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.
5 Practice: Organizing Participation T his chapter reviews the evidence on how different ways of organizing the participation itselfâthe interactions among the agency and the various participantsâaffects the results of public participation. As in the previous chapter, we begin by stating this main finding from our review and then discuss more specific points and the supporting evidence. A few attributes of the ways environmental public participation is orga- nized are associated with the likelihood of successful outcomes and can be treated as principles of good practice. Successful outcomes are more likely when a process includes the full spectrum of parties who are interested in or will be affected by a decision and encourage their voluntary commit- ment to it; involves the parties in formulating the problem for assessment or a decision and in designing the participatory process; is transparent to participants and observers; and is structured to encourage the parties to communicate in good faith. There is no single best format, set of procedures, or level of intensity for implementing these principles or for achieving good outcomes in all situations. The best results follow when the participation is organized so as to be responsive to context-specific challenges, such as those discussed in Chapters 7 and 8. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION FORMATS AND PRACTICES Public participation processes can be organized in many different ways. So it is reasonable to ask if certain formats work better generally, or in some circumstances, than others. However, the evidence does not support 111
112 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION such conclusions. Various public participation formats have been successful in achieving the goals of high-quality and widely acceptable assessments and decisions, and each format has also failed at times in achieving these goals. Many terms have come into use over time to describe ways of organiz- ing participatory processes. Numerous typologies of them can be found in the published literature (e.g., Creighton, 2005). Some terms refer to broad âformats.â Examples include public hearings, scoping meetings, focus groups, workshops, open houses, charrettes, listening sessions, ad- visory committees, blue-ribbon commissions, summits, policy dialogues, negotiated rule-making, task forces, town meetings, citizen juries, study circles, future search conferences, online deliberation, and deliberative polling. Other terms refer to more specific practices, tools, or techniques that can be used together with particular formats. These include working groups, panels, debates, field trips, web sites, listservs, voting, consensus- building exercises, professional facilitation, process steering committees, visioning exercises, decision analysis exercises, scenario-building exercises, participatory budgeting, media campaigns, surveys, various educational or outreach activities, and so forth. The International Association for Public Participation, for example, offers a âtoolboxâ of dozens of such tools and techniques, classified by the purposes for which they are commonly used (see http://www.iap2.org/associations/4748/files/06Dec_Toolbox.pdf). Frequently, different formats share practices in common or a single for- mat is flexible enough that it can, under the right circumstances, integrate practices that are usually associated with a another format. As a result, processes called by the same name can look quite different in use, and processes with different names can have many specific components in com- mon. For example, an expert panel can be assembled and integrated into virtually all the formats above, as can many other specific practices. Table 5-1 identifies and distinguishes three broad classes of public participation formats for purposes of reference. Even a process that is tightly controlled by an agency may include a limited participatory role for the public. Information dissemination, not listed in the table, is sometimes considered to be a kind of public partici- pation, albeit a very passive one (Creighton, 1999; Zarger, 2003). Con- ventional rule-making procedures often require that agencies publish a proposed regulation and allow a period of time for public comment before finalizing and implementing the rule (see Chapter 2). Such processes are open to the public, and they may or may not influence decision outcomes (e.g., Creighton, 1999; Beierle and Cayford, 2002; Zarger, 2003; Langbein, 2005). Information exchange, as noted in the table, allows for somewhat more interaction but still leaves little space for public influence. Advisory committees and similar activities encourage a more active role
PRACTICE: ORGANIZING PARTICIPATION 113 TABLE 5-1â Classes of Participation Formats Often Used by Government Agencies Format Type Breadth of Public Participation Information Exchange (used both to inform and Open access; often oriented toward consult) individual citizens, but often includes â Includes public hearings, comment periods, interest group representatives scoping meetings, focus groups, workshops, open houses, and listening sessions Involvement Predefined group selected to â Includes citizen panels, deliberative polling, represent diverse perspectives; may charettes, some advisory committees, citizen include individual citizens or group juries, study groups, town meetings, future representatives search conferences, and online deliberation Engagement (in both decision making and Predefined to represent interested collaborative action) groups, sometimes geographically â Includes joint fact-finding, policy defined in the cases of partnerships or dialogues, negotiated rulemaking, blue- comanagement of projects to include ribbon commissions, summits, community stakeholders with local ecological partnerships, and comanagement of projects or knowledge programs NOTE: We use descriptive terms to describe generic approaches that are distinct enough to be readily distinguished by a nonspecialist. Some of the terms in the first column of the table are sometimes used to refer to very carefully defined procedures. We do not mean to imply that all the formats in the same row of the table are alike, but rather that they have more in common with each other than