Handbook of Sustainability Assessment
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Handbook of Sustainability Assessment

Edited by Angus Morrison-Saunders, Jenny Pope and Alan Bond

The Handbook of Sustainability Assessment introduces the theory and practice of sustainability assessment and showcases the state-of-the-art research. The aim is to provide inspiration and guidance to students, academics and practitioners alike and to contribute to the enhancement of sustainability assessment practice worldwide. It emphasises how traditional impact assessment practices can be enhanced to contribute to sustainable outcomes. Featuring original contributions from leading sustainability assessment researchers and practitioners, it forms part of the Research Handbooks on Impact Assessment series.
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Chapter 16: A deliberative collaborative governance approach to sustainability assessment

Janette Hartz-Karp, Jenny Pope and Svetla Petrova


This chapter is aligned with the understanding of sustainability assessment as a process that aims to ensure a proposed development delivers a positive contribution to sustainability, which we consider to mean increased resilience and the potential to deliver enduring human wellbeing. However, within this broad goal, sustainability remains a contested concept, and such high-level definitions can disguise the inherent dynamic tensions between the social, cultural, environmental and economic dimensions that are specific to a particular context. When these context-specific dynamic tensions are being addressed, power relations are critical and must be managed. We argue, therefore, that empowering participation, which is inclusive or representative, deliberative and influential, is vital to every step of sustainability assessment. The kind of engagement that is required goes well beyond what is typically undertaken in impact assessment (see the critique in Hartz-Karp and Pope, 2011). The purpose of this chapter is to explore the potential of emerging forms of decision making and governance to contribute to the evolving theory and practice of sustainability assessment. Specifically we explore the concept of deliberative collaborative governance (DCG), which is a logical hybrid of two fields, deliberative democracy and collaborative governance (Gollagher and Hartz-Karp, 2013). The DCG model, the key tenets of which are described in section 16.2, illustrates how shared responsibility, authority and power, coupled with a pragmatic, problem-solving orientation to wicked problems that emphasises deliberative analysis, fact finding and policy evaluation, can direct decision making towards sustainability.

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