TABLE 5-1 Classes of Participation Formats Often Used by Government Agencies

Format Type

Breadth of Public Participation

Information Exchange (used both to inform and consult)

Open access; often oriented toward individual citizens, but often includes interest group representatives

Includes public hearings, comment periods, scoping meetings, focus groups, workshops, open houses, and listening sessions


Predefined group selected to represent diverse perspectives; may include individual citizens or group representatives

Includes citizen panels, deliberative polling, charettes, some advisory committees, citizen juries, study groups, town meetings, future search conferences, and online deliberation

Engagement (in both decision making and collaborative action)

Predefined to represent interested groups, sometimes geographically defined in the cases of partnerships or comanagement of projects to include stakeholders with local ecological knowledge

Includes joint fact-finding, policy dialogues, negotiated rulemaking, blue-ribbon commissions, summits, community partnerships, and comanagement of projects or programs

NOTE: We use descriptive terms to describe generic approaches that are distinct enough to be readily distinguished by a nonspecialist. Some of the terms in the first column of the table are sometimes used to refer to very carefully defined procedures. We do not mean to imply that all the formats in the same row of the table are alike, but rather that they have more in common with each other than they do with formats described in other rows.

SOURCES: Compiled from Renn et al. (1995); Beierle and Cayford (2002); International Association of Public Participation (2003); Zarger (2003); Leach (2005).

for some people. Committee members are chosen to represent a range of interests, and they may be asked to produce recommendations or other deliverables (Lynn, 1990; Lynn and Kartez, 1995; Renn, Webler, and Wiedemann, 1995; Bradbury and Branch, 1999; Zarger, 2003). Their meetings may be structured to encourage intracommittee interaction or participation by other citizens and groups. Agency personnel might or might not play a substantive role. Variations from traditional advisory committee structures include citizen juries, policy dialogues, citizen panels, study groups, and consensus conferences (Stewart, Kendall, and Coote, 1994; Dienel and Renn, 1995; Renn, Webler, and Wiedemann, 1995; Beierle and Cayford, 2002).

More collaborative formats may include a commitment to shared decision making among agencies and citizen groups, usually extending over a relatively long time period. They may incorporate interagency and intergroup relationships, and they may evolve over time (Pinkerton, 1994;

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