmental Partnership



                                                                                                      Eghtesad Online News Agency



                                                                                                      Center for the Study of Communication Design, Osaka University


                                                                                                      Japan Science and Technology Agency


                                                                                                      National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation



                                                                                                      Kuwait Scientific Center



                                                                                                      Malaysian Nature Society


                                                                                                      The Maldives

                                                                                                      Strength of Society




                                                                                                      Plateforme Citoyenne



                                                                                                      Green Lotus



                                                                                                      ForestAction Nepal




                                                                                                      Sustainable Development Policy Institute


                                                                                                      Palestinian Territory

                                                                                                      Applied Research Institute—Jerusalem ARIJ




                                                                                                      Seameo Innotech


                                                                                                      World Agroforestry Centre


                                                                                                      South Korea

                                                                                                      Catholic University of Korea


                                                                                                      Sri Lanka

                                                                                                      Munasinghe Institute for Development


                                                                                                      Chinese Taipei

                                                                                                      National Taiwan University


                                                                                                      Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy


                                                                                                      College of Social Sciences, National Taiwan University



                                                                                                      Center for Agricultural Research and Ecological Studies (CARES)



                                                                                                      Urban-Rural Solutions in Collaboration with the Institute of Meteorology



                                                                                                      Australia and Oceania


                                                                                                      Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney



                                                                                                      University of Fiji




                                                                                                      Institute for Technology Assessment, Austrian Academy of Science



                                                                                                      Institute of Society and Technology, Flemish Parliament



                                                                                                      Social Innovation Incubator “Munja”



                                                                                                      Danish Board of Technology





                                                                                                      National Consumer Research Centre, Finland





                                                                                                      Cité des Sciences et de I’Industrie


                                                                                                      Conseil regional Nord-Pas de Calais





                                                                                                      Grenoble Métropole




                                                                                                      Missions Publiques




                                                                                                      Regional Council of Reunion Island





                                                                                                      Geo-Eco Alliance



                                                                                                      Independent Institute for Environmental Issues


                                                                                                      Institute of Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis, Research Center Karlsruhe


                                                                                                      Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis


                                                                                                      Leibniz Verbund für Biodiversität, Leibniz Association


                                                                                                      Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Research




                                                                                                      Senckenberg World of Biodiversity



                                                                                                      Medical School of National and Kapodistrian University of Athens



                                                                                                      Region Abruzzo


                                                                                                      Faculty of Political Science, University of Bologna


                                                                                                      Region Toscana



                                                                                                      Rathenau Institute



                                                                                                      Norwegian Board of Technology



                                                                                                      Instituto de Ciencias Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa



                                                                                                      Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru


                                                                                                      Friends of the Baltic



                                                                                                      Russian Socio-Ecological Union Climate Secretariat



                                                                                                      “la Caixa” Banking Foundation Asociacion Espanola de Comunicacion Cientifica


                                                                                                      Research Centre for Energy, Environment, and Technology, Ministry of Science and Innovation


                                                                                                      Instituto Estudios Cientificas y Tecnologicos, University of Salamanca


                                                                                                      Organizacion de Estados Iberoamericanos






                                                                                                      TA-Swiss—Center for Technology Assessment



                                                                                                      Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats


                                                                                                      United Kingdom



                                                                                                      Keep Scotland Beautiful—ECO Schools Scotland


                                                                                                      North America


                                                                                                      BioDiversity Caucus—Réseau Canadien de l’Environnement


                                                                                                      Concordia Science Journalism Project, Concordia University


                                                                                                      Halton Peel BioDiversity Network


                                                                                                      Office de Consultation Publique de Montreal


                                                                                                      University of Calgary, Faculty of Communication and Culture



                                                                                                      University of Waterloo and Balsillie School of International Affairs


                                                                                                      United States

                                                                                                      Arizona—Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (CSPO) at Arizona State University




                                                                                                      California—Pomona College


                                                                                                      California—Loka Institute




                                                                                                      Colorado—Colorado School of Mines




                                                                                                      District of Columbia—CSPO


                                                                                                      District of Columbia—Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST)


                                                                                                      Massachusetts—Boston University


                                                                                                      Massachusetts—Brookfield Institute


                                                                                                      Massachusetts—Museum of Science, Boston



                                                                                                      Massachusetts—University of Massachusetts, Amherst—Science, Technology, and Society Initiative