they do with formats described in other rows. SOURCES: Compiled from Renn et al. (1995); Beierle and Cayford (2002); International As- sociation of Public Participation (2003); Zarger (2003); Leach (2005). for some people. Committee members are chosen to represent a range of in- terests, and they may be asked to produce recommendations or other deliv- erables (Lynn, 1990; Lynn and Kartez, 1995; Renn, Webler, and ÂWiedemann, 1995; Bradbury and Branch, 1999; Zarger, 2003). Their meetings may be structured to encourage intracommittee interaction or participation by other citizens and groups. Agency personnel might or might not play a substan- tive role. Variations from traditional advisory committee structures include citizen juries, policy dialogues, citizen panels, study groups, and consensus conferences (Stewart, Kendall, and Coote, 1994; Dienel and Renn, 1995; Renn, Webler, and Wiedemann, 1995; Beierle and Cayford, 2002). More collaborative formats may include a commitment to shared deci- sion making among agencies and citizen groups, usually extending over a relatively long time period. They may incorporate interagency and interÂ group relationships, and they may evolve over time (Pinkerton, 1994;
114 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION Zarger, 2003; Lubell and Leach, 2005; Leach, 2006). Some collaborative decision-making activities encourage interactions between agency scientists and citizens with local ecological knowledge (Murphree, 1991; Pinkerton, 1994; Berkes et al., 2001; Kemmis, 2002). Many require that agencies and public participants invest in building capacity and trust (Pinkerton, 1994; Cestero, 1999; Zarger, 2003; Lubell and Leach, 2005). Consensus-building formats tend to promote binding agreements be- tween an agency and a relatively small number of participants, selected to represent a range of stakeholders (Zarger, 2003; Birkhoff and Bingham, 2004; Langbein, 2005). These formats include negotiated rule-making, dispute resolution, and other mediated processes. They require some level of facilitation, whether by an involved agency or stakeholder or by an un- involved professional. Outcomes might be constituted as a proposed rule, a memorandum of understanding, a statement of principles, a legal settle- ment, or a less formalized agreement.1 Public participation processes are commonly tailored to the specific circumstances of an assessment or decision, drawing on elements or prac- tices from the various available formats to suit the context, explicitly ad- dressing potential obstacles to success that are diagnosed at the planning stage and incorporating different participatory modes at different project stages (Creighton, 1999; Bleiker and Bleiker, 2000; Bradbury, Branch, and Malone, 2003; Zarger, 2003). Each decision process might schedule a number of participatory events, each tailored for a different procedural purpose and a different mix of participants (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1998; Cestero, 1999; Creighton, 1999; Lawrence and Deagen, 2001; Bingham, 2003). As already noted, most types of formats can incorporate specific mecha- nisms, tools, or practices. Most of these formats also can be more or less formal with regard to organization, protocol, and overall tone of commu- nications. Most can be pursued with small or large budgets. Few studies have rigorously and empirically compared participation formats, incorporating multiple cases with two or more formats. Such work would in fact be difficult to do because most of the formats are not very rigorously defined. The few comparative studies have examined relatively well-defined and distinct formats (e.g., conventional and negotiated regula- tion; e.g., Langbein, 2005) or have coded processes into categories based on reports about them (e.g., Beierle and Cayford, 2002). Moreover, almost all the studies are ex post assessments and have all the problems of this research form in attributing effects to causes. Moreover, as we note above, it may not be the format itself that mat- ters, but practices carried out within the format, on which researchers may or may not have data. In short, the ability to draw conclusions about for-
PRACTICE: ORGANIZING PARTICIPATION 115 mat is limited by varying conceptualizations of what the formats are and inadequate theory about how they produce their effects. A discussion of formats would not be complete without considering the potential role of the Internet in public participation. Though not a format in itself, it is attractive because it might provide a way to deal with some of the practical difficulties of conducting participatory processes when the participants are geographically dispersed or have limited available time and cannot be available for face-to-face contact. The individual and insti- tutional costs of information transfer and acquisition can be lowered by Internet technologies, while convenience can rise. However, concerns persist about the âdigital divideâ in which access to and facility with online com- munications are not equitably distributed, with the possible results that use of the Internet will diminish the participation of some groups (Mossberger, Tolbert, and Stansbury, 2003; Chakraborty and Bosman, 2005; Martin and Robinson, 2007). Moreover, one cannot assume that interactions via the internet will have the same effects as face-to-face processes. The limited evidence on using the Internet for public participation sug- gests that successful participatory processes can be conducted online, but the conditions for success are not yet established (Beierle, 2002). Studies suggest that online participation yields many of the benefits of face-to- face participation, but that in some cases it can also increase polarization (Capella, Price, and Nir, 2002; Price and Capella, 2002; Price, Nir, and Cappella, 2002; Inyengar, Luskin, and Fishkin, 2003; Price et al., 2003). A randomized comparison of face-to-face and electronic participation in deliberative polls found the two to perform similarly, with the benefits of electronic participation being slightly weaker (Iyengar, Luskin, and Fishkin, 2005). In our judgment, electronic participation processes are most likely to be valuable when the assessment or decision problem will affect people who are not in geographic proximity to each other and thus are hard to bring together. However, we believe electronic processes should be tried only when adequate representation of the interested and affected parties can be obtained from among the subpopulation that has access to, and is comfort- able using, available technology for online participation. Clearly, however, this is an area for continued experimentation. DIMENSIONS OF PARTICIPATORY PROCESS This section focuses on attributes of participatory process that cut across different formats. Evidence suggests that attributes are more relevant than formats to developing principles of practice. As noted in Chapter 3, one process can be more participatory than another in several distinct ways. The dimension most commonly used to organize typologies of public
