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Abstract

A large body of scientific literature on public participation research evaluates specific methods, describes outcomes and impacts of a process or deals with participants’ and officials’ expectations. Yet, there is surprisingly little work on a key part of most participatory processes that deal with complex issues: the information passed to participants. Topics like Global Warming cannot be grasped easily. Even if global warming is happening very quickly on a geological time scale, for human beings it is not easily perceivable. Such a discrepancy between everyday experiences and scientific knowledge can influence one’s opinion tremendously. Therefore, providing sound information and respecting the power of information is essential for meaningful outcomes of participatory processes. In this paper we examine different communication and information pathways within participatory processes. As the main object of interest, we analyzed ‘World Wide Views on Global Warming’. In this distinct process of information and deliberation, citizens formulated recommendations for the decision makers of the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen and voted on different aspects of how to deal with global warming. Results from this process connected to insights from a literature review, contribute to a refined picture of the role information plays within participatory processes and social learning.

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