Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
2 The Promise and Perils of Participation W hy should agencies engage the public as part of environmental assessment and decision processes? What is to be gained? And what are the costs and risks associated with public participation? In this chapter, as a basis for assessing the effects of public participation, we examine the arguments for and against public participation, including the U.S. legal mandates for participation. These arguments and expectations identify the results that people desire, expect, or fear from public participa- tion and thus imply criteria for evaluation. The ideas reviewed in this chap- ter provide a framework for considering the evidence about participation, which we review in subsequent chapters. Some arguments for participation rest on normative theories of de- mocracy and collective action, some are based on ideas of what constitutes a high-quality decision, and some are grounded mainly in considerations of improving agency practice and the policy process. Several arguments critical of public participation question the basic logic of citizen participa- tion in complex science-based issues (Rossi, 1997; Sanders, 1997; Collins and Evans, 2002, Campbell and Currie, 2006). Most of the critiques of participation, however, are grounded in the practical. Critics worry that participation in practice may not achieve the lofty goals articulated in theory and may actually impede good decision making. They offer three basic arguments: that the costs are not justified by the benefits, that the public is ill-equipped to deal with the complex nature of analyses that are needed for good environmental assessments and decisions, and that par- ticipation processes seldom achieve equity in process and outcome. Others argue that participatory processes tend to experience a set of pathologies 33
34 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION that range from paralysis by endless deliberations to reaching only trivial results when trying to accomplish a consensus among stakeholders with conflicting values and interests (e.g., Sunstein, 2001, 2006). As Ventriss and Kuentzel (2005:520) state: âa consensus in the public sphere is like a transitory mirage, contingent on the constellation of actors who happen to rise to the surface of ongoing public conflict and debate.â It is useful to recognize at the outset that decision making on matters of environmental policy is intrinsically and appropriately a political process (Cortner and Shannon, 1993; Landy, 1993; Williams and Matheny, 1995). Environmental decisions always involve both public and private interests. Furthermore, the decisions are typically backed by governmental authority, so environmental policy always involves power relations in society. Such relations shape environmental policy, and environmental policy in turn reshapes power (Stirling, 2008). This recognition provides a context for understanding participation processes, the motivations for public participa- tion, and the challenges to it. Science plays a special role in public participation in environmental is- sues. Environmental policy decisions therefore should beâand in the United States by statute typically must beâinformed by the best available scientific information and judgments. Because they are matters of public policy they shouldâand, again by statute, typically mustâalso take into account the knowledge, values, and preferences of interested and affected parties. Ide- ally, public input and good information and judgment are complementary. Interested parties can bring critical factual information and scientific analy- ses to the process, whether as scientists themselves, by employing scientists, or by contributing experiential, observational or traditional knowledge. Similarly, scientific analysis can be made more decision relevant when pub- lic values and concerns frame the questions being asked and the methods deployed. Ideally, thoughtfully structured public participation can make these choices explicit and examine their implications for public decisions. Scientific analysis on its own is an inadequate guide to determining how the risks, costs, and benefits of environmental decisions ought to be balanced or how they should be distributed across the public. Such decisions depend not only on factual information, but also on values and preferences and on interpretations of factual information (e.g., National Research Council, 1983, 1994, 1996). Even setting the policy agendaâdeciding which envi- ronmental matters deserve public consideration and which do notârequires the integration of scientific analysis and public input. In a democracy, such decisions cannot legitimately be made without consulting the many groups in society. When the issues are of great significance and complexity, a de- mocracy would be foolish to forego good science. However, the best ways to pursue the ideal of integrating scientific analysis, values, and judgment and the extent and manner in which the
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 35 public should be directly involved in doing so remain matters of debate. As noted above and discussed in more detail below, the challenges of public participation in administrative processes are so great that some have ques- tioned the value of the enterprise. But, if public concerns are not adequately addressed in such processes, people can and do become politically involved outside them, through elections, lobbying, social movements, and judicial actions. The issue for policy, and for this report, is whether public involve- ment in these processes can be organized in ways that provide net benefits at acceptable costs. Our goal is to review what is known about public par- ticipation and to extract lessons from that knowledge that can guide such effective participation. In this volume, we apply social science to the task of informing the continuing discussion about methods of public participation. Although simple prescriptions cannot be found, we think that choices of methods for participation can be usefully informed by empirically and theoretically grounded analysis of how approaches to public participation, deployed in different contexts, influence the results. Our assessment, like other sci- entific analyses, requires context-specific diagnosis and judgment before being translated into policy. There is no escape from values and judgment in making what are fundamentally political decisions. Consequently, any reasonably comprehensive examination of public participation in environ- mental decision making must take into account the political context and consequences of such decisions. Thus we emphasize that the design of any public participation process reflects value choices and the political power of the players to influence those choices, beginning with the decision about what questions are the focus of analysis and deliberation (Thomas, 1995; Schneider and Ingram, 1997; King, Feltey, and OâNeil Susel, 1998; Walters, Aydelotte, and Miller, 2000; Feldman and Khademian, 2002; Wynne, 2005). Those design choices have the potential to advantage some interests over others, empower some and disempower others, and lend differential credence to some values, preferences, and beliefs over others (e.g., Bingham, 1986; Dietz, Stern, and Rycroft, 1989; Forester and Stitzel, 1989; Stirling, 2006, 2008). The advantage of grounding the design of public participation processes in les- sons from scientific analysis of public participation is that it can help avoid unintended consequences and make more transparent the implications of the choices made. As subsequent chapters show, the research literature on public participation, while rapidly evolving, already provides sound guid- ance for the design of effective participation processes. This chapter begins with a brief overview of the historical development of public participation in U.S. environmental policy management at the fed- eral level. This history shows that public participation has been proposed to serve a variety of purposes, that there is a long record of contestation
36 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION over what the proper purposes should be, and that disagreements about public participation continue. We then summarize the most commonly offered justifications for public participation in environmental decisions. These include normative justifications, derived from democratic theory and considerations of fairness, as well as substantive and instrumental justifica- tions (Fiorino, 1990; Laird, 1993; Fung, 2006) for public participation. Many of these justifications are reflected in statutes, executive orders, and official practices. We then review arguments that public participation has adverse consequences that are rarely acknowledged in official statutes or pronouncements that advocate broader participation. We consider some of the most trenchant concerns about public participation: that it may fail to handle scientific information adequately, particularly about uncertainty; that it may fail to achieve objectives of fairness; that it leads to trivial results based on a weak consensus among stakeholders with conflicting interests and values; and that its costs outweigh its benefits. The final section dis- cusses the kinds of results of public participation that have been considered important and the feasibility of measuring those results. This discussion sets the stage for our analysis of what happens in public participation processes and of which factors influence the results. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT: LAWS AND AGENCY PRACTICES In the United States, the tradition of direct public involvement in policy making traces back at least to the New England town meeting (Bryan, 2004). Public involvement in aspects of federal environmental policy is often traced to the new organizations and programs created in the 1930s under President Franklin Rooseveltâs New Deal. For example, organizations of farmers took part in the development and implementation of agricultural policy (Daneke, 1983) and in the development projects of the Tennessee Valley Authority (Rossi, 1997). Both of these early processes confirmed the dangers of participation without standards or rules to govern it. Philip Selznickâs classic book, TVA and the Grassroots (1949), charted how the TVA co-opted and manipulated local organizations to create the appear- ance of public support for agency policies, many of which were contrary to the interests of many people living in the region. Such early efforts, despite their limitations, pioneered institutionalized public participation in federal agency decisions (Acheson, 1941). The Administrative Procedure Act (APA), enacted in 1946, set forth general procedures that all agencies must use in developing policy, pro- mulgating rules, notifying the public and other agencies of their intentions, requesting public information and disseminating information to the public, and receiving comments from the public and other agencies (5 U.S.C.Â§Â§551 to 559, 701 to 706). This act specified in some detail the processes by which
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 37 federal agencies should make decisions depending on the type of decision at issue (Section 553). Although the APA did not call for direct public partici- pation at the point of decision, it recognized the right of the public to know about, contribute to, and monitor the actions of agencies (Section 552). The ânotice and commentâ requirements of the APA and the creation of the Federal Register set in place some of the fundamental requirements for active participation: knowledge of what kinds of decisions agencies intend to make, an opportunity to give information to agencies prior to their final decisions, the opportunity to comment on proposed agency actions, and the opportunity to seek judicial review if informal appeal to the agency for reconsideration of its actions was unsatisfactory. Although the APA was an important milestone because it officially mandated norms for agency conduct (Daneke, 1983), it contained only the ânotice and commentâ understanding of the role of the public in govern- ment decision making. In terms of the decision schema of Figure 1-1 (in Chapter 1), the APA established requirements and procedures for public participation in the information gathering and feedback phases of the pro- cess, but it did not provide for participation in the other phases. A more active model of public participation in government decision making was encouraged by Congress with the Revised Housing Act of 1954 and later by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which sought âmaxi- mum feasible participationâ in community development. In reality, however, such participation was feasible only for organizations or individuals with sufficient time, money, and other resources to enable them to participate in often-distant federal processes (Fiorino, 1989). Moreover, even when the government-organized participation in decision making occurred locally, as in the Citizen Action Programs created under the Economic Opportunity Act, public officials demonstrated a readiness and a capacity to constrain, obstruct, or derail participation initiatives they perceived to be incursions on their power (Kramer, 1969; Piven and Cloward, 1971; Strange, 1972; Greenstone and Peterson, 1973; Berry, Portney, and Thompson, 1993). However, the program has also been criticized as one that bypassed the âinstitutions of electoral representationâ leading to âmaximum feasible misunderstandingâ (Moynihan, 1969; see also Walinsky, 1969). The debate about public participation in antipoverty and community development programs was and is intense. It is an important element of the context in which environmental public participation evolved. Increased public involvement in the decision process of federal environ- mental agencies was required beginning with the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1969 and thereafter was mandated in nearly all other environmental and land management statutes (Fiorino, 1989). These laws were passed with the belief that participation could lead to better decisions that improved the environment and lead to a more just
38 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION and prosperous society (Cramton, 1972; Fischer and Forester, 1993). NEPA required agencies to inform one another and the public of the expected environmental, social, and economic consequences of proposed actions (NEPA Section 102C(v)). President Nixon, by Executive Order 11514 (March 7, 1970, 35 F.R. 4247), expanded NEPAâs public notice require- ments by requiring agencies to: Develop procedures to ensure the fullest practicable provision of timely public information and understanding of Federal plans and programs with environmental impact in order to obtain the views of interested par- ties. These procedures shall include, whenever appropriate, provision for public hearings, and shall provide the public with relevant information, including information on alternative courses of action. Federal agencies shall also encourage State and local agencies to adopt similar procedures for informing the public concerning their activities affecting the quality of the environment (Section 2(b)). The APA required agencies to make relevant documents available to the public, whereas NEPA assured access to public information from federal agencies and the opportunity to be heard after receiving this information and before decisions have been made. These requirements made it possible for members of the public to make their informed judgments known to agencies before decisions were made and thus potentially to have an influ- ence on the decisions. However, they did not require agency decision mak- ers, for example, to use the public input or explain why they did not. The Council on Environmental Quality, in 1978, required agencies to engage in âscopingâ processes early in an agencyâs assessment of the en- vironmental impacts of options to ascertain what issues the public wished to see addressed in that assessment. Nicholas C. Yost (1979), then general counsel at the Council on Environmental Quality, stated: Every major affected group in the nationâfrom business to environmen- talists to state and local governmentsâapplauded the new regulations. Why this universal praise? I suspect it was, in part, because of the stress in the regulations, as in the process of their development, on seeking consensus. . . . [T]he new NEPA regulations will involve all those who are interested. The regulations make them part of the process. If all are part of the process, the Council believes, the process will be better. The results will be both more environmentally sensitive and less subject to disruptive conflicts and delays. . . . Donât wait, the new regulations say, until positions harden and com- mitments have been made to focus on the important issues and alterna- tives. Instead, involve all the necessary people from the beginning to see that the impact statement analyzes the information most significant to the ultimate decision. If the important issues receive attention at the outset,
