Planning with People: Reflections on Participation and Learning on Deliberative Walks

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


This chapter focuses on the participatory learning that takes place in ‘Deliberative Walks’, a novel method first proposed by Ehrström and Raisio (2014). I will outline what this involves and the impact Deliberative Walks have, and might have. These reflections builds on previous work in which a colleague and I analyzed two case studies (Raisio & Ehrström, 2017), exploring the potential of Deliberative Walks alongside findings from a pilot study on an initiative called Studentlab Deliberative Walks. 

Instead of just articulating viewpoints, a deliberative process also creates opportunities for these viewpoints to change (Curato et al., 2017). Thus, there is need to develop deliberative methods that increase participants’ learning not only of issues, but of participation itself. Understanding participatory democracy includes how to argue, why to argue, when to argue, and with whom to argue.

Deliberative Walks include a strong element of variation, and this, I argue, improves the learning process. Interviews with participants especially highlight the Development Walk element, that is, in situ-observations, as the most important element in enhancing learning. 

From a democratic point of view, it is vital to note that participation and deliberation based on interacting with experts in “classrooms” and reading texts, tend to strengthen the position of the already powerful, that is, the well-educated, -well-off and well-positioned citizens. For other groups, this challenges their rights and possibilities to participate in an equal way. Facilitators are instructed to distribute speaking turns equally and emphasize different ways of learning, but they cannot change the fact that participants differ in background and experience of theoretical learning situations.

The physical walk element may be the most important, and obviously the most appreciated, part of a Deliberative Walk experience, but I argue that it actually is the variation and combination of methods that is the most important feature of Deliberative Walks. I further argue that this method is well suited for civic participation and planning processes. 

Deliberative Walks include elements that in this paper are visualized in a Deliberative Walks Learning Process Wheel. 

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDoing Critical and Creative Research in Adult Education -
Subtitle of host publication Case Studies in Methodology and Theory
EditorsBernie Grummell, Fergall Finnegan
Place of PublicationNijhoff
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-42075-5
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-42074-8
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book

Publication series

Name Case Studies in Methodology and Theory
ISSN (Electronic)2542-9345


  • Civic Learning Processes
  • Civic Participation
  • Deliberative Walks
  • Deliberative democracy
  • Place-based learning


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