116 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION participation in the practitioner literature is variation in the nature of the publicâs role (termed influence below and often described by practitioners as the objective of the process), with some process formats being designed to inform the public, some to elicit public perspectives, others to involve the public in consensus decision making or recommendations, and still others to engage in collaborative action. As Table 5-1 indicates, formats can be roughly classified in terms of such objectives. We have identified four dimensions of participatory process: 1. breadth: the number and variety of participants involved; 2. openness of design: the degree to which participants are involved at early stages of the process, the number of points in the process at which they are involved, and their influence on the design of the process; 3. intensity: the amount of time and effort participants put into the process and the amount of interaction that takes place among them, as well as between public participants and the agency officials and scientists who would otherwise be involved; and 4. influence: the extent to which the process allows for or provides mechanisms by which the public participants can affect how the convening agency defines, considers, and acts on the issue. In much of the literature on public participation, the dimensions of breadth, openness of design, intensity, and influence are treated as highly correlated, in the sense that advocates often favor more participation on all these dimensions at once, and researchers do not always clearly distin- guish them so that their effects on results can be assessed independently of each other. The largest multicase comparison study of public participa- tion (Beierle and Cayford, 2002) found that the dimensions are strongly correlated in practice. Reflecting this correlation, Beierle and Cayfordâs classification of formats closely corresponds with the intensity of the delib- erative process they required. Comparisons of negotiated and traditional regulations (e.g., Langbein, 2005) similarly link a difference in formats with differences in intensity. In addition to the above dimensions, formats differ in what we call âboundedness.â Some processes are bounded in that they identify and target specific parties and stakeholders or individuals representing those interests. Other processes are unbounded, in the sense that they are open to all parties and constrained only by the extent to which individuals and organizations have sufficient interest and resources to participate. Un- bounded processes often tend to attract well-organized interests. Agencies sometimes use bounded processes to make sure that important interests or perspectives that might not find representation in an unbounded process get a place at the tableâthat is, to increase the breadth in comparison with
PRACTICE: ORGANIZING PARTICIPATION 117 what would happen in an unbounded process. However, some parties may still be left out. Generally, processes designed to involve stakeholders in consensus building, such as advisory committees, summits, or commissions, are usu- ally quite bounded even when meetings are open to the public, in that specific individuals are named as members of the group. In contrast, pro- cesses designed to inform or consult the public, such as scoping meetings, listening sessions, and online deliberations, often are more open. In some circumstances, process formats are combined so that both characteristics can be found in a single public participation effort. Some observers suggest that less bounded formats may be appropriate early in a process for the purpose of problem formulation, when organized interest groups have not yet formed, or when there may be affected groups that are unorganized. As interests become more organized and the needed information and expertise clarified, it may be useful for the process to become more formalized and less open to new participants. Hypotheses like these are attractive because they specify intervening variables that might explain how formats affect outcomes through mechanisms of social interactionâbut they are very hard to evaluate given the current state of knowledge. Although dimensions such as intensity and boundedness are often cor- related, decisions about how to organize public participation also can affect these dimensions independently. Agencies commonly face separate process choices about whether to invite or include some participants (breadth), whether to include public participants in particular discussions, including discussions about the process itself (openness of design), how many public meetings to hold (intensity), and how much influence to allow ideas and suggestions from public participants to have in making decisions (influ- ence). We thus divide most of our discussion about the effects of the way participation is organized according to these four dimensions. Before discussing the evidence on the effects of various ways of organiz- ing the participation, it is worth characterizing this evidence. The best evi- dence of cause-effect relationships comes from controlled case-comparison studies in which an aspect of a participatory process is systematically varied and differences in outcome indicators are observed. Although such studies could be carried out to investigate the effects of various aspects of participa- tion practice, very few have been done. A notable exception is the work of Fishkin (Farrar et al., 2003, 2006; Ackerman and Fishkin, 2004; Fishkin and Luskin, 2005) on the deliberative polling method, which has addressed energy policy options (but not other environmental topics). The lack of experimental research probably reflects some combination of practical dif- ficulties, tight budgets for public participation, the absence of a culture of evaluation in many of the relevant agencies, and perhaps a lack of exper-