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 39 later squabbles about the need for more study and new information can be avoided, along with increased costs and substantial delay. The scoping process, often including a scoping meeting, will provide a forum for using consensus-building techniques to insure that all essential information is gathered before the ultimate decision is made. Real op- portunities exist for those skilled in facilitating consensus to aid diverse participants in exploring the issues and agreeing on those to be studied. Then, when a decision is made on a particular proposal, it can at least be agreed that the analytical groundwork was complete and developed fairly. The idea of involving the public in early scoping of a problem is often seen as one of the most important contributions of NEPA to public par- ticipation. As we note in later chapters, there is great value in engaging the public in problem formulation. This can sometimes broaden the range of alternative actions considered in ways that lead to better decisions. Of course, the participation can also identify approaches to a problem outside the scope of the convening agency, which can be frustrating for all involved. But considering a full range of options is often noted as a first principle of effective decision making. Administrative and judicial decisions under NEPA and other environmental laws have also broadened both the scope of government actions that are considered environmentally consequential and broadened the basis for the public to have âstandingâ to participate in both the courts and in administrative processes. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gave citizens stronger legal authority for meaningful participation by establishing the publicâs right to obtain information from federal government agencies, with nine exemp- tions, including national security. Enacted originally in 1966, FOIA states that âany personâ can file an FOIA request, including U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, associations, and academic institutions. In 1974, the act was amended following the Watergate scandal to force greater agency compliance (5 U.S.C. Section 552, as Amended by Public Law No. 104-231, 110 Stat. 3048). It was also amended in 1996 to incorporate elec- tronic information. These pieces of legislation all either specifically require certain forms of public participation or provide the public with access to information or opportunities to be heard. Agencies must comply with these requirements or face lawsuits. As is discussed below, however, agencies can interpret and implement the requirements differently and have done so. Since the 1970s, laws have made concerns with fairness and balance explicit considerations in decisions by all federal agencies. The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) of 1972 mandates standards and uni- form procedures to ensure that advisory committees serve public rather than private interests. Under FACA, federal advisory committees must be
40 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION âfairly balancedâ in terms of points of view and have a formal charter that is reviewed by federal officials outside the agency creating the committee. At about this time, administrative law generally underwent a reformation in which fairness and equity were asserted to protect new classes of interests under an expanding government (Stewart, 1975). By the end of the 1970s, 80 percent of all federal programs and federal granting authority required some form of âpublic participationâ (Rosenbaum, 1978; Advisory Commis- sion on Intergovernmental Relations, 1979). However, these developments, which were meant to encourage transparency and openness, could also act as constraints on both the process and the outcome of public participation, a point to which we return in Chapter 4. Legislation on environmental protection and federal natural resource management, beginning with the Clean Air Act of 1970, continued to ex- pand the role of the public (including a citizenâs right to sue under some statutes), and citizens for the past three decades have organized themselves to actively participate in federal environmental policy processes. These pressures have undoubtedly encouraged increased agency interest in the more intensive mechanisms of public participation. While the more passive ânotice and commentâ and âinform and involveâ approaches to public participation often remain the official stance of federal agencies, several agencies have gone beyond the letter of the law in involving the public. For example, the collaborative licensing process of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is an exceptionally strong approach to empower- ing citizens in agency decision making. The public often has been actively involved in formulating policy, in making and implementing decisions, and sometimes in enforcement by filing âcitizen suitsâ (Boyer and Meidinger, 1985). The burst of enthusiasm for public participation in environmental as- sessment and decision making of the 1970s continued and spread to nearly every agency involved in environmentally significant activities. However, this expansion has not been monotonic and has led to expressions of con- cern about the value of public participation. We review such concerns and criticisms of participation later in this chapter. Here we note that in some agencies, the complexity of public participation and consultation has come to be seen as burdensome and possibly an obstacle to effective action. Perhaps the clearest example has been around the federal management of land and ecosystems. The extension of legal requirements for participa- tory processes did not address issues that arose when agency responsibilities and jurisdictions overlapped, as is frequently the case for environmental assessments and decisions. Public participation processes often crossed the boundaries of agency-specific mandates. For example, decisions re- garding forests, water, and wildlife inevitably require several agencies to coordinate their responsibilities toward crafting a joint decision (e.g., the
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 41 Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project; see www.icbemp. gov). Such decisions usually engage multiple levels of governmental and nongovernmental actors in scientific assessment, planning, decision mak- ing, and implementation. Each actor has specific substantive as well as procedural duties to meet as well as distinct constituencies to engage and satisfy Â(Johnson et al., 1999; U.S.D.A. Forest Service, 2002). However, most people are unfamiliar with the boundaries of agenciesâ mandates, and this can be a source of frustration in participatory processes. One response to this complexity is to increase the scale of the assess- ment and decision processes so as to allow for a broad level of agree- ment on strategic goals, implementation objectives, and evaluation criteria. Conflicts around how to use federal public lands in the 1990s provide an instructive example. Multiple agencies have made efforts to work at a landscape scale through bioregional assessments and thereby craft a broad policy that can guide agency-specific decisions as well as coordinate the actions of other landowners and resource users (Johnson et al., 1999). However, working with constituencies ranging from local governments to international environmental organizations in a single, multiagency process taxed the capacity of the administrative agencies involved, especially at a time when many of them were experiencing significant losses of personnel and resources (U.S.D.A. Office of General Counsel Natural Resources Divi- sion, 2002; Shannon, 2003). The Northwest Forest Plan, a landscape-scale, multiagency policy that affected the management of federal lands in western W Â ashington, Oregon, and Northern California is the most prominent exam- ple of the approach. When the agencies relied on the plan in making more localized decisions, the courts nullified the approach by demanding that the agencies specifically consider localized and short-term consequences for each decision. They further admonished agencies with regulatory responsi- bilities that they had to affirmatively carry out these responsibilities for each decision rather than assume that an activity proposed by a land manage- ment agency that was consistent with the bioregional plan automatically complied with regulatory policy. An ebb and flow of concern with the efficacy of large-scale public participation has been one consequence of the difficulties perceived with landscape-level processes. A series of reports providing guidance to the U.S. Forest Service exemplifies this trend. In 1998, the Secretary of Agriculture charged a committee of scientists to craft a new conceptual framework for planning for the 21st century. The committeeâs report, Sustaining the Â eopleâs Lands, proposed participatory processes that were highly col- P laborative with other governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders in order to improve both the quality of the decision and its implementation capacity (U.S.D.A. Forest Service, 1997). The Forest Service wrote new planning regulations based on the report that were published in November
42 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION 2000 (36 CFR Part 219), just before the George W. Bush administration took office. Although everything in these new regulations was a part of current practice of the agency, many agency and nonagency observers were concerned that an increased emphasis on public participation would not yield timely decisions and effective planning and policy. In November 2001, a new report, Reflecting Complexity and Impact of Laws on a USDA Forest Service Project, documented the legal complex- ity of project and operational planning (U.S.D.A. Forest Service Inventory and Monitoring Institute and Business Genetics, 2001). This report noted that there are hundreds of individual activities needed to make decisions and dozens of process interaction points. Agency actions are governed by regulations requiring public participation along the way, but the public can choose not to get involved until the very end or not at all. The chief of the Forest Service convened a team to examine these issues of legal and regulatory complexity. Its report, The Process Predicament: How Statutory, Regulatory, and Administrative Factors Affect National Forest Management (U.S.D.A. Forest Service, 2002:5), called out three problems as critical: 1. Excessive analysisâconfusion, delays, costs, and risk management associated with the required consultation and studies; 2. Ineffective public involvementâprocedural requirements that cre- ate disincentives to collaboration in national forest management; and 3. Management inefficienciesâpoor planning and decision making, a deteriorating skills base, and inflexible spending rules, problems that are compounded by the sheer volume of the required paperwork and the as- sociated proliferation of opportunities to misinterpret or misapply required procedures. The Forest Service published new planning regulations in December 2005. They categorically exempt bioregional assessments and national for- est integrated land and resource management plans from the NEPA process on grounds that no decisions about action are made through those pro- cesses. Thus, NEPA compliance with its requirement for public participa- tion now rests at the project planningâoperationalâlevel where decisions directly affecting the land and resources are made. The 2005 rules (36 CFR Part 219) still contain much the same language regarding public participa- tion and the need for a collaborative approach. Under these rules, national forest-level planning processes could still be highly participatory and col- laborative, but freed from attention to detail and therefore less costly, more timely, and more flexible. However, the new regulations could also lead to a substantial reduction in public participation. As yet, there have been no studies of the new regulations. Since 2000, some agencies seem to have retained or even increased their
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 43 commitment to public participation, while in others, formal requirements and institutional mechanisms such as advisory councils remain in place but are given little funding and attention by decision makers. As the discus- sion above indicates, every agency, with its unique culture, leadership, and current challenges, may alter its responses over time to the challenges of effective and efficient public participation. PURPOSES OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION Within the shifting legal context, agencies have considerable discre- tion concerning whom they involve, when they are involved, the type and intensity of involvement, the influence of participation on decision making, and the goals they seek from public involvement. Few studies have exam- ined how agencies exercise this discretion or what determines the level of participation they choose (Yang and Callahan, 2007). The issue of the purposes of public participation deserves highlighting. Public input can serve many purposes in a decision or assessment process and can be used at many stages in the process. Some purposes relate to improving the quality of assessments or decisions, some relate to increasing their legitimacy, and some relate to improving the decision-making capacity of the public and the agency. Public participation can in principle improve an assessment or decision in various ways. Box 2-1 presents several of these, organized around the two general objectives of quality and legitimacy and linked to the phases of the idealized decision process presented in Figure 1-1 (in Chapter 1) at which participation may be helpful.1 It is worth noting that, depending on the purpose that public input is serving, different inputs may be needed from different people. For example, the people needed to provide information on environmental conditions in a managed forest are not necessarily the ones needed to assess the value of various ecosystem services provided by the forest or to agree on a process for making management decisions. Thus, what is required for a good par- ticipatory process may vary with the purpose that the process is intended to serve. We return to this issue in Chapter 4. Agencies may, within their discretion, be restrictive about public input, inviting it only as applicable laws require, or expansive, inviting and using public input at every point in the process if doing so is not legally prohibited (e.g., where it would delegate statutory responsibility). In exercising this discretion, agency officials may or may not be explicit in stating the pur- poses they intend public input to serve. This situation leaves considerable room for ambiguity, misunderstanding, and contestation over who should participate, how, when, and with what kind and degree of influence. For example, an agency may invite public input to a decision with the implicit understanding that the choice will be among three defined options. But
