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The Low-down from DUST's 2nd Consortium Meeting

For sustainability transitions that work for everyone to become a reality, collaboration is key. That's why in DUST we bring together expertise from academia, policymaking, and civil society, across all of our case-study regions. Recently, the partners engaged with DUST gathered for our second online consortium meeting, marking a pivotal moment in the project as we enter our second year and begin our regional experiments. All project partners were represented, along with esteemed members of DUST's advisory board, to share work and exchange ideas. Interactive presentations ignited rich discussions, propelling us forward in our collective aims. Read on for highlights! 


Civic participation from a policy perspective  

The first presentation delved into the civic participation of the least engaged communities in sustainability transition initiatives from a policy perspective. Through a policy lens, partners from Strathclyde University shared the initial outcomes of DUST's case study research focused on factors influencing the uptake and quality of participatory democracy. From motivations and barriers to the methods employed, research also identified examples of participatory democratic practices challenging existing power structures. The presentation sparked a dialogue enriched by feedback from the DUST advisory board, prompting us to dive deeper into the organisational dynamics of power and community capacities. It urged partners to examine cultural barriers and historical contexts in how participation is understood and defined.   


Challenges and opportunities in citizen engagement  

The discussion grew to focus on the difficulties of engaging citizens at the grassroots level of decision-making. Proposals and policies often originate at higher levels, leaving communities feeling disengaged, disenfranchised and distrustful of institutions and authorities. Yet, amidst these challenges lies an opportunity to bridge the gap between policymakers and citizens, transcending language barriers to foster genuine communication and understanding. As one partner questioned the illusion of participation, we discussed alternative stages for citizen engagement, that aim to reshape the landscape of policymaking.  


Mapping Territorial Capital: Integrating Community and Policy Perspectives  

In the next presentation, the consortium explored the concept of 'territorial capital' as a nexus between policy and community perspectives. Dr. Cristina Cavaco, another member of DUST's advisory board, guided partners through an interactive dialogue, shedding light on the instrumental role of this concept in shaping place-based approaches. As partners examined the epistemic foundations and practical applications of territorial capital, partners sought to empower communities through informed decision-making processes. This led to presentations and further discussions on the ways in which the DUST project plans to digitally map territorial capital, using innovative techniques to analyse qualitative data from our regional experiments. 


Crafting Stories of Just Sustainability  

Based on previous discussions about the role and perspectives of practitioners and researchers in participation, the last session of the day explored positionalities in DUST, through storytelling. Partners worked together to craft imaginary stories that represented the experiences of the least engaged communities with policy actions for sustainability transitions, in our case-study regions. Here, the consortium stepped into the shoes of those impacted by policies, to reflect on how their stories are understood. These stories serve as the cornerstone for future discussions on the positioning of the project in the evolving situations in our case-study regions.  


Any moment that the dedicated partners in the DUST project can come together as a team produces rich discussion, important reflections, and actionable outcomes. Stay tuned to find out how the learnings from the second consortium meeting will impact our regional experiments! 


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