118 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION tise in social research design in those agencies. Whatever the reasons, the shortage of studies with true experimental or quasi-experimental designs considerably weakens the confidence that one can have in inferences from experience. Experimental studies alone, however, will never be sufficient for the study of public participation. Although experiments greatly enhance the ability to understand causation, it is usually at the cost of creating a some- what artificial situation and that may lead to different behaviors than would be found in real-world participation. Understanding of public participation will require âtriangulationâ across multiple methods. While more evidence accumulates, our conclusions should be assessed as provisional and requir- ing stronger evidence for certainty. In Chapter 9, we return to the issue of improving the quality of research on environmental public participation. BREADTH Public participation processes are more successful when they include the full spectrum of parties who are interested in or will be affected by a decision. The argument to include all interested and affected parties goes back at least to Dewey (1923), who uses the idea of affected parties to define âthe public.â The idea is foundational to democracy. A major rationale for public participation processes is that, without such processes, many who are interested in or who will be affected by a decision may not have a chance to influence that decision, a situation widely judged inappropriate in a democracy. However, this normative justification does not necessarily entail that public influence is best organized through the kinds of direct participation in agency activities that are the focus of this volume. There are other avenues for public influence in environmental decisions. Moreover, governmental agencies, in exercising their duty to act in the public interest, sometimes see broad and direct public involvement as an impediment to their work. The issue for the present discussion is an empirical one: whether public participation improves decision quality, legitimacy, and the capacity of agencies and participants. A number of analyses of environmental assessments and decision-mak- ing processes argue that inclusiveness is important for achieving legitimacy with the public (reviewed in National Research Council, 2007a). Mitchell et al. (2006) noted that global change assessments may lack credibility with key audiences if local expertise has not been included, and often participa- tory mechanisms are the only effective way to engage such local knowledge. In her study advisory boards at the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Bradbury (2005) emphasized the importance to widespread acceptance of active outreach on the part of boards to make sure diverse perspectives were represented. Leachâs (2005)
PRACTICE: ORGANIZING PARTICIPATION 119 assessment of Forest Service participation also emphasized the importance of inclusiveness. However, a number of studies cite practical justifications for some limits to inclusiveness. Some of the justifiable restictions that Leach ex- tracted from the literature include excluding journalists, avoiding having too many parties involved, and being selective in including those who have the time and knowledge to effectively engage and are able to accurately reflect the views of their organizations (Leach, 2005; see also Wondolleck and Yaffee, 1994). For example, Floyd et al. (1996) found a negative cor- relation between the number of parties and perceived efficiency and equity of outcomes. A number of studies have suggested that participation should be restricted to those who can commit for the duration of the process and who have some expertise or can speak authentically for interested and af- fected groups (Selin and Myers, 1995; Shindler and Neburka, 1997; Yaffee, Wondolleck, and Lippman, 1997). Selin and Chavez (1994) argue that a proper mix of participants, including those with collaborative personalities and diversity of skills and resources, is helpful. Some of these suggestions about whom to include or not to include are related to concerns with decision quality and some to legitimacy. Such suggestions for restricting participation have to be balanced with the im- portance of building capacity among communities of interested and af- fected parties, one of the objectives of public participation. Concerns about legitimacy tend to generate recommendations to involve parties that are already organized or that might become organized if they object to a decisionâeither by open invitation or through representatives. Concerns about quality tend to generate recommendations for breadth in terms of getting all significant viewpoints and sources of knowledge represented. There may be categories of individuals that it makes sense to exclude be- cause of their professional relationship to the policy process. For example, attorneys who might be invovled in litigation about decisions or journalists who are covering the issue may not be appropriate participants. A problem deserving special attention in considering breadth is the balance between national and local interests. In some cases, such as many toxic contamination problems, local issues logically predominate because there are few effects distant from the site. But for many natural resource management problems, there is a strong national interest in both economic development and environmental protection. The U.S.D.A. Forest Service (2000) has noted that local and national perspectives have to be balanced in participatory processes, although Shindler and Neburka (1997) argue that the inclusion of national interest groups may lead to their strong influence on and even domination of a local process. This is a problem deserving further research and careful thought when designing a process. As noted above, the Internet may be helpful in dealing with extra-local participation.
