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Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making
examples in which DOE took special steps to ensure open, clear communication among parties that contributed substantially to the success of its processes. She also noted that the agency’s clear and ongoing demonstration of a commitment to take public inputs seriously was helpful in overcoming mistrust. Leach (2005) found that both professional facilitation and the training of participants in communications skills enhanced the chances of success. Although facilitation and training do not preclude disingenous communications, they can reduce misunderstandings.
The evidence supports four principles of good practice for organizing public participation processes: inclusiveness, collaborative problem formulation and process design, transparency of process, and good-faith communication. As with the management principles described in Chapter 4, it is not always easy to implement these principles, and some contexts can make it especially difficult to implement certain principles. In difficult situations, success depends on identifying the likely difficulties and finding ways to address them. We return to these issues in Chapters 7 and 8.
1This summary of public participation formats is limited to those in which government agencies might choose to become directly involved. As discussed in Chapter 1, other modes of public participation may be initiated outside the auspices of government agencies. They include voting in elections, citizen ballot initiatives, citizen referendums, New England–style town meetings, lobbying of legislatures and executive offices, formal and informal debates and deliberations, public information campaigns, public demonstrations, civil disobedience, lawsuits, and other activities. These extra-agency activities may proceed on timelines that either support or interfere with agency-led forms of public participation.