Phiala Mehring, Loddon Valley Residents Association and UoR PhD student, talks about her new research paper.
This paper ‘What is going wrong with community engagement’ explores how the differing nature of flood communities (we are very heterogenous) impacts their construction of engagement and partnership working and contrasts it with the ‘engagement’ that they experience.
The paper discusses the framing of FRM over the last few centuries and how this has led to technocratic and top down ways of working. Despite the push in the last few decades for more collaborative ways of working, this technocratic framing prevails both in FRM practices and flood communities’ perceptions of FRM. This presents communities with a series of barriers when endeavouring to manage their flood risk or get their flood risk managed.
Through our research we have underscored the need for much more democratised ways of working that start with simply listening and developing two-way communication and lead to more equitable partnerships and a much more complete understanding of ‘flooding’ in its widest construction.
Over the years I have been on a personal flood journey from starting out with a contractual view of FRM: it’s all the responsibility of the flood authorities (to whom I pay my taxes), through to engaging with other stakeholders of the River Loddon (in particular https://lfcc.org.uk/) and understanding that FRM only works if it is done taking an integrated approach. And this, very much, includes equitable partnership working amongst ALL stakeholders of flooding. An approach which must appreciate that all ways knowing flooding are vitally important. No-one’s knowledge is ‘anecdotal’ (nearly got that printed on a T-shirt I heard it so often).
Through my work as a Trustee of the National Flood Forum I have seen that we are, unfortunately, quite a long way off equitable partnership working which excludes knowledge hierarchies. But it is through my PhD research that I have been able to understand in more detail some of the problems and barriers that flood communities encounter when ‘trying to get something done’.
The paper can be accessed here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-going-wrong-community-engagement-phiala-mehring/. I am very keen to hear your views, learn your experiences and hear other stories about engagement.
Read more about Phiala and her work on her previous blog.