120 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION Global interests and affected parties are also relevant in some environmen- tal decisions, such as those affecting climate or biodiversity. As discussed in Chapter 7, the spatial scale of the environmental issue affects who the parties are, and particular constellations of parties can present specific chal- lenges to effective public participation. Some of the issues regarding inclusiveness are pragmatic ones. Processes that are too large for real communication are not likely to be effective. The large body of research on collective action includes strong theoretical argu- ments and evidence that the ability to develop and realize a common agenda is inversely related, among other things, to the size of the group involved (e.g., Olson, 1965; Wade, 1994; Baland and Platteau, 1996). However, there is also contrary evidence (e.g., Marwell and Oliver, 1993). It seems most likely that the effect of group size is mediated by other factors. The ones most likely to be relevant to a public policy process are the levels of heterogeneity and interdependence among those in the group (Agrawal, 2002). In most environmental policy contexts, heterogeneity is fairly high and interdependence relatively low, suggesting that group size is likely to be an impediment to consensus. However, several process formats are spe- cifically designed to accommodate large numbers of participants, including âworld cafes,â study circles, online dialogues, and large âtown meetingsâ using electronic polling technology. Having large numbers of interested stakeholders is a contextual variable discussed in more detail in Chapter 8. The larger the number of participants, the greater the transaction costs of engaging with them (National Research Council, 2007a). Some of the process formats for accommodating large numbers can be expensive. An agency has to balance these costs against the value to be gained by engag- ing all the interested and affected parties and by helping individuals and groups to build capacity. Many practices are available to identify and include all stakeholders. For public hearings and workshops, agencies often provide public notice of the event through advertisements in local newspapers and through press releases or, at the federal level, the Federal Register. Agencies may also send electronic messages to individuals who have attended past workshops or meetings and ask stakeholder organizations to forward meeting notices through their membership communication channels. Public participation professionals often call key stakeholders as part of the initial assessment and process design phase to be proactive about learning who might be interested in participating. In some circumstances, such as under the Ne- gotiated Rulemaking Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act at the federal level (see Chapter 2), agencies are required to publish a notice of the intent to form an advisory committee and to solicit comments on whether the proposed participant list represents all affected interests. In sum, the literature indicates that it is very important to have rep-
PRACTICE: ORGANIZING PARTICIPATION 121 resentation for the spectrum of interested and affected parties and that, especially at the outset, it is important to identify all such parties in order to engage them. The research and practitioner literature indicates that it is better to err on the side of too much rather than too little inclusiveness. However, some of the advice emerging from recent studies appears to suggest that the notion of a âspectrum of interested and affected partiesâ (National Research Council, 1996:30) may be reasonably interpreted differ- ently in relation to the needs of different parts of an assessment or decision process. For example, problem formulation requires enough of a range of parties to get all the plausible problem formulations considered. This may be a somewhat different range of parties from the ones needed to design the process, consider decision options, or interpret scientific information. Because a convening organization cannot always know in advance who will be needed to fulfill these roles, the admonition to err on the side of too much inclusiveness makes sense. Public participation processes are more likely to be successful if they are structured to encourage voluntary commitment to them. Achieving in- clusiveness requires that the interested public actually participate. Thus, it is important to understand what would motivate people, whether organized into interest groups or not, to engage seriously in a participatory process. Successful designs maximize existing incentives to participate, create new ones at times, and minimize disincentives and obstacles. Effectively engaging those who might otherwise be absent from or not effective in the participatory process sometimes requires extensive outreach efforts and special ways of engaging those with limited time and skills. Is- sues that may seem minor to agency staffers, such as scheduling meetings at times and places that are accessible to those who should participate, can be consequential in terms of including certain parties (Tuler and Webler, 1999). Particular care may be needed to engage representatives of organized economic interest groups that may not see the advantage of engaging in a public forum (National Research Council, 2007a). Special efforts to increase attractiveness make a difference because, as noted in several studies of families of public participation cases, it can be difficult to get a broad spectrum of the public to participate and easy for key individuals to drop out of the process as it goes on, either because they feel it is not of value or simply because of the press of other priorities (Bradbury, 2005; Leach, 2005; Moser, 2005). A key feature that makes a participation process attractive is the likelihood that the results of the process will influence agency decision making. Collaborative design of the process can also help make a process attractive to those who should be participating. We address these issues below.
122 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION OPENNESS OF DESIGN The degree to which the participants have influence over the process itself is a critical element in the design of a process. This is closely related to the timing of the processâif there is little time for the process, there wonât be time for the participants to influence the design. If the process is concluded too early, the latest information may not be available to inform decisions; if it is too late, a decision may be required before the process is completed. These concerns lead to the commonly stated dictum to involve the public âearly and often,â which could be understood as a proposition that the broadest possible participation is advisable in each phase of an as- sessment or decision process. For example, the Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management (1997b:122), in the context of facility siting decisions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), concluded that âinclusion of affected communities from the start as partners in the investigation and remedy selection processes can improve the likelihood that the choice of remedy will reflect reasonably anticipated uses of the site and the wishes of the community. Involving community members should also reduce the dissonance and long delays that often occur when EPA proposes solutions before discussing goals and costs with stakeholders.