Conceptualizing transnational democratic networks: a case study of world wide views on biodiversity

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Implications for World Wide Views

Bent Flyvbjerg offers questions for a phronetic researcher, the results of the research project lead me to turn to the network and ask: “Where are we going?” and more specifically “Where are we going with transnational democracy?” (Flyvbjerg 2001, 60, 145). Where is the network situated in theories of transnational democracy, and where may it be headed? Coded content analysis and transcribed interviews revealed a high frequency of Transnational Discursive Democracy, especially in the site host and DBT design levels of analysis. With majority of the total codes being supportive of evidence of Transnational Discursive Democratic design, we may assume that this theory speaks most adequately to World Wide Views on Biodiversity. As the results show strong relations to Transnational Discursive Democracy, what may theory teach practice?

For one, success in feedback of educational materials across all levels of analysis shows strong support for and possibly hints at expanding the dissemination of the education materials for practices outside of the Day of Deliberation. Sharing of educational material will not only create new cells for knowledge and interest but will expand the deliberative core. Citizens and site host managers should be encouraged to share the educational materials and experience beyond the events of a single day. Through frequency and practice, the network has the ability to strengthen its discursive power. Discursive power is important for the understandings of complex ecological, political, and social issues and should be encouraged to be used in alternative ways, beyond the day program. According to Dryzek:

The idea of a deliberative system begins with the recognition that a deliberative democracy cannot easily be sought in a single forum. Instead, it should be sought in the contributions of multiple sites. Rhetoric is essential when it comes to communication between different elements in a deliberative system, because those elements will often feature differently situated actors with different perspectives, subscribing to different discourses. (Dryzek 2010, 66)

To begin to cross discourses in lieu of global deliberations on ecological, political, and social issues, the rhetoric to bridge these discourses must be consistent. The information packets serve as a rhetorical device for the network, bridging together parties that may have not otherwise been affiliated. Such a tool should be encouraged to use in “multiple sites.”

Furthermore, it appears the WWViews network is working towards a continued expansion of the project to incorporate more partners and be representative at more Conference of Parties. Less strict of procedures, such as in design, may alleviate some financial burdens on individual host sites as well as allow for a greater accommodation of variety of participants and site locations. As the network organized through snowballing procedures of discursive and affiliate connections, the design of the network should allow for greater flexibility in organization and design to meet the goals of extending the network. “Central to discursive democracy is the idea of engagement and contestation across multiple discourses in the public sphere,” and a dominating discourse within a network may be constraining (Dryzek 2010, 127). Providing greater room for network partner input and allowing for even more flexibility in design may cast a wider net in the deliberative system, extending scopes of discourse. Caution is thrown to casting too wide of a net and losing credibility in international institutions. The structure of the network, Day of Deliberation, and dissemination builds credibility in the process and citizen results in international and transnational discussions. As shown, the CBD advised the continuation of WWViews involvement in the conference creating future accreditation of the network in the negotiations.

Finding answers to Flyvbjerg’s initial value-rational question for guidance of the phronetic researcher may entail looking at World Wide Views in its shared characteristics to Transnational Discursive Democratic theory in praxis. As a deliberative system, World Wide Views should aim to expand its discursive reach for upcoming projects. The methods of doing so may include the scaling back of DBTF guidelines, topics of discussion, or an increase in guiding post-deliberation processes and individual site host reach. Are there any shifts of power dynamics in these suggested adjustments? Is the track desirable, and based upon this position, what should be done?

The analysis of World Wide Views on Biodiversity finds that transnational democracy pragmatically applied most closely resembles John Dryzek’s theory of Transnational Discursive Democracy. Site hosts and citizens very much valued the education material provided for the deliberations. The network generally formed through snowball affects rather than institutional recommendation or design. Interested parties came together over a shared project. Furthermore, the World Wide Views process is understood to be an evolving initiative. Through progress and trial, the network will feed back to the process with intentions for improvement, as this analysis intends to do. With theory applied to practice, four recommendations are made to expand the discursive power and reach of World Wide Views: (1) Scale back DBTF guidelines, (2) create greater open space for topics of discussion, (3) DBTF should support post-deliberation processes, (4) increase in guiding individual site host reach. These recommendations are based off of the desire for the network to extend is discursive power and reach through expansion within the deliberative system.

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1 For the purposes of this paper, the concepts of (1) an anthropocene and (2) global ecological crises will be accepted as a frame accepted by the Earth Systems Governance report (Biermann et al. 2012).

2 “The Project,” World Wide Views on Biodiversity, accessed May 10, 2014.

3 The first transnational democratic event occurred in 2009: World Wide Views on Global Warming. See Rask and Worthington, 2012.

4 During the World Wide Views on Biodiversity project and this analysis, the Danish Board of Technology was defunded by the Danish Parliament. The Danish Board of Technology (DBT) then became the Danish Board of Technology Foundation DBTF). Both names are used in the report according to appropriateness with the timeliness of the shift.

5 Throughout the analysis, World Wide Views on Biodiversity (WWVB) and World Wide Views alliance/network (WWViews) are used in reference to two different entities: WWVB is the specific network and event around Biodiversity held in September 2012. WWViews refers to the network partners who have been involved with the project either before or since the Biodiversity event.

6 While a theory of communitarianism maintains factions and contestations within the theory at it’s own right, we may generally understand communitarianism as a relationship of mutual support of and for the “community” (Bronner 1999, 41-54).

7 The initial organizing of the network included sites in Bangladesh and Australia; both withdrew from the process due to limitations on funding and institutional support.


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