44 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION BOX 2-1 Possible Functions of Public Participation Within an Idealized Decision Process Text in parentheses refers to steps in the idealized decision process of Figure 1-1 (in Chapter 1). Improving Decision Quality â¢ Clarify the nature of the problem or problems to be addressed (problem formulation) â¢ Identify the set of possible decision alternatives (selecting options and outcomes) â¢ Identify the set of outcomes of concern (selecting options and outcomes) â¢ Gather information on the state of environmental systems (information gathering) â¢ Gather information on how environmental conditions are affecting out- comes of concern (information gathering) â¢ Gather information on how each decision alternative might affect outcomes (information gathering) â¢ Evaluate the credibility and certainty of the information gathered (synthesis) â¢ Consider the implications of available information for decisions at hand (synthesis) â¢ Assess the decision against its objectives (decision) â¢ Develop methods for evaluating results of decision (evaluation) â¢ Monitor results of decision (evaluation) Improving Legitimacy â¢ Seek consensus on the problem to be addressed (problem formulation) â¢ Seek consensus on a process for conducting an assessment or informing a decision (process design) â¢ Identify and consider the outcomes that parties want to achieve or prevent (selecting options and outcomes) â¢ Identify the range of decision alternatives that parties want to consider and consider them if the agency has the discretion to do so (selecting options and outcomes) â¢ Gather information from the parties relevant to how each decision alterna- tive might affect outcomes of concern to them (information gathering) â¢ Gather information from the parties on the credibility and certainty of decision-relevant information (synthesis) â¢ Seek broadly based agreement on decision (decision) â¢ Seek public acceptance of decision (implementation) â¢ Seek agreement on implementation strategies (implementation) â¢ Seek agreement on evaluation methods (evaluation) â¢ Monitor results of decision (evaluation)
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 45 some participants may favor an option that the agency does not consider to be on the table or even one that is outside its legal authority. Because agencies and participants may come to a participatory process with diverse and sometimes contradictory goals for the process, the pur- poses of a process can be as much the foci of conflict as the environmental issue under consideration. Agencies need to acknowledge this source of con- flict and be prepared to deal with it effectively (Niemeyer and Spash, 2001). Moreover, conflicts about the character of and goals for the participation process may require a different approach than conflicts about the substance of the environmental issue under consideration. For example, conflicts over substance can be addressed with methods for representing and compar- ing values, including argumentation and discussions of trade-offs among values. Conflicts about purposes, while also often reflecting deeply held values, are often best addressed by deliberations about the essential nature of the issue, the agenda of the meetings that will be held, and the potential influence the results can and should have on policy. We return to issues of process in Chapter 5. Conflict about the purposes of public participation may arise and play out in many different ways. For example, invited public participants may not understand the legal limits to which an agency can delegate authority or its willingness to share responsibility in its range of discretion, so the participants may assume that their input will have more influence than is possible. Agency officials may not be clear about their purposes, and so may convey ambiguous messages to public participants with regard to which of the many steps in a decision process are being opened to public input and influence. They may be deliberately vague about the intended use of public input in the hopes of increasing acceptance of agency decisions while promising little in return. Or the agency officials who are convening a process may offer clear statements of their intended purposes, but may be overruled at the end of the process by higher-level officials who do not share those purposes. Sometimes conflict among social groups or between social groups and agencies is an important element of the context in which the participatory process is taking place. Indeed, as we note below, a common justification for such processes is the hope that they can be effective in finding resolu- tions to such conflicts without the need to resort to other political processes for addressing conflict, such as demonstrations, lobbying, and litigation. Furthermore, when more than one administrative agency has an interest in and responsibility for an environmental assessment or decision, interagency differences in perspective and mission may lead to conflicts that influence participatory processes and the extent to which they influence decisions.
46 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION JUSTIFICATIONS FOR AND PROBLEMS WITH PUBLIC PARTICIPATION Normative Justifications As Fiorino (1990:239) put it, âthe case for participation should be- gin with a normative argumentâthat a purely technocratic orientation is incompatible with democratic ideals.â Public participation is intrinsic to democratic governance. However, there is no single theory of democracy and so no unitary theoretical basis for public participation. Rather, there is an array of such theories (e.g., Dewey, 1923; Barber, 1984; Habermas, 1984, 1987, 1996; Held, 1987; Dryzek, 1994a; Dahl, 1998; Shapiro, 2003). Taken together, they lay out various conceptions of what democracy is, ar- ticulate its justifications as a system of government and indeed as a way of life, explicate its shortcomings and inherent tensions, and consider how it should proceed in principle and in practice. Some authors (most notably Schumpeter, 1942) argue that, in the modern nation-state, âdemocracyâ means little more than regular, competi- tive elections involving institutionalized opposition parties and universal franchise. But many other theorists call for more extensive and meaning- ful engagement of the public in decisions that affect them. Indeed, Dewey (1923) defined âthe publicâ as those who will be affected by a decision and thus should have some say in it. Many scholars have pointed critically to the gaps (some would say chasms) between the promises or aspirations of democracy and the facts on the ground (e.g., Bobbio, 1987). Despite their many important differences, however, most theories of democracy tend to converge on a few fundamental ideas, which may be subsumed under three broad headings: political equality, popular sovereignty, and (somewhat more controversially) human development (Dewey, 1923; Pateman, 1970; Rosenbaum, 1978; Dahl, 1989, 1998; Habermas, 1991, 1996; Sen, 1999; Young, 2000; Warren, 2001; Shapiro, 2003). Although major theorists use slightly different termsâfor example, Gastil and Levine (2005), fol- lowing Dahl (1989), emphasizes inclusion, effectiveness, and enlightened understandingâthere is a remarkable consensus about these three elements of democracy. Political equality is the tenet that every citizen possesses an inalienable right to participate on even terms in the making of public policies. Although this principle is unfulfilled in practice, it remains a broadly shared aspira- tion. Equality entails not only equal consideration in terms of âone person, one vote,â but also equal opportunity to express preferences throughout the process of decision making on public matters and to shape the public agenda. It entails, as well, what Dahl (1989:141; see also Habermas, 1991) called the criterion of enlightened understanding: âadequate and equal
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 47 opportunities for discovering and validating, in the time available, what his or her preferences are on the matter to be decidedâopportunities for the acquisition of knowledge of ends and means, of oneself and others.â Because of the importance and complexity of the issue of equality and the related normative issue of fairness, we return to this topic below. Popular sovereignty, or self-government, is the principle that the au- thority for making and enforcing laws and rules under which citizens live derives from the consent of the governed themselves (Richardson, 2002). Taken together, equality and autonomy imply that democratic governance is a means of managing power relations so as to minimize domination (Shapiro, 1999). That virtually all systems of modern government that are classified as being democratic (including those at the federal, state, and lo- cal levels in the United States) involve elaborate divisions of political labor and responsibility among elected representatives and elected and appointed executives and judges complicates but does not abrogate the foregoing foundational ideas of democracy (e.g., Dahl, 1989). The idea of human development follows a line of argument that stretches (at least in some important respects) from Aristotle through Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, and John Dewey. A number of modern democratic theorists propose that participa- tion in democratic governance is not only a method by which citizens can advance their interests, but also an important means through which they come to understand their interests in the first place and how those interests relate to and depend on those of other citizens (Kaufman, 1960; Habermas, 1970; Pateman, 1970; Barber, 1984). The claim is essentially that participa- tion in public life, as with other forms of experiential learning, is a means of human development; it is a means through which private individuals become public citizens (Pateman, 1970). Thus, democratic participation is a key element in personal development (Warren, 1992; Young, 2000). Sen (1999) moves this argument to the societal level. In his view, when a society provides widespread opportunities for people to exercise agency in shaping their shared future, not only is that conducive to development, it is develop- ment. â[T]he liberty of political participation,â Sen wrote, is âamong the constituent components of developmentâ (1999:5, italics in original). In practice, of course, everyone cannot participate in every decision, and few would care to try. Time and energy are finite resources for even the most avid citizens. Furthermore, there are some compelling reasons for citizens to be wary of official invitations to âget involved.â Even so, the working premise of democracy is that the burden falls on those who would seek to delimit public participation to justify such limits, rather than on those who advocate more participation (Shapiro, 1996). Theories of democracy have in turn led to theories of public participa- tion. Renn and Schweizer (in press) and Renn (2008) provide extensive re-
48 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION views of these and the theories of society in which they are embedded. They categorize the literature into six theoretical approaches, each linked to key ideas from substantial theoretical literatures. Table 2-1 summarizes them, along with the methods that might be deployed to implement them (Renn, 2008).2 It illustrates that the process of participation may differ depending on the goals for the process. Thus, differing views about the goals can lead to conflicts about how to conduct the process, a point we have noted. A functionalist approach emphasizes the importance of participation for strategic planning and adaptive social change. Neoliberal theories see participation as a way of eliciting public preferences and finding optimal compromises among interests. What has been called the anthropological or pragmatist approach emphasizes individuals articulating their preferences as citizens and reaching consensus based on those preexisting preferences. The deliberative or Habermasian approach seeks normative consensus via discourse and thus moves beyond the pragmatist view in positing that new norms and shared preferences can emerge from a participatory process. The emancipatory view envisions participation as a process by which the least powerful in society gain a voice in specific decisions and increase their capacity to have influence in the future. The postmodern perspective argues that deliberative processes should reveal power relations and thereby help reframe decisions. These perspectives overlap in many respects. However, they offer some- what different views of what can and should be expected of a participatory process and imply different approaches to and goals for the practice of participation. This taxonomy demonstrates the rich and complex char- acter of normative arguments about participation. Advocates of different perspectives may find themselves in opposition about the likely value of a participatory process because of their differing priorities about the purposes of such processes. Substantive and Instrumental Justifications Officially sanctioned opportunities for direct citizen participation in governance proliferated markedly over the last half of the 20th century in the United Statesâand indeed throughout much of the worldâeven as participation in elections and related activities stagnated (Franklin, 2004; Franklin, Lyons, and Marsh, 2004; Geys, 2006). It has been argued (Roberts, 2004:315) that such opportunities will continue to expand âas democratic societies become more decentralized, interdependent, networked, linked by new information technologies, and challenged by âwicked problemsâ (Rittel and Webber, 1973). There are many substantive and instrumental justifications offered for public participation: for an entrÃ©e into the great variety of such justifications, see the reviews by Mendelberg (2002), Delli
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 49 TABLE 2-1â Six Concepts of Public Participation Models and Concept Main Objective Rationale Instruments Functionalist Improvement of quality Representation Delphi, of decision output of all knowledge workshops, carriers; integration hearing, inquiry, of systematic, citizen advisory experiential, and committees local knowledge Neoliberal Representation of all Informed consent Referendum, values and preferences of the affected focus groups, in proportion to their population; deliberative share in the affected Pareto-rationality polling, Internet- population plus Kaldor-Hicks participation, (improvements) negotiated rule-making, mediation, etc. Deliberative Competition of Inclusion of relevant Discourse- arguments with respect arguments, reaching oriented models, to criteria of truth, consensus through deliberative normative validity, and argumentation round tables, truthfulness citizen forums, deliberative juries Anthropological Common sense as Inclusion of Consensus ultimate arbiter in noninterested conference, citizen disputes (jury model) laypersons juries, planning representing basic cells social categories such as gender, income, and locality Emancipatory Empowerment of less Strengthening the Action group privileged groups and resources of those initiatives, individuals who suffer most town meetings, from environmental community degradation development groups, tribunals, science shops Postmodern Demonstration of Acknowledgment of Open forums, (reflexive) variability, plurality, and plural rationalities, open space legitimacy of dissent no closure necessary, conferences, panel mutually acceptable discussions, public arrangements are fora sufficient SOURCE: Based on Renn (2008). Permission to reprint from Ortwin Renn, Risk Governance: Coping with Uncertainty in a Complex World, 2008, London: Earthscan Publishers, http:// www.earthscan.co.uk.
