An investigation into community responses to localised urban flooding: the potential role of ecological citizenship (EC)

Purves, Dawn (2022) An investigation into community responses to localised urban flooding: the potential role of ecological citizenship (EC). (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This study acknowledges the significant impact of climate change, specifically on resulting flooding and explores why it proves difficult to engender action at the community level. It aims to develop an understanding of the ‘value action gaps’1 and “misperceptions” 2 that currently restrict climate change adaptation within communities. It investigates whether ecological citizenship (EC) could provide a suitable framework for understanding the wider issues around localised flooding, in particular low impact sustainable urban drainage (LISUD). It asks whether active participatory social learning can overturn individual or group behaviours and practices to improve EC. By investigating behavioural change theories, it is hoped to evolve strategies to tackle the gap between intentions and actions. It enquires as to how and if consensus planning facilitates greater personal responsibility; whether top-down or bottom-up approaches are more successful; and seeks to understand whether engagement delivered as active participatory social learning can overcome a reluctance to act. Based on an extensive review of relevant literature, online surveys and questionnaires were distributed to existing UK communities chosen based on location, the likelihood of flooding and the degree to which they were personally inclined to undertake pro-environment actions. Analysis of the responses demonstrated a good awareness of the issues and an understanding of sustainable measures that could be implemented individually or collectively to restrict flooding. However, implementation proved to be constrained by ‘value action gaps’, and ‘misperceptions’. Focus group workshops and semi-structured interviews were also undertaken to provide an in-depth understanding of the barriers to motivation to determine drivers that would facilitate action. A study of the construction, implementation and operation of prototype planned adaptations was undertaken to interrogate the adopted strategies and their success in overcoming the value action gaps. The study illustrates how these strategies can provide best practice guidance to LISUD, including future replication abroad. The results indicate that communities of practice (CoPs) undertaking social learning as part of wider consensus planning, may reduce those “misperceptions”. It is therefore recommended that CoPs are encouraged to participate in consensus planning around EC communication. Further research is needed to identify other factors that could strengthen the effectiveness of the EC process as a theory of motivation.

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