â As the discussion of breadth suggests, although public involvement from the start may be good advice as a general rule of thumb, the evidence suggests that it may be useful to differentiate the kinds of public input that are needed in different phases of the process. It may be wise to refine the âearly and oftenâ dictum to take into account the possibilities that some- what different kinds of input are needed in different phases, and that the importance of maximally broad public participation may be greater at some phases of an assessment or decision process than at others. Process designs developed collaboratively by those convening the pro- cesses and those participating in them yield benefits, particularly in terms of legitimacy. When participants co-invent and co-govern a process, they have a direct way to communicate information about what would motivate them to participate actively and to express their views about how to organize the process in a manner that is likely to engage effectively their capabilities and promote their acceptance of the process. Collaborative process design is likely, therefore, to increase legitimacy; a reasonable hypothesis is that it is important to include all those parties whose acceptance of the process is important. Inclusiveness may also affect the quality of the outcome if a component of the interested public that might be left out has expertise or interests relevant to the formulation of decision options. Furthermore, stakeholder groups that do not participate are not likely to receive the ben-
PRACTICE: ORGANIZING PARTICIPATION 123 efits of capacity building, nor is the agency or community likely to improve its capacity for engaging excluded publics. Co-invention requires that the potential participants be identified and brought into the planning process as early as possible and that they partici- pate to the extent possible in the choice of formats and decision rules and be able to seek assistance as needed from sources (e.g., scientists, impar- tial facilitators, mediators) selected by and accountable to all the parties. Participation specialists can make recommendations and advise all parties on what is likely to work best in the given context, but engagement and legitimacy depend on final decisions about the process design being made in a collaborative effort with the main parties involved. The importance of participation in process design is consistent with the findings from cognitive science, already noted, that under conditions of uncertainty, people use the fairness of the process as an indicator or proxy for the trustworthiness of its outputs. This implies that a process that par- ticipants accept as fair from the outset is more likely to be legitimate and to be judged as of high quality. The value of collaborative process design has long been articulated in the literature on public participation as well (Renn et al., 1993), and the empirical and practitioner literature is replete with studies showing the value of collaborative design of the participatory process. Leach (2005) notes the many analyses in the literature on Forest Service planning pro- cesses that emphasize the importance of collaborative planning of the pro- cess. Bradbury (2005:17, 20) found that DOE Superfund sites she studied, because of organizational tradition, were more flexible in the design of the participatory processes than the DOD sites. She argues that this may be one reason that the DOE processes were generally more successful. As she notes, âThe public played an important role in helping DOE interpret what public participation meantâ (Bradbury, 2005:20). Public participation processes benefit in terms of both quality and legitimacy if the spectrum of interested and affected parties is involved in formulating the problem for assessment or decision. This finding reinforces one of the main conclusions of Understanding Risk (National Research Council, 1996), and the case-based evidence since then remains consistent with it. Extensive social science research helps explain why broad participation is important during problem formulation. People use frames of reference to impose order on and give structure to complex environmental situa- tions, and these frames thus sensitize them to specific aspects of problems (e.g., Couch and Kroll-Smith, 1994; Rich et al., 1995; Kamenstein, 1996; Pellow, 1999) and determine what scientific evidence will be used and will be judged as relevant and acceptable (National Research Council, 1996; Pellow, 1999; Halfacre, Matheny, and Rosenbaum, 2000). The research
124 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION shows that incompatible framings and differing mental constructions of issues are two of the most important factors underlying conflict about risk and environmental management (e.g., Miller, 1989; Fisher, 1991; Carnevale and Pruitt, 1992; Kunreuther and Slovic, 1996; Fischhoff, 1996a; Pel- low, 1999; Bazerman et al., 2000; Lewicki et al., 2002). Many disputes about technological and environmental risks appear to involve fundamental disagreements about the definition and nature of the problem to be ad- dressed (Snow et al., 1986; Bradbury, 1989; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1992; Couch and Kroll-Smith, 1994; Thompson and Gonzalez, 1997; Pellow, 1999). There is evidence that some differences in frames are associated with membership in particular social, cultural, and economic groups. Cross- national comparisons, as well as studies of different social groups in the United States, consistently have found significant ethnic differences in risk responses, perceptions, and preferences (e.g., Kleinhessenlink and Rosa, 1991; Slovic, Kraus, Lappe, and Major, 1991; Vaughan and Nordenstam, 1991; Vaughan and Seifert, 1992; Flynn, Slovic, and Mertz, 1994; Bord and OâConnor, 1997; Weber and Hsee, 1998; Bechtel, Verdugo, and Pinheiro, 1999; Langford et al., 2000). Recent research has begun to elaborate on these findings by examining decision making under chronic loss (Rivers, 2006; Rivers and Arvai, 2007). In addition, culture influences the affective significance of a conflict (Kruglanski, Bar-Tal, and Klar, 1993) and judg- ments about what are acceptable ways to resolve disputes (Bazerman et al., 2000). In short, the culturally derived value priorities of individuals shape their frames of reference for environmental decisions (e.g., Kroll-Smith and Couch, 1991; Rich et al., 1995; Kamenstein, 1996). Group differences in the subjective meaning of decision problems may underlie the commonly observed difficulty of engaging minority and ec- onomically disadvantaged communities (e.g., Pellow, 1999), as well as contributing to difficulties in arriving at analyses of environmental prob- lems that are accepted in these communities as legitimate. For example, environmental risk issues are especially likely to be framed as moral or value dilemmas in ethnic minority and lower income communities whose structuring of risk problems frequently reflects a justice and equity frame (e.g., Bullard, 1990; Mesquita and Frijda, 1992; Vaughan and Seifert, 1992; Pellow, 1999). African Americans in particular are more likely than others to evaluate and structure risk problems in terms of fairness, equity, and justice (e.g., Vaughan and Seifert, 1992), and such a framework contributes to more intense and durable emotional responses (e.g., Mikula, Scherer, and Athenstaedt, 1998), including attributions of blame and the expres- sion of such emotions as anger, disgust, and fear (e.g., Mikula, Scherer, and Athenstaedt, 1998). Even if groups are similar in framing issues in terms of fairness, their notions of what is fair in a situation may vary (Scherer, 1997;