50 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs (2004), and Stirling (2008). The most important of these can be grouped under three categories, improving quality, enhanc- ing legitimacy, and building capacity. Improving Quality Sound public policy must be based on both an accurate assessment of facts and an accurate assessment of public values.3 Scientific or technical analysis is usually seen as the arbiter of facts in environmental assessment and decision making. But in dealing with environmental issues, both local context and the behavior of individuals and organizations matter substan- tially. There are more than a few examples of local knowledge in the hands of those who would not normally be called experts (i.e., those lacking of- ficial credentials) serving as a corrective to a scientific or technical analysis that misrepresented the local context in which it was being applied (e.g., Peterson and Stunkard, 1989; Wynne, 1989; Vaughan, 1993; National Re- search Council, 1996). Nor is the publicâs ability to strengthen the scientific and technical underpinnings of a decision always limited to local knowledge (Shannon and Antypas, 1996). Thus, public engagement can be essential for âgetting the science rightâ (National Research Council, 1996:6). Scientific methods, such as surveys and economic valuation techniques can be of use for assessing public values and concerns, but public participation has been held to provide an essential complement to these methods (e.g., Gregory et al., 1993; Dietz, 1994; Dietz and Stern, 1998; Niemeyer and Spash, 2001; Ackerman and Fishkin, 2004; Rauschmayer and Wittmer, 2006). One reason is that the meanings of peopleâs responses on contingent valuation surveys and other value elicitation instruments are rarely self-evident (e.g., Dietz and Stern, 1995; Brouwer et al., 1999; Clark, Burgess, and Harrison, 2000; Svedsater, 2003; Dietz, Stern, and Dan, in press). Enhancing Legitimacy Many federal agencies and other mission-oriented organizations that convene public participation processes see them as a means of making their decisions more broadly acceptable to the public and thus of helping them move forward with their missions. Moreover, with many governmental de- cisions, people expect to be consulted, or at least to have the opportunity to be heard. Ideally, public participation provides a mechanism for obtaining the consent of the governed in more specific ways than are possible with elections. In the ideal case, public participation is a form of democracy in action, and its results are likely to be widely accepted as legitimate (Nonet, 1980). Of course, it is possible for an organization to convene a participa- tion process that has no effect on its subsequent actions. When corrupted,
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 51 misrepresented, or insincerely applied, public participation may function as a form of co-optation rather than a democratic practiceâa problem we discuss in more detail below. Building Capacity Many federal agencies operate with a vision in which agency personnel are continuously engaged with the public not only in making decisions, but also in implementing, assessing, and revising them. Ongoing relationships of this kind require building a certain level of mutual understanding and trust among all the parties engaged, and, conversely, building understanding and trust makes continuing engagement operate more smoothly. Thus it is argued that participatory activities, if done well, strengthen and improve ongoing relationships, with benefits to future decision making, assessment, and implementation activities. It is also argued that participation increases public understanding of science and scientistsâ and agency officialsâ under- standing of public concerns, thus enabling future participatory processes to proceed more efficiently (Schwarz and Thompson, 1990). Beyond offering opportunities for acquiring a better understanding of relevant information, participatory processes, if they are designed to do so, can provide a space in which participants develop their capacities to articulate their interests and concerns and also come to understand how their interests and concerns relate to those of others (Kruger and Shannon, 2000). That is, public participation need not be viewed exclusively as a means by which interested parties express their already-held views; it can also be a means through which those parties develop and refine their views and perhaps articulate, discover, and create shared interests (Fishkin, 1991; Gutmann and Thompson, 1996; Shannon and Walker, 2006). We discuss this as a normative justification above, but such changes also build capacity in a way that is of instrumental value. PITFALLS As just discussed, public participation is often described as a tool for enhancing democratic practice and improving the quality of environmental assessments and decisions. Although participation often fulfills these goals (see the following chapters), it is important to remember that participation can have a number of other consequences that are unintended and some- times unwanted, even by its advocates (see, e.g., Mansbridge, 1983; Webler and Renn, 1995; Sanders, 1997; Schudson, 1997; Mendelberg, 2002; Mutz, 2002a,b; Sunstein, 2003; Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs, 2004). Indeed some scholars have argued that public participation may degrade envi- ronmental decision making more often that it improves it (van den Daele,
52 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION 1992; Breyer, 1993; Dana, 1994; Rose-Ackerman, 1994; Coglianese, 1997, 1999; Rossi, 1997; Sanders, 1997; Cross, 1998; LÃ¶fstedt, 1999; Sunstein, 2001, 2006; Durodie, 2003; Ventriss and Keuntzel, 2005). These criticisms offer a strong cautionary note to the literature advo- cating public participation. The concerns fall into four broad categories, which we consider in turn. First, public participation can devolve to little more than political manipulation. Second, public participation may degrade rather than improve decision quality and especially the handling of scientific information. Third, public participation is too often unfair, inequitable. Fourth, public participation may yield trivial or even undesirable results at substantial costs in time, effort, and funds. Political Manipulation From the standpoint of participation advocates, some of the problems we review in this section may be considered as outcomes of processes gone awry. Some of these consequences, however, may be desired by some par- ticipants, such as an agency that is pursuing its own ends or participants who wish to slow decision making and weaken agency power (Ventriss and Keuntzel, 2005). There are four lines of argument regarding political pitfalls of public participation. First, the perception that participation confers legitimacy to policies may lead an agency to initiate a participatory process simply for that purpose, with no intention of affecting its decisions. Contemporary public participation practices are often seen as more legitimate than the traditional âdecide, announce, defendâ approach to fulfilling the minimal requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, perhaps because of greater trust in processes that are seen as more democratic. From the standpoint of demo- cratic theory, building legitimacy and trust among all participants, including public trust of a decision-making agency, are appropriate normative goals if the agency is making active use of public input in shaping its assessments and decisions. Agency officials are sometimes divided in their stance on public partici- pation, with some officials sincerely committed to using public input and others viewing such input as having little value, even as they orchestrate the public participation process to gain the desired legitimacy. However, such orchestration usually does not hold for long (Burgess and Clark, 2006). Participants may come to trust an agency when a participation process is conducted with the best of intentions by those officials directly responsible for it, even if the officials who will make decisions ignore what is learned from the process. If agency assessors and decision makers elicit public input but the agency does not take it seriously, there may be a short-term gain in public acceptance at the expense of legitimacy in the longer run (Nonet,
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 53 1980; LÃ¶fstedt, 1999; Abels, 2007). In Chapter 4, we identify agency com- mitment to taking the results of participation seriously as a key determinant of successful results. Second, in part because public participation is widely perceived as legitimate, participatory processes can be used to insulate an agency from legitimate external challenges, such as from the legislative and judicial branches as well as the public. For example, lawsuits may be successfully defended, or avoided entirely, if an agency has fulfilled the formal require- ments for participation, even if the participation had no real influence. In addition, involving the public in a participatory process can keep people from acting outside the agencyâs control by absorbing their time and energy and even by building unwarranted trust (Selznick, 1949; Modavi, 1996; Murphree, Wright, and Ebaugh, 1996; OâToole and Meier, 2004). People so involved may be less likely to lobby with legislative bodies, bring lawsuits, pursue their goals through other agencies, or otherwise deploy strategies of influence outside the formal public participation process. It is reasonable for an agency to expect to avoid lawsuits, legislative action, and countermoves by other agencies if participation processes are used to shape an agencyâs assessments and decisions. But when a partici- pation process is done pro forma, with no influence on the agency, it can subvert the legitimate influence of the public on government decisions (Bora and Hausendorf, 2006). If an agency ignores the public input it receives, the fact that it has organized a participation process can disempower and delegitimate public opposition, both by those who participated (âtheyâve had their sayâ) and those who did not (âtheyâve had their chanceâ). In these ways, public participation has the potential to erode the ability of the public to recognize, articulate, and effectively advocate for their own interests (see Shannon, 1991, for a critical analysis of public participation in U.S.D.A. Forest Service forest planning). In some circumstances, it can co-opt, local- ize, and contain or channel conflicts that would otherwise influence agency actions and thus function as a way for an agency to exert control and engage in hollow public relations, rather than being truly responsive (e.g., Rosener, 1982; Mouffe, 1999). Third, public participation may create or increase conflict rather than decrease it and entrench differences rather than resolving them. Many people may have given little thought to a public policy issue before a par- ticipation process begins, so differences of opinion or in willingness to ac- cept a policy choice, such as those revealed in opinion polling, may not be based on careful reflection (Shannon, 1991). This is particularly likely for novel, complex issues like those common in environmental decisions and assessments. Theorists have long noted that participation can help shape peopleâs values, beliefs, preferences, and opinions through discourse with others and by elaborating their knowledge (Dewey, 1923; Habermas, 1984,
54 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION 1987, 1991; Dietz, 1987; Chambers, 1996; Dietz and Stern, 1998; Abelson et al., 2003; Ackerman and Fishkin, 2004). As participants think through the implications of an agency action and consider othersâ viewpoints, they may develop diverging rather than converging views of what is best (e.g., Sunstein, 2001, 2003; for reviews of the research, see Mendelberg, 2002; Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs, 2004). NaÃ¯ve differences of opinion may, through public participation processes, develop into thoughtful, well-ar- gued disagreements (Stirling, 2008). This outcome can be very frustrating even to an agency that is open to being influenced by the public, because a lack of consensus gives no clear direction as to how to proceed. By in- forming the public, a participatory process may also generate opposition to possible agency choices, although before the participation process there was no opposition. This result may be seen as negative because it interferes with agency action, but from a broader perspective the effect may be sim- ply to articulate conflicts so that they appear before a decision rather than afterward. Thus, the emergence of disagreement in a public participation process does not necessarily reflect an invalid or poorly conducted process (e.g., Morgan et al., 2001; Webler, Tuler, and Krueger, 2001). But there is no doubt that a poor process can lead to unnecessary and futile conflicts. Fourth, public participation can decrease an agencyâs autonomy and control, thereby making outcomes less predictable. Organizations have im- peratives to fulfill their external mandates, such as statutory requirements, as well as to meet internal organizational imperatives, such as keeping to timetables for action. Public participation takes time, requires an invest- ment of resources, and often produces results that are messier than what might emerge from a purely internal agency process. These attributes of participation constitute perceived disadvantages from the perspective of the sponsoring organizations. Decision Quality One of the most critical concerns about public participation processes is that they may reduce the overall quality of assessments and decisions by introducing poor-quality thinking or reducing the effective use of science in public decision making. These issues are closely connected. Concern with the quality of public understanding of information about environmental problems, particularly information about uncertainty, moti- vated one of the most influential calls for the use of formal risk analysis as a basis for technological and environmental policy. Starr (1969) argued that the views of the public should not be given much weight in technological and environmental policy because the average citizen does a very poor job of handling probabilities and contingencies, yet such probabilities and contin- gencies are central to societal decisions about environment and technology.
