Public engagement in global context: Understanding the UK shift towards dialogue and deliberation
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This paper attempts to contextualise the public engagement agenda in the UK. It is an introductory review of literature on citizen participation, deliberative democracy and dialogue studies, as well as of key policy statements and initiatives globally and in the UK. Let me explain the motivation behind this simplified synthesis of such a vast field. The more I speak to public engagement practitioners the more I realise that there is a remarkable disconnection between different areas of practice. For instance, those who work in the area of science public engagement often ignore the wealth of expertise available in other fields (i.e. local community engagement). Those who work in community engagement, for instance, ignore what researchers and practitioners of deliberative democracy are doing. You get the picture; there is a remarkable disconnection between fields that could work in synergy. This situation creates missed opportunities. Public engagement practitioners face similar challenges and often struggle without knowing that sometimes they may be trying to reinvent the wheel. For instance, science engagement practitioners currently face normative dilemmas that have been already addressed by deliberative scholars (i.e. inclusion; legitimacy). Accordingly, this review introduces the broad context of public engagement by outlining key theoretical debates, as well as drawing global and UK trends in terms of policy ad practice. It should serve as an invitation to further reading (thus the exhaustive referencing), but also as a quick introduction that connects diverse areas of public engagement, inscribing them into their wider context, namely, democratic practice in the 21st century.