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    Review of 'Widening participation in community-based disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in Japan'

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    This paper is very interesting, valuable and offers a fresh view and approach to study how to improv
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    Widening participation in community-based disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in Japan

    This paper discusses community participation drawing on ongoing disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation projects in the communities affected by the Heavy Rain Event of 2018 in western Japan. By ‘DRR’, the paper supports the perspective of ‘DRR including CCA’. ‘Participatory’ approaches have become a mainstream methodology for community-based DRR as advocated in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The existing participation literature addresses either the types of participation or ‘success’ factors for participation. The paper proposes there is also a challenge of ‘widening participation’, particularly in the initiatives that are already recognised as ‘good practices’. Originally widening participation was a higher education policy in the UK aiming to broaden the demographic composition of the student base. Borrowing this notion, the paper identifies how each project encourages non-participants to get involved in the project activities. The paper also draws on machizukuri [community development], which has increasingly become an overarching social policy integrating health, welfare, education and DRR. Participation is emphasised as a requisite of machizukuri in developing a resilient and sustainable community and ultimately, a democratic society.

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      This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at www.scienceopen.com.

      Earth & Environmental sciences,Social & Behavioral Sciences
      participatory approaches,widening participation,DRR including CCA,participation,Climate,Sustainable development,community-based DRR and CCA

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      Review of

      Title: Widening participation in community-based disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in Japan
      AuthorsKaori Kitagawa, Subhajyoti Samaddar


      General assessment: Uniqueness and value of this study

      As a researcher who has long experience in studying community-based participatory efforts particularly in Japan,  how to strategically “improve participation” has been a keen concern of mine.  Especially in Japan, how communities can better cope with disaster risk reduction combined with climate change adaptation is a challenging question.  We need more integrative, transdisciplinary research. Therefore, I find this type of research very relevant and timely.  This research intends to provide a valuable, challenging approach to transfer knowledge and experience from UK’s “widening participation” to Japan’s “community-based DRR.”  I infer that “widening participation” is the approach the authors have chosen to rigorously discuss “improve participation,” and then apply to Japan’s “community-based DRR.

      This paper concludes by discussing two broad overarching emphases that could be transferrable in widening participation beyond the context of Japan. The first is the idea of ‘lowering the hurdle’. The other emphasis is relational significance. ‘To be connected [tsunagaru]’ is probably the most frequently used term. the approaches of ‘lowering the hurdle’ and ‘people first’  These findings are considered very simple and rather easy to practice.

        For the purpose of further clarifications, useful for the reviewer and the reader, let me propose the following frame of reference.


      Frame of Reference Proposed for Clarifications                              

       Based on my interpretation of this research which  challenges us to draw on transdisciplinary, cross-cultural knowledge (and experience) transfer efforts, I have developed a frame of reference for clarifications. (see Table 1.)


         Table 1 Intended challenges of Knowledge Transfer (as interpreted by Okada)

      Widening participation (WP) in UK  transfer to⇒ WP in Japan

      A.  Higher education at_ university  ⇒Community-based DRR practice

      B.  Good practice but a barrier remains ⇒Good practice but a barrier remains

      C.  UK’s participatory model     ⇒Japan’s participatory model

      D.  Democratic society         ⇒Democratic society

      E. Findings (Return to UK?)    ⇔ Findings (transfer to other cases in Japan? )

      Based on the above frame of reference, here are a list of questions and clrafications:

      (Question A)


      A-1 Please explain how different it is between  “Widening Participation (originally) developed for higher education_at_university in UK,” and the one the authors have applied to Japanese DRR community practices?


      A-2  The authors have applied “the notion of (UK’s) Widening Participation. (NUKWP, for short.)” They should elaborate on this. Is NUKWP no more than a concept or does this include policy guidelines, programs, practices or methodologies?

      A-3 Is NUKWP associated with higher education at universities or more extended and generalized to other subjects such as community-participation?

      A-4 Is NUKWP yet highly determined by UK contexts?

      A-5 What kind of special and new thoughts are needed to apply it to Japanese DRR community practices?


      (Question B)

      B-1  Though not clearly mentioned in this manuscript, I have interpreted that NUKWP or the original UKWP (OKWP) starts with identifying good practices and proceed to examine their barriers for widening participation. The same goes for discussing Japan’s “community-based DRR. Is it correct to understand that the authors strategically selected  case study areas with “good practices” as awarded by public sectors or recommended by researchers (who have been involved there.)