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 55 Influential psychological research on âheuristics and biasesâ in human decision making (e.g., Tversky and Kahneman, 1972; Kahneman, Slovic, and Tversky, 1982) suggests that, especially in the face of uncertainty, people may deviate substantially from the kinds of thinking that norma- tive decision theory assumes. Deviations can be the product of errors in quantitative or probabilistic thinking, or they may reflect alternative ways of construing the problem that make other reasoning strategies seem more relevant (Epstein, 2000; Stanovich and West, 2000). Related work shows that public estimates of the risk of injury or death associated with vari- ous technologies do not match the estimates of experts or actuarial and epidemiological studies (Fischhoff et al., 1978; Covello, 1983; Fischhoff, 1985, 1989; Borcherding, Rohrmann, and Eppel, 1986; Slovic, 1987, 1992; Boholm, 1998; Rohrmann, 1999; SjÃ¶berg, 1999; Rohrmann and Renn, 2000; Slimak and Dietz, 2006). If the public incorrectly interprets or mis- uses complex technical information or analyzes an environmental prob- lem with different reasoning strategies than experts, the concern is that processes resulting from engagement with the public will reflect errors in reasoning (Cross, 1992, 1998; Breyer, 1993; Dana, 1994; Okrent, 1998; Campbell and Currie, 2006) or the adoption of less than optimal decision strategies (Futrell, 2003). Indeed, professionals working on risk policy often see âpublic ignoranceâ as a major source of conflict in environmental policy (e.g., Dietz, Stern, and Rycroft, 1989; Futrell, 2003). However, several qualifications are appropriate for interpreting the meaning for public participation of the substantial literature on risk percep- tion and decision making under uncertainty. First, the inability to handle information about uncertainty was initially demonstrated among highly educated subjects whose quantitative skills may be closer to those of sci- entists than to those of the average member of the public. Thus, difficulty in dealing with probabilities and contingencies is not restricted to the non- specialist public (Fischhoff et al., 1981; Kraus, Malmforms, and Slovic, 1992; Barke and Jenkins-Smith, 1993; Slovic et al., 1995; Pultzer, Maney, and OâConnor, 1998; Sterman and Sweeney, 2002; Bramwell, West, and Salmon, 2006; Slimak and Dietz, 2006; Silva, Jenkins-Smith, and Barke, 2007). Second, a growing body of literature suggests that the chance of er- rors in interpreting probabilistic information depends on how the problem is framed (e.g., Gigerenzer and Hoffrage, 1995; Cosmides and Tooby, 1996; Gigerenzer, 1998). Third, recent social science research has demonstrated that people have a repertoire of reasoning strategies and routinely use automatic and rule-based processes for judgments under uncertainty. Both analytical and heuristic processes may make independent contributions to judgments for any given task (Stanovich and West, 2000; Ferreira et al., 2006). These lines of evidence suggest that analyses involving uncertain information require procedures to help people avoid the pitfalls of flawed
56 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION reasoning, whether they are scientists or not. We return to this point below. Thus, it seems that for public participation processes to contribute to high- quality decisions, they need to be clear about what kinds of input to obtain from whom and how to use this input (Stirling, 2008). The argument that the public has problems in dealing with uncertainty is relevant to decision quality only to the extent that improved knowledge is essential for coping with uncertainty. This may be true for characterizing the degree of uncertainty, but it is less obvious for making decisions under uncertainty. If the consequences are uncertain, science cannot provide a ârationalâ unambiguous answer about what options to choose (Keeney, 1996). This is particularly true for consequences for which robust estimates of probability are missing (Wynne, 1992; Aven, 2003). In these cases, en- vironmental managers have to find a balance between too much and too little caution, that is, make a prudent judgment on the acceptable level of uncertain consequences (International Risk Governance Council, 2005). This judgment can be informed by technical knowledge, but is essentially dependent either on a trade-off between immediate benefits and future risks or on an explicit negotiation between those who benefit and those who are at risk (De Kay et al., 2002; Pellizoni, 2003). With uncertain science, par- ticipation may help to find a fair balance or a mutually acceptable trade-off between the extremes of too much and too little caution in environmental protection. Technical expertise is neccessary, but not sufficient, for con- fronting this dilemma. In contrast to these arguments that participation may degrade decision quality, two types of argument claim that participation can improve deci- sion quality. One emphasizes that locally grounded, contextually sensitive factual information that is often essential to apply scientific analysis to a specific context often comes from nonscientists. There are many examples of how public insights have been essential for accurate analysis of environ- mental issues (e.g., Wynne, 1989; Brown and Mikkelsen, 1990; Nordenstam and Vaughan, 1991; Brown, 1992; Coburn, 2005; Brown et al., 2006; McCormick, 2006, 2007a,b; Metzger and Lendvay, 2006). Public input can prompt the generation of new, essential technical information or questions and thus improve the technical adequacy of decisions (e.g., Jasanoff, 1996; Futrell, 2003). In many situations, such information is essential to develop- ing a sound scientific analysis. Thus, to be fully informed, an assessment or decision may need ways to link scientists with members of the public who possess needed information in ways that enhance the quality of information available while preserving the integrity of the scientific method. The second, and more commonly invoked, rationale for public input is that environmental problems always involve complex value trade-offs. Although scientific methods, especially if well linked to local understand- ings, offer the best way to establish facts, these facts will always be some-
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 57 what uncertain and their implications for action more so. Weighing the various costs, benefits, and risks associated with a choice always involves value trade-offs, including consideration of the proper weights to be given to uncertainties and to future impacts and benefits. This is a common theme in the literature on public participation (Corrigan and Joyce, 1997; Hagendijk and Irwin, 2006ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ ). Scientific analysis can facilitate understand- ing of the views of a broad segment of the public, helping individuals and groups estimate the consequences of different choices for different values (e.g., Gregory, Lichtenstein, and Slovic, 1993; McDaniels, 1998). But scien- tific analysis cannot resolve the value problems inherent in environmental assessment and decision making. So public participation can also help articulate value concerns and the consideration of trade-offs (Langton, 1978; Barber, 1984; Dietz, 1987; Ethridge, 1987; Burns and Ãberhorst, 1988; Dryzek, 1994a,b; Renn, 2004, 2008). Handling value concerns and trade-offs around a complex environmental issue is fraught with as much difficulty as handling information about uncertainty. One cannot expect individuals, whether or not they have scientific training, to perform well in examining these matters unaided. So the criticism that public participation may make a muddle of the facts carries some weightâand it can make a muddle of values as well. However, there is little evidence to support a be- lief that excluding the public will resolve these difficulties. On the contrary, experts and public policy makers experience the same problems of sepa- rating factual information from value judgments that participatory bodies do (Hammond, Harvey, and Hastie, 1992). This problem is by no means unique to participation (Horlick-Jones et al., 2007). The arguments about difficulties in human information processing have been described by drawing a distinction between âSystem 1â and âSystem 2â thinking (Stanovich and West, 2000; Kahneman, 2003). In System 1, judgments are reached quickly, are mindful of the context of specific deci- sions, use simplifying rules (e.g., generalizations from past experience), and can be strongly influenced by the heuristics and biases described in the cognitive psychology literature. By contrast, in System 2 thinking, fac- tors that are clearly related to the values at stake are carefully considered and weighed, and those that logically should be considered extraneous are held at bay. Everyone makes use of both systems, although for most choices, people do not engage in the great effort that System 2 thinking often requires. The challenge for participation processes is to ensure that the collective assessment or decision process benefits from the experiential knowledge that influences System 1 and yet approximates the ideals of careful think- ing characteristic of System 2âeven if individual participants fall short of those ideals. Some methods of eliciting information from individuals, such as surveys, seem prone to elicit System 1 thinking (e.g., Dietz and Stern,
58 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION 1995; Slimak and Dietz, 2006). Group processes are also often subject to biases, even when the decisions are important enough to justify consider- able cognitive effort (e.g., Janis, 1972). The strategy for meeting the chal- lenge of high-quality group thinking is to deploy processes that compensate for human weaknesses in both individual cognition and in group delibera- tion. Evidence from experimental studies of small-group processes (Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs, 2004) and from case study evaluations (Roch, 1997; Vorwerk and KÃ¤mper, 1997; Beierle, 2000; U.S. Environmental Pro- tection Agency Science Advisory Board, 2001; Rowe, Marsh, and Frewer, 2004; Rauschmayer and Wittmer, 2006) suggests that this can sometimes be accomplished and cognitive biases avoided. Understanding Risk provides guidance for the overall public partici- pation process that we think is still core guidance (National Research Council, 1996). It argues that rather than separating public deliberation and scientific analysis by a âfirewall,â they should have permeable bound- aries, mutually inform each other, and be iterative throughout an assess- ment or decision-making process. This approach has come to be termed an âanalytic-deliberativeâ process, or âanalytic deliberation.â Understand- ing Risk does not give detailed guidance on how to conduct analytic- deliberative processes. However, the public participation literature has been attentive to the complex issues involved in bringing together groups of citizens and having them interact in ways that minimize the threats to high-quality thinking posed by cognitive shortcuts and group process issues (Dietz, 1987, 1988; McDaniels, 1996; Renn, 1999, 2004). The issue is a major theme in handbooks for the practice of participation. In Chapter 5 we review what is known about how the practice of participation affects decision quality, drawing on the best information from case studies, accu- mulated practitioner knowledge, and insights from related fields, such as decision science and the study of small-group processes. On one hand, public participation processes can indeed result in inept handling of information on uncertainty, misunderstanding of science, and clumsy assessment of public values. On the other hand, public participation may be essential to ground scientific analysis in local contexts, calibrate the treatment of uncertainty to reflect public preferences, and both inform decisions about public values and reform those values themselves (Chilvers, 2008). The devil lies in the details. We return to the challenge of integrating science and public participation in Chapter 6. Fairness One of the central normative goals of participation is to enhance the fairness of decision making. The notion that rational collective decision making must be both fair and competent derives from the theories of
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 59 JÃ¼rgen Habermas (1970, 1984, 1987; see Renn, Webber, and Wiedemann, 1995). Fairness, in this view, requires that all those who will be affected by a decision have a say in the decision (either directly or by representation); competence requires that the process take full account of all available in- formation about facts and values. Public participation processes have been criticized on the grounds that they may not be competent, as discussed in the previous section. In this section, we discuss the criticism that they may not be fair. Although there is nearly universal acceptance that in a democratic so- ciety decisions should be fair, there are myriad views on what constitutes fairness. Indeed, the question of what constitutes fairness has been a major theme of debate by ethicists in recent decades, inspired in part by the book A Theory of Justice (Rawls, 1971). We cannot resolve all these issues here. However, a few key points about fairness and participation inform our subsequent discussions. It is important to distinguish fairness in participatory process, proce- dural fairness, from fairness in the effects of the ultimate decisions, distri- butional fairness (Young, 1993). From a normative standpoint, democracies should seek both fair processes and fair outcomes. In practice, though, it is much easier to specify fair processes than fair outcomes. It is difficult to specify fairness in outcomes because nearly every environmental decision produces winners and losers and because outcomes are multidimensional, so that a party that seems to be a winner from one perspective or over one time horizon may be a loser from a different perspective or over a differ- ent time horizon. Thus, a decision that looks fair to some participants can look unfair to others, and a decision that seems fair when it is made may look unfair in retrospect. Theories of justice attempt to provide guidance regarding the circumstances under which unequal distributions of benefits, costs, and risks may be considered fair (Baumol, 1986). However, theo- retical guidelines, such as Rawlsâ (1971) proposal to judge outcomes ex ante under a âveil of ignorance,â are difficult to implement with practical multiparty decisions, a point we return to below. It is not unusual for the parties to environmental decisions to disagree about whether the outcomes are fair and even about which of the many aspects of the outcomes are most important for evaluating fairness. The panel cannot resolve such debates by recommending a particular method that agencies should use in determining how to balance the com- plex outcomes of their decisions. Experience shows that whatever calculus is used, plausible claims of unfairness may still be made. One reason fair processes are important is that they can help consider and perhaps resolve such claims. We recognize fairness in the outcomes of environmental deci- sions as a central societal objective, but our emphasis in this study is on the role of fair procedures in helping to achieve it. We seek participatory
