The OECD Principles on Water Governance set out various requirements for stakeholder engagement. Coupled with conceptualizations of social learning, this article asks how we define and enact stakeholder engagement and explores the actual practice of engagement of stakeholders in three fields of water governance. The results suggest that a key consideration is the purpose of the stakeholder engagement, requiring consideration of its ethics, process, roles and expected outcomes. While facilitators cannot be held accountable if stakeholder engagement ‘fails’ in terms of social learning, they are responsible for ensuring that the enabling conditions for social learning are met.

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