Local participation in complex technological projects as bridging between different communities in Belgium
Koen Sips, Marc Craps, Art De Wulf
Local community participation in complex technological projects, where technological innovations and risks need to be managed, is notoriously challenging. Relations with local inhabitants easily take the form of exclusion, protest, controversy or litigation. While such projects represent opportunities for creating knowledge, business or societal benefits from the perspective of the community of driving actors, they often represent a potential threat to health, safety or prosperity from the perspective of the community of people who happen to live near the facilities. What are the challenges in dealing with this difference and which practices are helpful in bridging this gap? In this paper we analyse the functioning of an organised group of local inhabitants in the development of an Enhanced Landfill Mining project in Belgium where previously landfilled waste is going to be used for recycling and energy production. We find that setting up a multi-actor platform, organising a group of involved locals, combining formal and informal communication channels, maintaining a mutually credible dialogue and involving knowledgeable local people as bridging figures are important ingredients to bridge the gap in this case. We also discuss the emerging challenges of local community participation for all actors involved and especially for the organised group of ‘Locals’ who risk to become a victim of its own success by being incorporated too much in the project consortium and leaving a new gap to be bridged with the rest of the local community.
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