60 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION processes that the parties accept as fair and that help them consider the fair- ness of outcomes. At the same time, we are attentive to the principle that perceptions of fairness will vary widely. Indeed, perceptions of fairness in participation processes have been a more important area of research than fairness in outcomes (Keeney, 1980; Keller and Sarin, 1988; Linnerooth- Bayer and Fitzgerald, 1996). Generally, we consider a fair decision process to be one in which all those affected by a decision have an opportunity to participate meaning- fully (either directly or via representatives) and in which those empowered to decide take participantsâ views seriously. However, one would like more specific guidance on what this means if one is to organize a process of public participation. Psychological research has illuminated several char- acteristics of decision processes that people generally consider to be fair. These include the opportunity to voice opinions and concerns, neutrality of the forum, trustworthiness of authorities, and quality of treatment by authorities both formally and informally (Thibaut and Walker, 1975; Lind and Tyler, 1988; Tyler, 2000; Tyler and Blader, 2000; Blader and Tyler, 2003; Clayton and Opotow, 2003; Besley and McComas, 2005; McComas, Trumbo, and Besley, 2007). In addition to being normatively desirable, fairness may also affect various practical consequences of public participation. For example, when decision processes are judged as fair, participants are more likely to see the outcomes as fair or just, or at least to accept them (e.g., Lind and Tyler, 1988; Tyler, 2000; Tyler and Blader, 2000; McComas, Trumbo, and Besley, 2007). Acceptance of the decision as resulting from a fair process is closely related to legitimacy, one of the major criteria we identify for assessing the results of public participation. In Chapter 5 we discuss how process attri- butes that are associated with perceived fairness influence legitimacy and the other key results of public participation. As the evidence shows, proce- durally fair processes do quite well in terms of outcomes: they tend to pro- duce better results in terms of the quality and legitimacy of decisions and in terms of the capacity of the participants for future decision making. As we argue, public participation inevitably has a political dimension in the sense that it reflects and can alter distributions of power and influ- ence. Indeed, for many advocates of public participation, the main goal to be achieved by participation is to enhance the power within the process of those who might otherwise have limited influence on agency assessments and decisions (e.g., Brulle, 1994; National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, 1996; Fung and Wright, 2001; Fischer, 2005). From this per- spective, participation processes are successful in part if they empower the disempowered and thus make the political process more fair. However, fair- ness of political process in itself does not ensure either high-quality decision making or the distributional fairness of the decisions the process advises.
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 61 From a different public policy perspective, the hope for public participation is that it will produce a distribution of power and influence among inter- ested and affected parties that is more broadly accepted by the interested and affected parties and that contributes to improved democratic capacity. This may imply a standard of fair process as one in which the distribution of influence in the process is more even than the distribution of power in society at large. The effectiveness of public participation processes in leveling the play- ing field has been questioned. Most participation processes make a point of involving âstakeholders.â As Gastil (2008:192) notes, âin the pub- lic participation and management literatures, the term [âstakeholderâ] has come to refer . . . to persons who represent organizations, communities, or alliances that have a particular stake in a decision.â In contrast, âthe publicâ typically refers to the broader, relatively undifferentiated collectiv- ity of unorganized individuals who may have some interest or be affected relatively indirectly by a decision. Clearly, this distinction is a matter of degree. Nevertheless, a focus on stakeholders creates the potential for well- resourced parties to use participatory processes as one more venue in which to overwhelm the broader public. The extent to which this threat to fairness is realized depends to some degree on how well the interests of the broader public are ârepresentedâ in the process. But ârepresentationâ is more complicated than merely sta- tistical or demographic representativeness. As Parkinson (2006:29) points out, ârepresentationâ turns on whether nonparticipants have themselves, through one means or another, authorized individuals to represent them, and not merely on whether the process organizers have selected a sample of participants that the organizers deem to be ârepresentative.â Selecting participants to ârepresentâ the broader public is not in itself adequate rea- son for nonparticipants to regard the outcomes of participatory processes as being legitimate. In light of this, Parkinson (2006:34) concludes that a process that involves a (random) sample of participants âis only legitimate when the aim is information-gathering, or when it is part of a wider delib- erative decision-making process that involves the people more generally.â So again, assessing a participatory process requires careful thought about the goals of the process. Some critics argue that a focus on stakeholders and officially selected representatives gives focused interests more weight than the more diffuse interests of the public (Cupps, 1977; Reagan and Fedor-Thurman, 1987; Lijphart, 1997; Joss, 2005; Bora and Hausendorf, 2006). In this view, participation by stakeholders distributes representation and influence dis- proportionally to the size of the affected populations or the importance of the interests. Analysts of pluralist societies show that the relative power of interest groups typically does not match the relative importance of their
62 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION interests in society, but depends on such factors as exclusiveness of repre- sentation, availability of power and resources, and potential for social mo- bilization (Downs, 1957; Olson, 1965, 1984; Breyer, 1993). Some interests nearly always have greater influence on the decision-making process than others and use the opportunity of deliberation to influence the opinion- forming process and advance their specific interests on the agenda. Thus, public participation processes can easily mirror the power distribution in society rather than level it (Waller, 1995). This result seems particularly likely with such procedures as negotiated rule-making or mediation, in which identified stakeholder groups are given access to a decision-making process without further public engagement beyond the formal account- ability required by The Administrative Procedure Act and other legal re- quirements (see Schoenbrod, 1983; Edwards, 1986; Baughman, 1995). A corollary problem is that many important interests that are widespread and important in the aggregate are not strongly held or advocated by any particular organized group. This is the classic problem of public goods or collective action (Olson, 1965; Ostrom, 1990). Such interests are likely to have little voice in a process that emphasizes engaging stakeholders and organized groups. Clearly, there are limits to the degree to which a participatory pro- cess can overcome larger structural inequalities in a society. Historically embedded inequalities make it much harder for some groups to engage in participation, to be effective in expressing their views, to analyze the impli- cations of alternative decisions for their values and interests, and to have their views taken seriously. A well-structured process may be able to help compensate for some of these inequalities, but it cannot make them disap- pear, and in some cases the compensation may be very limited. All policies have unintended and unanticipated consequences. Exist- ing inequalities make some groups more vulnerable than others to adverse consequences. Fair and competently conducted participation processes can improve the ability to identify such adverse consequences and devise strate- gies to mitigate them, but such anticipation and mitigation will always be imperfect. Such mitigation means paying attention to the matter of partici- pant motivation, a point we discuss in Chapter 5. It is an axiom of politics that a âspecial interestâ that stands to benefit greatly from a policy decision can typically prevail over the much larger, but unorganized, general public, even if the cost to the public outweighs the benefit to the special interest. The motivation for members (or representatives) of the special interest is substantial, while the motivation of each person is negligible in relation to the costs of becoming informed and participating. There are various views of what constitutes a fair process in addition to those based on the distribution of power. In one view, all those interested in or affected by a decision should have a voice in the discussion. There is
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 63 evidence that this standard is sometimes achieved in environmental dispute resolution, in which such balance is especially important (Cormick, 1980; Bingham, 1986; Moore, 1996). An alternative and more difficult standard is that a representative sample of the public should be included (Hagendijk and Irvin, 2006). This might be accomplished by true random sampling, electronic participation, or quota selection. Such an approach can be used to implement Rawlsâ (1971) concept of justice if a group of participants representative of the general public is asked to examine the issue at hand under a âveil of ignorance,â as if they did not know how the decision would affect them. However, in trying to implement such an approach it is important to remember that public participation rarely engages policies that are wholly de novo. Rather, the issue at hand and the agency nearly always have a history, and that history has often led to advantages for some interests and groups and disadvantages for others. It is difficult and perhaps inappropriate to attempt to ignore those histories. A number of theoreti- cal and ethical concerns with the Rawlsian approach to deliberation have been raised (Macedo, 1999). We are not aware of well-documented efforts to implement it in environmental public participation, so it is not possible to assess its implications in practice. Research demonstrates that, even under excellent conditions, a true representation of the public is never accomplished, but it is possible to achieve high heterogeneity and diversity (List, 2006). Indeed, some pro- cesses are designed specifically to exclude stakeholders in order to allow latent, broadly held but seldom articulated public interests to emerge. When a representative sample of the public is engaged, keeping them engaged and getting them to learn about the issues at hand may require substantial effort and expense in comparison with engaging stakeholders. In yet another view, a fair process is one that comprehensively repre- sents the arguments about the issues at hand, not one that proportionally represents the population (see Habermas, 1984, 1987, 1989; Webler et al., 1995; Chambers, 2003). In this view, powerful actors belong in the dis- course but should have no privileged status apart from the arguments they present. It depends largely on the concept of participation itself whether fairness is seen as representing common sense, diversity on viewpoints, all relevant arguments, or a proportional sample of the affected public (Renn, 2008). Under any of these standards of fairness, fair participatory practice probably depends on improving the competence to participate of those who do not have the background or financial resources to discuss issues on an equal stance with well-informed and powerful people (Moore, 1986; Fischer, 2005). This is especially the case if empowerment is also a goal of participation (Forester and Stitzel, 1989). Responsibility for improving the competence of those with traditionally low levels of influence does not rest
64 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION only in the hands of the organizers of the participation process. Although it is difficult to mobilize some parts of the population to participate in col- lective action, including engaging in public participation, such mobilization does takes place. A very substantial literature examines the ways in which the collective action problem is overcome in low-influence groups (e.g., Gamson, 1990, 1992; Diani and McAdam, 2003). While this literature has not been deployed to inform the design of public participation processes, it might offer some useful insights. Trivial or Undesirable Results The last major criticism of participation concerns the results. The claim is that the results of highly participatory processes are too often trivial, overprotective of certain interests or values, or lead to actions that are inefficient or disproportional to the threat or problem (Sanders, 1997; Cross, 1998; List, 2006). Many critics claim that people are either unable or unwilling to accept trade-offs and to search for efficient or cost-effective solutions (Zeckhauser and Viscusi, 1996). Participatory processes, in this view, tend to favor solutions that violate rules of efficient or cost-effective spending of public money (Cupps, 1977; Rosenbaum, 1978; Graham and Wiener, 1995; Viscusi, 1998). Critics argue that participation may aggra- vate environmental damage or impacts on human health because it focuses on a single issue and does not take into account that minimizing the impact of one problem can increase the impact of related problems (Perry, 2000). By pursuing priorities that the public demands, regulators are likely to spend time and effort on environmental threats that are relatively benign but highly visible in the public eye and neglect those threats that are not well known to the public but very potent in their consequences (Coglianese, 1999). In the long run, in this view, more people will suffer from future damages than necessary since the funds for safety and risk reduction are spent inefficiently. A related argument is based on the costs of participatory processes (Rossi, 1997). This line of criticism expresses a concern that participation may disrupt the normal operation of agencies or representative bodies, con- suming time and money and resulting in delay, immobility, and stalemate (Aron, 1979; Cross, 1998). Some analysts have claimed that the European style of closed-shop negotiation has been much more effective in regulat- ing environmental risks than the adversarial and open style of the United States (Coppock, 1985; Weidner, 1993). The more people are asked to take part, the more time it will take to come to any conclusion. This argument holds that effective government rests on a limited opportunity to participate and that in the long run, participation does more to harm than help the environment.
