Participation and Sustainable Development: The Role and Challenges of Mediating Agents

  • Jeppe Læssøe

This chapter proposes a transgression of narrow fixations on top-down versus bottomup approaches to citizen participation. Even though there is good reason to attack top-down approaches, I argue that when, for example, environmental sociologists turn their criticism of the top-down into an idealisation of the bottom-up, they are stuck with a simplistic model. Moreover, when confronted with the quest for sustainable development, an emancipatory conception of participation can neglect the tension between participation as a defence of democratic rights, and participation as a tool for promoting learning processes that aims to replace narrow interests with a collective responsibility for a sustainable future. In this context, this chapter takes a closer look at a new kind of professional agent faced with this tension and charged with implementing participative processes on sustainable development. These professional agents are conceptualised as ‘mediators’, and their role is differentiated into ‘networkers’, ‘interpreters’, and ‘facilitators’. Based on examples from Denmark, this chapter outlines four dilemmas with which these kinds of mediating change agents have to cope and the qualitative differences between them.

Keywords democracy, sustainability, mediators, dilemmas, green guides


Sustainable Development Local Authority Participative Process Local Stakeholder Citizen Participation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeppe Læssøe
    • 1
  1. 1.Danish School of EducationUniversity of AarhusCopenhagenDenmark

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