By David D. Hart, Bridie McGreavy, Anthony Sutton, Gabrielle V. Hillyer and Darren J. Ranco
In an increasingly polarized world, how can partnerships between communities and universities strengthen the kinds of deliberative and democratic practices that might help address many local and global challenges? How can such partnerships improve practices that involve listening and responding across differences (the deliberative part)? How can they help find ways to make shared decisions and take joint actions, knowing that complete agreement or mutual understanding may never be possible (the democratic part)?
We have reflected on our partnerships with people from Maine communities and Wabanaki (“People of the Dawnland”) Tribal Nations in North America, especially regarding challenges faced by communities that harvest clams and other bivalve mollusks from the intertidal mudflats along the length of this region’s enormous coastline (Hart et al., 2022). Here we present some of the key lessons from that work.
Some challenges facing local communities are less about competing ideologies and more about pragmatic concerns such as reducing water pollution, which can make it easier for people to listen to and learn about each other in the context of community planning.