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 65 Another criticism is that public deliberative processes lead to trivial results (Coglianese, 1999). This argument holds that the more public input is allowed to enter the process, the more likely that âwindow-dressingââ superficial outcomesâwill occur. If all the participants have to find a common ground of agreement, the language of that agreement is likely to remain vague and the outcomes will lack specificity and clear direction. This argument is directed, of course, against deliberative procedures that require consensus. Finally, one of the most sustained criticisms of public participation is that it requires a commitment of time and money so large that the costs far outweigh the benefits of participation (Krutilla and Haigh, 1978; Aron, 1979; Coppock, 1985; Weidner, 1993; Cross, 1998), especially given con- cerns with the outcomes reviewed above. From an agencyâs perspective, unless the input gained through the process is of high quality, the funds might better be spent on other activities. From the perspective of the public, unless the outcome of the participation is influential, other mechanisms of influencing the agency may be more cost-effective (Shannon, 1987). These concerns have led some researchers to explore methods of participation that provide added value in a timely fashion with a reasonable expenditure of resources (e.g., Chess, Dietz, and Shannon, 1998; Renn, 1999). These criticisms are an antidote to naivete with regard to participation by identifying plausible ways that participation may go astray. It is useful to think of these criticisms in two ways. First, they raise the issue of what can or should be expected from a participatory process, considering that participation may have various purposes. For example, if the goal of a par- ticipatory process is for the agency to identify the concerns of the public but not to propose solutions or reach a consensus, concerns with fairness are appropriate, but issues of political manipulation, scientific competence, and efficiency would seem less germane. However, if the goal is to recom- mend policy, and especially if the recommendations will be influential, these latter concerns must be given serious consideration. Different goals enhance or reduce the importance of these problems. If the main objective is to identify the range of public concerns, all that is required is to survey the views of interested and affected parties: representation matters, but other concerns are more muted. If the objective is to reach a consensus, more stress must be placed on the ability of the participants to learn from each other and weigh arguments (Wynne, 1992; Tuler and Webler, 1995; Daniels and Walker, 1997; Beierle, 2000; Webler, Tuler, and Krueger, 2001; Welp and Stoll-Kleemann, 2006). Many experienced observers claim that given the right structure and facilitation process, a rational exchange of arguments and a balanced and efficient assignment of trade-offs can be and has been achieved (Webler, 1995, 1999; Renn, 1999, 2004). Ultimately, it is an empirical question whether these claims can be validated. The limited
66 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION systematic evidence indicates that consensus-seeking participation processes tend to be more time-consuming and intense (Sherington, 1997; U.S. EnviÂ ronmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board, 2001; Abelson et al., 2003). They also fail more often than processes that only measure public preferences or display the diversity of opinions. However, consensus pro- cesses seem to be better than inventory-oriented processes at meeting the expectations of the participants and the users (Beierle and Cayford, 2002; Hagendijk and Irwin, 2006; Abelson et al., 2007). Furthermore, evaluations of case studies of deliberative processes provide rather convincing evidence that the results of well-designed processes range far beyond the trivial or inefficient (Rowe et al., 2004; Rauschmayer and Wittmer, 2006). When a process is intended to empower the participants and to bring attention and consideration to the needs and interests of those who are nor- mally neglected in the public policy arena, the results are intended to be dif- ferent from the general publicâs preference structure. Although this objective may not be widely shared, it would be unfair to criticize such processes if the result is inefficient or disproportionate from the standpoint of the entire society (Koopmans, 1996; Fung and Wright, 2001; Fischer, 2005ï¿½ï¿½ ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½). The theoretical arguments extolling participation and the cautionary literature are both sources of hypotheses regarding the outcomes of par- ticipatory processes. Chapters 3-8 examine these hypotheses by considering in detail the scientific and experiential evidence regarding the outcomes of participatory processes and what shapes them. CRITERIA FOR EVALUATION Our discussion so far makes obvious the diversity of expectationsâ positive and negative, hopeful and cautionary, normative, substantive, and instrumentalâthat have been expressed for public participation processes. Each of these expectations is an implicit hypothesis about the effects of public participation processes or about how attributes of the processes or their contexts determine those effects. To make sense of the evidence, it is necessary to distill the very large number of variables and hypotheses in the literature down to a manageable set to use in our assessment. This section identifies a few key types of results that stand out in the literature and that we use as evaluative criteria in the chapters that follow. When to Evaluate: Evaluating Across Stages of Implementation Public participation processes go through many stages, from problem formulation and process design through decision making and implementa- tion, to the ultimate effects of decisions on the environment and society. Thus, evaluation could potentially be done at many points in the process.
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 67 A previous report of the National Research Council (2005b) distinguished five classes of metrics for evaluationâinput, process, output, outcome, and impactâthat are roughly ordered in relation to the point in a process at which they can first be assessed. They have a plausible causal ordering in the sense that the attributes of an assessment or decision that appear earlier on the list can influence the later ones, but not vice versa. After sufficient passage of time, environmental assessments and decisions can be judged in terms of any of these classes of metrics. The ultimate concerns of public policy are with impacts on socially important values, such as environmental quality, economic activity, the distribution of the benefits and costs across the population, and public faith in government. There is also serious concern with outcomes that depend on implementation, such as whether responsible agencies make new com- mitments or decisions; whether laws, regulations, or policies change; and whether actions are taken on the ground. These outcomes were identified by Beierle and Cayford (2002) as stages of implementation that intervene between the outputs of public participation processes and the ultimate im- pacts of decisions on environmental quality and other social goals. Public participation processes do not influence such ultimate outcomes and impacts directly. Environmental impacts, for example, though poten- tially influenced by public participation processes, are also affected in very significant ways by many other factors. These include the implementation of policy decisions, as well as events in the natural and social worlds that affect environmental quality independently of any decision resulting from a specific public participation process. Because so many factors influence environmental conditions and other impacts, it is usually very difficult to attribute ultimate impacts to causes in a public participation process. More- over, because of the long causal chain, any effects of public participation on environmental quality are typically indirect, mediated by implementation and other intervening events. Exceptions occur when the participants have the power collectively to implement their decisions, as in some watershed partnerships (Leach and Pelkey, 2001; Lubell and Leach, 2005), in negoti- ated rule-making (Langbein, 2005), and in many instances of collective gov- ernance of common-pool environmental resources, such as local fisheries, forests, or irrigation systems (see, e.g., Ostrom, 1990; National Research Council, 2002a). To the extent that the participants in a public participa- tion process have the power to implement their decisions, ultimate impacts and outcomes can provide good metrics for evaluation. To the extent that the process is only advisory, however, the results that can be most readily linked causally to a public participation process are those that can be ob- served at or shortly after the end of the process. In most contexts, then, it makes sense to distinguish (1) the effects of public participation on such immediate results of assessments and deci-
68 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION sions, (2) the effects of these immediate results on implementation, and (3) the effects of implementation on environmental quality. Immediate results include the outputs of public participation, such as completing an assess- ment, reaching a decision, and making recommendations for action by the responsible agency or others. They also include immediate outcomes, such as changes in the attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, skills, and practices of the various participants (including scientists and the convening agency), and changes in relationships or mutual understanding among the participants at the conclusion of a participatory process. Conclusions about the effects of public participation on subsequent outcomes that depend on implementation of recommendations from the process and on impacts must be built on inferences from information about the causes of success in terms of immediate results (point 1 above), as well as separate evidence about the effects of immediate results on implementa- tion outcomes (point 2) and of implementation on impacts (point 3). Our main focus is on the effects of public participation on immediate results, because unless positive effects on these can be achieved, investments in public participation would not seem worthwhile. There is evidence that public participation that is successful in terms of immediate results promotes good implementation, and that good imple- mentation in turn promotes positive impacts on environmental and other socially valued endpoints (e.g., Langbein, 2005; Lubell and Leach, 2005). However, most of the research and analysis has appropriately focused on the first critical link in the causal chain, from public participation activi- ties to the results immediately expected or desired from it. Evaluating the entire causal chain, though obviously important, will require a much more substantial investment in research on environmental decision making than has been made to date (National Research Council, 2005a). Some evalua- tion efforts are being organized under the auspices of the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution (information available at http://www. ecr.gov/multiagency/program_eval.htm). Other fields of research have long dealt with the problem of inferring the quality of a decision process from the subsequent events it is intended to affect. For example, this is a central theme in discussion of research methods in international relations (e.g., Tetlock and Belkin, 1996; Stern and Druckman, 2000). A key insight from that work is that the effect of a deci- sion on a complex system is most meaningfully assessed in comparison to a counterfactual situation, that is, the conditions that would have resulted if a different decision had been made or a different decision process had been used. Because of the difficulties inherent in specifying such counterfactuals, it is unwise to uncritically take environmental changes, or a lack of such changes, after a decision as evidence of the environmental impact or lack of impact of the decision. In addition, it is important to judge outcomes
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 69 against reasonable expectations of how much change a decision, even if fully implemented, might make in the relevant impact measures within a given period of time. Finally, outcomes often entail the resolution of uncer- tainty that was present at the time of the decision and thus reflect additional knowledge that was not available to those making the decision. Inappropri- ate reliance on outcome knowledge in the evaluation of decision processes and decision makers (i.e., they âshould have known it would turn out this wayâ when in fact they could not have) has been labeled outcome bias (Baron and Hershey, 1988; Hershey and Baron, 1992) and is closely related to hindsight bias in cognitive psychology (Fischhoff, 1975, 1982). Although it is reasonable to expect the quality of decision processes to be positively associated with the quality of outcomes over the long run (Frisch and Clemen, 1994), it is very difficult (and often improper) to infer the quality of an individual decision process directly from its long-run outcomes. Given these considerations and the relatively greater amount of evidence concerning immediate results relative to implementation outcomes and im- pacts in most studies of environmental public participation, it is much more feasible to evaluate most environmental public participation processes on the basis of immediate outputs and outcomes than against implementation or impact criteria. The further down the list of implementation stages, the more difficult data collection and interpretation become. For these reasons, our focus in evaluating the evidence on environmental public participation is mainly on evidence that can be collected at or near the end of the pro- cesses studied, that is, on outputs and immediate outcomes. However, we acknowledge that further research on the effects of participation on imple- mentation and impacts is certainly warranted, and some important progress in that direction is being made (OâLeary and Bingham, 2003; Dukes, 2004; Sabatier et al., 2004; Koontz and Thomas, 2006). What to Evaluate: Types of Results The published literature on public participation includes numerous ty- pologies of results or evaluation criteria (e.g., Quinn and Rohrbaugh, 1983; Fiorino, 1989, 1990; Laird, 1993; Renn, Webler, and Wiedemann, 1995; Tuler and Webler, 1995; Steelman and Ascher, 1997; Rowe and Frewer, 2000; Webler, Tuler, and Krueger, 2001; Beierle and Cayford, 2002; Renn, 2004, 2008; Rowe et al., 2004; Abels, 2007; Blackstock et al., 2007), as well as many works identifying desired outcomes and potential pitfalls, as discussed above. There is no clear consensus among researchers or practi- tioners on which results are the most important. However, an examination of the literature suggests convergence on some of the key ones. In this book, we use a classification scheme that emphasizes three main types of results: quality, legitimacy, and capacity. We believe these types cover most of the