PRACTICE: ORGANIZING PARTICIPATION 125 Langford et al., 2000), resulting in different predominant intensities and types of emotions and appraisals (Scherer, 1997; Bohm and Pfister, 2000). The degree of difficulty of conflict resolution is influenced by several factors, including the framing of a conflict and the level of congruity among participantsâ cognitive and affective representations of decision problems (Bazerman et al., 2000). During successful negotiations, frames of refer- ence often evolve, and parties develop shared or compatible perspectives on the nature of the problem to be solved and beliefs about whether goals are compatible (Kruglanski, Bar-Tal, and Klar, 1993). By contrast, when individuals believe that decision processes have not adequately taken into account important values, trust in the process tends to be undermined, con- flict Â exacerbated, and negative affective reactions prolonged (e.g., Fisher, 1991; Rich et al., 1995; Shah, Domke, and Wackman, 1996; Susskind and Field, 1996; Baron and Spranca, 1997; Thompson and Gonzalez, 1997). This evidence suggests that efforts to formulate problems for assessment and analysis in ways that fit with participantsâ frames of reference are more likely to be accepted. Similar conclusions have been drawn from analyses of large- scale environmental assessments related to global environmental change (e.g., Lemos and Morehouse, 2005; National Research Council, 2007b). Finding common ground may require framing decision problems in more than one way, so that those analyzing the problem and considering the choice options have the opportunity to do so from multiple perspec- tives. Evidence from research on group process and deliberative decision making suggests, however, that it makes a difference how process conveners go about eliciting multiple perspectives. (We discuss this evidence in more detail below, in discussing the intensity and formats of participation.) Broadly based problem formulation can ensure that the agencyâs initial frame is not the only frame applied. Collaboration in problem formulation at the start can also ensure that the process is attentive to the most imporant values of interested and affected parties. It can also help elucidate cultural differences in risk perceptions, values, beliefs, expectations, and decision- making styles, any of which can be quite substantial and can potentially undermine the success of a participation process. Because a key purpose of problem formulation is to develop a set of questions on which participants need good information, a breadth of perspectives is essential. Broadening the perspectives considered thus has a positive effect on both legitimacy and decision quality. Scientific analysis that addresses the problem from multiple perspectives is typically more robust than a more narrow formulation. Broad participation is also important at the point of interpreting sci- entific informationâwhat Understanding Risk calls the synthesis phaseâ because individuals or groups that apply different frames to a problem are likely to interpret scientific information through different lenses. Public
126 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION participation processes may well benefit by using elements of the standard scientific process of independent peer review. This is especially true if practi- cal constraints require that a process engage with people who are presumed to represent interested and affected parties rather than with all who are interested. In such situations, peer-review-style processes can ensure that the representatives are well calibrated with those they are intended to represent. It also may be useful to submit any interpretations of information resulting from the process to a structured peer review process (National Research Council, 2007a). This process is likely to increase the quality of the prod- uct, as well as its legitimacy, and it allows the outputs to be refined as a result of comments received. There is some evidence that holding a groupâs outputs âaccountableâ through a peer review process increases objectivity and reduces bias (Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs, 2004:328). INTENSITY Most studies in the public participation literature find a positive asso- ciation between the intensity of deliberationâsuch variables as the number and length of face-to-face interactions and the amount of time participants spend in the processâand desired results (e.g., Beierle and Cayford, 2002). In our judgment, this overall association between intensity and outcomes reflects the great importance of intensity in many situations in which a ma- jor controversy or mistrust demands intense interaction to reach a resolu- tion. Intensity may not be as important in other situations. The key point is to have a process for which the intensity is appropriate to the context. Of particular importance is the structure of the face-to-face interactions that are the heart of a participation process. Results can be highly sensitive to the extent to which the participatory process is organized so as to ensure that the advantages of group deliberation are enhanced and the potential adverse effects are minimized. The intensity of the deliberative process does not have a simple or universal relationship to results. The best results follow from processes whose intensity is dictated by responding to context-specific challenges (see Chapters 7 and 8) with appropriate participation strategies. Contexts that present challenges that require intensive interactions, such as those involving serious potential for conflict, can benefit more from high-intensity processes than contexts that do not present such challenges. However, when the context calls for intense interactions, results are highly dependent on how those interactions are organized. Intense deliberative processes create significant potential to promote desired results from participation, but at some costs. They can increase opportunities to improve mutual understanding among those who par- ticipate, to modify the process as it proceeds, and for all participants to