                                                                                                      Minnesota—Science Museum of Minnesota

                                                                                                      Minnesota—Jefferson Center


                                                                                                      Minnesota—Macalester College

                                                                                                      Virginia—Virginia Tech


                                                                                                      National Partners, South America, and Caribbean


                                                                                                      Red Argentina de Municpios frente al Cambio Climatico



                                                                                                      Caribbean Youth Environmental Network (CYEN) Bahamas



                                                                                                      CYEN Barbados



                                                                                                      La Liga de Defensa del Medio Ambiente—PROMETA




                                                                                                      Center for Sustainbility Studies, Getulio Vargas Foundation


                                                                                                      Instituto Brasilero da Diversidade


                                                                                                      Museum of Life—Oswaldo Cruz Foundation


                                                                                                      Observatorio do Clima



                                                                                                      Centro Shalom—Chile


                                                                                                      ONG Adapt-Chile


                                                                                                      Costa Rica

                                                                                                      Costa Rica Limpia


                                                                                                      Dominican Republic

                                                                                                      Fundacion Global Democracia y Desarollo


                                                                                                      Pan American Development Foundation—Dominican Republic



                                                                                                      CYEN Grenada



                                                                                                      Centro Mesoamericano sobre Tecnologia Apropriada



                                                                                                      CYEN Guyana



                                                                                                      CYEN Haiti



                                                                                                      Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú


                                                                                                      Saint Lucia

                                                                                                      St. Lucia National Trust




                                                                                                      Saint Vincent and the Grenadines







                                                                                                      (1.) For other definitions of PE, see, for example, “What Is Public Engagement?” at the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement website (; and “Why Public Engagement Matters,” American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)—Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology (n.a.) (

                                                                                                      (2.) For the results of WWViews on Climate and Energy, see

                                                                                                      (3.) Formally, these legally binding agreements are the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Both were developed under UN auspices in the late 1980s and early 1990s and were opened for signature and ratification by countries (“Parties,” in UN nomenclature) at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. A Conference of the Parties is held annually by UNFCCC and biannually by CBD. These meetings are designated in a particular way, such as “COP 21,” which was the 21st Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC, held in Paris in 2015.

                                                                                                      (4.) For further information on this methodology, see the home page of the World Wide Views process ( For the evaluation of the first WWViews processes, see Rask et al. (2012); for the second, see Rask and Worthington (2015); for the third, see Goldschmidt and Scheel (2016).

                                                                                                      (5.) Support within Parliament ebbed and flowed with political currents, and after a few close encounters with defunding, DBT was spun off in 2011 as the nonprofit Danish Board of Technology Foundation.

                                                                                                      (6.) For discussions about the representativeness of WWViews, see Goldschmidt et al. (2012), Blue et al. (2012), and Worthington and Rask (2015). A particular question related to the WWViews method is the extent to which panels of 100 citizens can represent national populations. Statistically, a sample size of 1,100 participants is needed for a representative survey of a population of more than 100,000 people, at a +/‒ 3% error rate. The WWViews sample size of 100 people leads to a +/‒ 10% confidence interval, assuming that the panels were composed using random sampling methods (Australian National Statistical Service, 2014). DBT addresses the representation issue in two ways. First, they do not claim that the results are statistically significant, instead arguing that deliberations among a demographically diverse pool of 100 participants “give a credible snap shot of the views of the population of a country or a region in general” (DBT, 2012). Second, they make the “pragmatic” argument that “the sample of citizens can be considered representative to the extent that citizens, organizers, and policy-makers accept that they are” (Bedsted et al., 2012, p. 38).

                                                                                                      (7.) See, for example, the press conference held at UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn shortly after WWViews on Climate and Energy, which featured the WWViews global coordinators and UNFCCC representatives, including Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, at

                                                                                                      (8.) For example, Blue and Medlock (2014, p. 561) describe WWViews as “an innovative and important methodology” in an article where the main argument is that the method is marred by a scientistic presumption that is antidemocratic. A variation of this critique that focuses on the briefing materials provided to participants is presented by Agger et al. (2012).

                                                                                                      (9.) Participants selected an answer from a seven-item scale in which 1 was “strongly disagree,” 4 was “neither agree nor disagree,” and 7 was “strongly agree.” In this analysis, items 6 and 7 are counted as “strongly agree.”

                                                                                                      (10.) Interview of Jørgen Madsen, Danish Board of Technology, by R. Worthington, on January 22, 2010.

                                                                                                      (11.) Anticipation was defined as the capacity for prospective thinking and acting. This is an important capacity, for example, in the identification and conceptualization of issues emerging with scientific and technological innovations. In this sense, anticipation is closely linked to “upstream engagement” (Joly & Kaufmann, 2008).

                                                                                                      (12.) Reflection refers to the capacity to publicly accomplish critical reflective dialogue with relevant stakeholders, who can take the role of the other, develop shared values, and subject their reasoning to public scrutiny.

                                                                                                      (13.) Transdisciplinarity refers to the capacity of holistic thinking and acting by mobilizing knowledge, expertise, and other resources across and beyond scientific disciplines.

                                                                                                      (14.) Continuity refers to the capacity to embed new activities in existing institutions or to build bridges between separate interventions.

                                                                                                      (15.) In the two books on WWViews, we found that spin-offs were, in several national contexts, even more impressive instances of the resource mobilization than those stirred by the direct objectives of WWViews. Some examples related to WWViews 2 included a yearlong middle school curriculum in Denver, Colorado; a visitor-driven “Choose Your Own Biodiversity Adventure” at the Museum of Science in Boston; a citizen forum organized by the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Miraikan, a suburb of Tokyo, to create its own biodiversity policy; and a citizenship project at Arizona State University, where students in zoos and aquariums engaged in a policy simulation about biodiversity loss (Gano & Sittenfeld, 2015). It is important to note that similar examples were related to the WWViews 3, and typically, innovative PE processes more generally (Rask et al., 2016).