70 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION key results of public participation processes that can be assessed soon after the completion of an assessment or decision process. Quality of assessments or decisions corresponds closely to the concepts of substantive quality as described by Beierle and Cayford (2002) and com- petence in works following the tradition of Habermas (e.g., Renn, Webler, and Wiedemann, 1995). It has characteristics identified with good decision making in the field of decision analysis (e.g., Howard, 1966, 1968; von Winterfeldt and Edwards, 1986). A high-quality assessment or decision has these main elements: â¢ identification of the values, interests, and concerns of the agencies, scientists, and other parties that are interested in or might be affected by the environmental process or decision; â¢ identification of the range of actions that might be taken (for decisions); â¢ identification and systematic consideration of the effects that might follow from the environmental processes or actions being considered, in- cluding uncertainties about these effects, in terms of the values, interests, and concerns of interested and affected parties; â¢ outputs consistent with the best available knowledge and methods relevant to the above tasks, particularly the third; and â¢ incorporation of new information, methods, and concerns that arise over time.4 A number of attributes of outputs and immediate outcomes may be used as indicators of quality; see Box 2-2. Legitimacy is related to the traditional concept of consent of the gov- erned in U.S. politics. A legitimate decision is one that is fair, compe- tent, and accountable to existing law (Susskind and Cruikshank, 1987; Wondoleck and Yaffee, 2000; Van de Wetering, 2006). The minimal defi- nition of legitimacy is the narrow one of acceptance of the environmental assessment or decision as having conformed to standards of fair and legal process. An assessment or decision can be seen as legitimate in these terms even by someone who disagrees with it. More expansive concepts of legiti- macy follow from normative concerns about fairness, for example, about the equitable distribution of the benefits and costs of public decisions or of influence on those decisions among segments of the public (see discussion above). It is difficult to put such concepts of fairness on scales for objective measurement because of differences of opinion about which distributions of cost, benefit, influence, etc., are most equitable or legitimate. However, good proxy indicators can be developed that reflect the extent to which claims of inequity are made after an assessment or decision and the extent to which such claims develop political traction or legal standing.Â Early
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 71 BOX 2-2 Three Types of Results of Environmental Decision Processes with Illustrative Indicators 1. Quality of Assessments or Decisions â¢ Concerns expressed by publics were addressed in analysis â¢ Information was added; more information was considered in the process â¢ Technical analyses were improved â¢ Outputs reflected a broad view of the situation that addressed all issues considered important by participants â¢ Conclusions were based on and consistent with the best available evidence â¢ Innovative ideas were generated for solving problems 2. Legitimacy of Process and Decisions Preexisting conflict was reduced or dissent clearly acknowledged and dealt with â¢ Mistrust among participants, including government agencies, was reduced â¢ Participants accepted the assessment or decision process as having con- formed to standards of sound analysis and decision making, even if they did not agree with the final assessment or recommendation for action â¢ The assessment or decision was widely accepted, even among nonparticipants â¢ Participants went outside the process to overturn its results, for example, with legal challenges or attempts to influence legislation (a negative indicator) 3. Capacity for Future Decisions â¢ Public participants became better informed about relevant environmental, scientific, social, and other issues â¢ Participants and public officials gained a better understanding of each other â¢ Public officials gained skill in organizing decision processes â¢ Participants gained skill in participatory decision making â¢ Scientists gained understanding of public concerns â¢ Scientists developed, or committed to develop, new data or methods claims of inequity are imperfect measures, though, because parties may be mistaken about the impacts a decision will have on them. However, claims of inequity that are widely considered implausible are unlikely to gain trac- tion. Some illustrative legitimacy indicators are listed in Box 2-2. Improved capacity includes having better educated and informed pub- lics, publics more skilled at participating in environmental decisions, more competent and skillful public officials, improved methods for scientific analysis of environmental issues, better communication among interested
72 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION and affected parties, better relationships among the various participants in making and implementing environmental decisions, improved institutional systems for environmental communication and decision making, and a more widely shared understanding of the nature of environmental issues and deci- sion challenges. Box 2-2 lists some illustrative capacity indicators. One additional kind of immediate result is an important link between outputs and implementation outcomes and is relevant to assessing public participation in many contexts we have examined. We refer to this result as support for implementation. Two examples illustrate the concept. Some participatory processes, including some watershed partnerships (e.g., Leach and Pelkey, 2001; Lubell and Leach, 2005) and many nongovernmental arrangements for managing common-pool resources (see, e.g., National Research Council, 2002a) produce as an output a tacit or formal agree- ment among the participants to continue to collaborate on implementing management plans in the future. Such agreements arguably predispose to implementation, but they still can be distinguished from implementation itself. Another example is regulatory negotiation (e.g., Langbein, 2005), which normally ends in a recommendation to an agency to adopt a specific regulation. Such participatory processes are reasonably judged more suc- cessful if the participants support the regulation they recommended by testi- fying for it, refraining from lawsuits or other blocking actions, and so forth. In both these examples, the participants bear some of the responsibility for implementation, and it is reasonable to judge the processes in part by how well the participants keep their explicit or implicit commitments for the implementation phase. Support for implementation is an early outcome that may reflect both the legitimacy and the perceived quality of the output of a process. When a public participation process results in such commitments, it is appropriate to judge the process in part by how well the participants keep the commitments. It is worth emphasizing that although decision quality and legitimacy and changes in decision-making capacity can be analyzed as immediate outcomes of participatory processes, as we do here, implementation can also affect each of these outcomes at later times, sometimes profoundly. The most obvious example arises when policy officials âsummarily dismiss a deliberative groupâs judgment,â leaving participants more disenchanted than before and therefore less willing to accept or even participate in future similar processes (a review by Pyle, 2005:62, cites several studies that docu- ment this phenomenon; see also Bora and Hausendorf, 2006). Using Indicators of Results to Evaluate Processes The primary task of evaluation is to establish causal relationships among aspects of participation processes and aspects of results. Without
THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF PARTICIPATION 73 experimental control, all such causal inferences are problematic. An ad- ditional inference problem concerns keeping the measures of processes and of results independent of each other. For example, if the quality of an assessment or decision (a result) is defined in part by the extent to which public concerns are considered in the analysis, processes that are legally or administratively required to respond formally to these concerns will almost automatically score higher on measures of how fully public concerns were addressed. It does not make sense to put much trust in such a statistical association. One would have more faith in an inference that considering concerns improves quality if the quality indicator were derived from scien- tific or judicial review of the quality of assessments. Thus, it is important for future research to take care in selecting indicators of results to ensure that they do not prejudge research hypotheses in this way. Another problem arises if the quality of the process is measured by the degree of personal satisfaction of the participants. Although satisfaction is certainly one element to consider and is commonly examined in the litera- ture, it can be influenced by aspects of the experience that are unrelated to quality. An example is cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957). Long and tedious processes can lead to higher degrees of satisfaction among partici- pants who, having devoted much time and effort, justify their efforts by a belief that the process was successful. Participants who are not normally consulted may express satisfaction that is rooted in the opportunity to participate. In contrast, representatives of organized stakeholder groups may judge processes according to the interests to which they are committed (Abelson et al., 2003). Although subjective indicators are problematic, there is little agreement on objective criteria to judge the quality of the process. Multiple criteria have been suggested in the literature (Quinn and Rohrbaugh, 1983; Fiorino, 1989, 1990; Tuler and Webler, 1995; Steelman and Ascher, 1997; Rowe and Frewer, 2000; Webler, Tuler, and Krueger, 2001; Beierle and Cayford, 2002; Renn, 2004; Rowe et al., 2004; Abels, 2007; Blackstock et al., 2007), but given the diversity of goals for participation, not all these criteria are appropriate for every participatory process. However, the three major criteria of quality, legitimacy, and capacity are broad enough to cover most of the important kinds of results and can be made concrete enough to help discriminate between different degrees of performance quality (see Box 2-2). CONCLUSION Writers on environmental public participation have generated a wealth of hopes, fears, and other expectations about the effects of public participa- tion on a variety of important social and environmental values. As we note,
74 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION this literature provides a wealth of hypotheses awaiting tests. The avail- able evidence suffers from the diversity of concepts and the lack of agreed measures, creating a daunting task for anyone seeking clear answers to questions about the effects of public participation and the conditions under which particular results are likely to occur. In our judgment, considering the current state of knowledge, it makes sense to assess the evidence by con- sidering three kinds of results: the quality of assessments or decisions, their legitimacy, and changes in the capacity of public participants, scientists, and agency officials to participate in similar decisions in the future. To draw inferences most confidently, it is important to consider these kinds of results at or soon after the end of the public participation process. Notes 1These are not the only useful functions public participation can per- form. Research on methods for managing the use of common-pool resources identifies some âgovernance requirementsâ not listed in Box 2-1 that might be promoted by public involvement. They include dealing with conflict, inducing compliance with rules, and encouraging adaptation and change (Stern, Dietz, and Ostrom, 2002; Dietz, Ostrom, and Stern, 2003). 2Gastil (2008) and Parkinson (2006) also posit connections between theoretical framings for public participation and methods for conducting participatory processes. Unlike Rennâs taxonomy, their work is not focused on environmental assessment and decision making. 3We acknowledge as a problem that assessment immediately after a process may be premature to the extent that the process itself helps shape participantsâ values and preferences regarding environmental issues (see, e.g., Gregory and McDaniels, 1987; Fischhoff and Furby, 1988; Fischhoff, 1991; Gregory, Lichtenstein, and Slovic, 1993; Dietz and Stern, 1998). In principle, one indicator of success, especially for emergent environmental is- sues, might be that the process helps shape public values and preferences on emergent issues. However, we see no way to determine in which direction public preferences should change as a result of successful public participa- tion and so do not propose this type of indicator. 4These elements elaborate on the injunction offered by the National Research Council (1996) with regard to risk assessments, to get the right science and get the science right. The revised language here partly reflects our concern with decisions as well as assessments.