      B-2  In the former studies on WP, are there important key concepts already developed to address good practices and identify gaps for further participation?    Otherwise, have the authors found new knowledge to broaden WP through this study ?  In this relation, let me note that the authors suggest this gap should be considered as a spectrum ranging from ‘core’ participants to ‘marginal’ participants and to ‘non-participants’, not as an either/or option (‘regular’ or ‘not participating’). In this spectrum, core participants promote the involvement of non-participants using various strategies, e.g. ‘everyday participation’, ‘participation through invitation’. Have previous studies already proposed to distinguish for instance, ‘core’ participants to ‘marginal’ participants and to ‘non-participants’, etc.?  In the contrary, are these a new pieces of knowledge derived from this study?


      (Question C)

      C-1  I suspect that NUKWP or the original UKWP (OKWP) is characterized by

      “Top-down/deliberation or coproduction approach”. In contrast, the Japanese DRR community practices you have adopted as case study models are characterized by

      “Bottom-up/deliberation or coproduction approach”. Is it correct to understand that way?


      C-2  In the above, I have borrowed the notion of “Top-down/deliberation or coproduction approach”. vs. “Bottom-up/deliberation or coproduction approach”. The authors have included discussions of “theorising 'participation” (in page 9) where the above classifications are introduced. This would help the reader and wider disciplinary researchers obtain an overarching roadmap perspective.    I encourage the authors to make use of these discussions more explicitly in the following case study analysis.

      In the current manuscript, “theorising 'participation” is not effectively linked to the following major streams of analysis. (If it is intended to be just a supplementary explanation, much more contracted description would be sufficient.)


      C-3 What makes “machizukuri” special as compared to just DRR community practice?

      I am afraid the authors have not clearly elaborated on this point.

      I will get back to this later.


      (Question D’)

      D-1  Though not explicitly mentioned in this paper, is it right for me to understand that WP (OKWP or NKWP) should be closely associated with building a (more) democratic society?

      D-2  Do the authors observe that this should also be the case for community-based DRR activities? Is this the reason why the notion of WP has been applied to examine DRR practices in Japan?  (Note that this assumption is not always obvious in DRR, particularly when top-down, command control approaches are prioritized in emergency management, or more dominant in some countries with different socio-political regimes.)     

      D-3  The emphasis of democracy is particularly obvious in the case of DRR education with a focus on fostering citizenship. Becoming a citizen through social participation is focused. What about other projects such as Aruku Project, Satsuki Project, and  Evacuation Card Project?  Are they also oriented towards (more) democratic society?

      Here is a related statement: “Motivating more residents to participate is significant in the realising of a democratic society. This common challenge is worth exploring in deepening the discussion on participation (page 10).”


      (Question E)

         May we expect to apply the major findings of this study to other areas in Japan?

         May we expect to bring back some of the findings to WP in UK?


      (More detailed discussions on “Machizukuri”)

       The authors are advised to more systematically itemize basic conditions for “machizukuri.” In the current manuscript, they are not systematically focused. Please refer to the following examples.    

      1. From the following statement, the authors claim that “machizukuri” should cover an “overarching social policy” for community development.  

      (“The paper also draws on machizukuri [community development], which has increasingly become an overarching social policy integrating health, welfare, education and DRR in Japan.” (Abstract on page 1.))

      1. Is it appropriate to understand that” machizukuri” is a scheme to pave the way for building a democratic society? (see the statement “The paper also suggests that in Japan, machizukuri ‘community development [machizukuri or chiikizukuri]’ policy is promoted as one of the avenues for building a democratic, resilient and sustainable society.(page 9.)”)
      2. In Table 5, Miyoshi Ward, Ozu City is not regarded as “machizukuri,” whereas the other cases are regarded as  “machizukuri.”  What factors are  missing in Miyoshi Ward?
      3. In conclusion, the authors argue that taking a small concrete step as such, rather than embarking on a grand design of a community-based plan, appears to encourage people to get involved. I agree. I would add one more word, the above underlined message (community-based. small, step by step, adaptive approach) is considered as an effective “machizukuri approach.”



        This paper is very interesting, valuable and offers a fresh view and approach to study how to improve DRR practices in Japan. I appreciate this kind of transdisciplinary, cross-cultural knowledge transfer effort.  This kind of research, however, entails challenges of bridging multi-disciplinary knowledge and experience, clarifying and overarching pre-assumed conditions and unshared knowledge.  I hope  the proposed frame of reference for this kind of discussion helps the authors refine and improve the paper.  Note that they should only address relevant questions and comments.       



      Norio Okada      Kyoto  22 May 2022


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