People Collection


David Kahane, Postdoc (Harvard), PhD (Cambridge), MA (McGill), BA (Concordia)

Professor, Project Director of Alberta Climate Dialogue (ABCD)


Political Science

About Me

David Kahane is Professor of Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta. He is Project Director of Alberta Climate Dialogue (ABCD), a SSHRC-funded community-university research partnership convening citizens in Alberta to deliberate on climate change policy, and learning from careful evaluation of these processes and their outcomes. 

His broader research deals with theories and practices of democratic dialogue and deliberation, with particular focus on understanding the impact (or lack of impact) of innovative citizen involvement processes given the complex democratic systems in which they intervene. Publications in this vein include two edited volumes, Deliberative Democracy in Theory and Practice and Dispute Resolution in Aboriginal Contexts: Land Claims, Treaties, and Self-Government Agreements; and articles like “The Micropolitics of Deliberation: Beyond Argumentation to Recognition and Justice” and “Inclusion and Representation in Democratic Deliberation: Lessons from Canada's Romanow Commission”

Kahane weaves participatory and deliberative methods into his teaching and also is interested in how meditation and contemplation can be used in the university classroom. He has won two national teaching awards (the 3M Teaching Fellowship and the Alan Blizzard Award for Collaborative Projects that Improve Student Learning) as well as the Rutherford Award for Undergraduate Teaching, the Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision, the Teaching Unit Award, and the Faculty of Arts Undergraduate Teaching Award. Teaching publications include “Mindfulness and Presence in Teaching and Learning” and “Learning about Obligation, Compassion, and Global Justice: the Place of Contemplative Pedagogy.”

He's dad to Solomon (almost seven years old) and spends much of his free time gardening in a permaculture food forest he's creating in the river valley.


From January-April 2016 I'll be teaching three courses:

POLS 212: Introduction to Contemporary Political Theory (with Professors Heyes and Kellogg)
An introduction to contemporary political theory taught by three experienced profs. I'm really looking forward to this collaboration! More info here.

POLS 302: Citizen Involvement and Systems Change

Public organizations and governments increasingly recognize that to address our toughest and most complex systemic problems we need collaborative analysis, decision-making, and action from across social sectors. 

One influential cluster of approaches centers on public involvement: citizens using collective problem-solving to inform both government and community action, whether in invited spaces like citizens’ assemblies, panels, and juries, or in claimed spaces in civil society. There’s not a lot of focus, though, in theories and practices of public involvement on how particular interventions are able to address and affect complex systems where interventions often have limited or unexpected outcomes given multiple feedback loops, time delays, and nested systems. 

Another influential cluster of approaches focuses on understanding and influencing whole systems, using tools from fields of systems thinking, systemic design, and social innovation. These approaches typically bring together organized stakeholders, have distinctive methods for building common understanding of a problem, and emphasize prototyping and pilots as routes to effective intervention. There has been less focus here, though, on how their interventions can build democratic involvement, accountability, and sustainability rather than being elite, technocratic, or shallowly rooted in public will.

This course will stage a conversation between these two fields. We’ll do so through scholarship (e.g. Jason Chilvers, Andrea Cornwall, Tim Draimin, John Dryzek, Archon Fung, John Gaventa, Carolyn Lee, Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Jane Mansbridge, Tina Nabatchi, Alex Ryan, John Parkinson, John Sterman, Werner Ulrich). And we’ll do so by using the methods of both fields to organize our own discussions and to experimentally engage with complex problems in the world around us.

POLS 602: Political Theory (with Professors Heyes and Kellogg)
A PhD level course in contemporary political theory.