PRACTICE: ORGANIZING PARTICIPATION 127 develop a solid understanding of both the relevant scientific information and the perspectives of various communities used in understanding the issues. However, there can be a trade-off between the intensity and the breadth of participation. Beierle and Cayford (2002) found that in their large sample of cases, more intensive processes tended to be less inclusive and less representative. Furthermore, intense processes may create distance between those participating and other interested and affected parties not involved, thus reducing transparency. They can also lead to consensus on novel solutions among those participating that may meet resistance among the constituencies that the participants are expected to represent. And, of course, more intense processes can be financially costly and so may not be feasible in some circumstances. The research literature does not give a clear overall message regard- ing intensity, perhaps because the effects of intensity are so dependent on context. Tuler (2003) reviewed 15 multicase studies from different policy arenas, with somewhat mixed results for the intensity of deliberation. For example, Duram and Brown (1998) found no significant relationship between meeting frequency and perceived effectiveness, whereas Henry S. Cole Associates (1996) found that ongoing committees or panels were more effective than forms of participation with less continuity. Although Tuler (2003:18) concluded that âmore extensive roles for participants within a process can improve the competence of decisions,â much of the evidence cited seems more closely related to the early involvement of various parties and the incorporation of community knowledge than to the intensity of interactions. Early involvement may imply a longer engagement, and hence greater intensity, but the issue is which variable influences the results. Tuler reported mixed findings about the effect of duration of the process. For ex- ample, among the studies examined by Leach, Pelkey, and Sabatier (2002) found that older watershed partnerships had higher perceived impacts, but Gericke and Sullivan (1994), in a study of 61 Forest Service forest land management plans, found that total time spent on public participation did not reduce the number of appeals of forest plans or the time spent to resolve them. However, this same study found that processes involving two-way communications between the Forest Service and stakeholders had a lower probability of high numbers of legal appeals compared with processes in which the Forest Service only gathered information from or provided in- formation to stakeholders. Ashford and Rest (1999), in reviewing successful participation pro- cesses at seven hazardous waste cleanup sites, indicated that both longer ongoing procedures and shorter, more intense procedures (e.g., summits) can be successful. Since their study did not include unsuccessful cases, it does not provide evidence of whether or not success is more likely with intensive processes but provides an important existence proof that less
128 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION intensive processes can yield success. Another such indication comes from a comparison of responses to a willingness-to-pay survey with and without a brief structured group discussion before answering that demonstrated some significant positive effects of even minimal deliberation (Dietz, Stern, and Dan, in press). A few studies of negotiated regulatory rule-making provide evidence based on comparisons between processes that are quite similar in many respects but that differ systematically in the intensity of participation. For example, negotiated rules require much more intense public participation than the conventional, notice-and-comment style of rule-making. A study by Coglianese (1997) reviewed archival sources to compare conventional and negotiated rule-making processes at EPA and found that negotiation neither lowered the probability of subsequent lawsuits nor significantly shortened the amount of time required for rule-making. The studyâs methods and conclusions, however, have been strongly disputed (Harter, 2000). Kerwin and Langbein (1995; Langbein, 2005) examined six conven- tional and eight negotiated rule-makings at EPA and found no difference in litigation rates, but they drew several more nuanced conclusions. Compared with participants in conventional rule-making (who only submitted writ- ten comments on proposed rules), participants in regulatory negotiation had more favorable overall assessments of the processes, both in terms of their assessments of the final rule and of some aspects of the process. This was true even though participants in regulatory negotiation perceived the regulatory issues at hand to be more complex than those involved in cases of conventional rule-making and perceived negotiated rules to address more difficult issues of regulatory compliance and implementation (Langbein, 2005). These differences persisted even after controlling statistically for par- ticipantsâ perceptions of the final ruleâs benefit to their own organizations and of economic efficiency for society. In addition to being more satisfied with final rules compared with participants in conventional rule-making, participants in negotiated rule-making varied less in their levels of satisfac- tion, indicating higher levels of interparticipant agreement or consensus (Langbein, 2005). This study also found differences in evolving relationships between participants and the convening agency and also among participants. Par- ticipants in regulatory negotiation were significantly more likely to perceive EPA to have encouraged their participation, compared with participants in conventional rule-making. Although participants in the two formats were equally likely to perceive disproportionate influence by some parties, par- ticipants in negotiated rule-making tended to see this disproportionate in- fluence as affecting only aspects of the process, not of the rule. Participants in conventional rule-making more frequently perceived undue influence to manifest in the rule itself, and more frequently named EPA as the interest
PRACTICE: ORGANIZING PARTICIPATION 129 group with disproportionate influence. In addition, informal negotiations among the participants with the goal of seeking greater unanimity or consensus were more frequent in negotiated rule-making, whereas in con- ventional rule-making, external informal negotiations were more likely to be aimed at negotiating a rule that would work for EPA (Langbein, 2005). Finally, parties in negotiated rule-making indicated that they learned more than did participants in conventional rules, suggesting an association of deliberation intensity with increased capacity among participants. Some additional studies have examined how intensity influenced the perceptions of the participants. Lubell and Leach (2005) reported that intensiveness of deliberation was positively associated with perceived part- nership effectiveness for the National Estuary Program (NEP) and the Wa- tershed Partnership Project (WPP) but noted that causation was uncertain: individualsâ perceptions that a process is effective might cause them to participate more intensively. They also noted that continued participation could lead individuals to make more positive judgments as a way to reduce cognitive dissonanceâthat is, to justify their investment of time and effort to themselves. Intensiveness in this study was measured by an indicator of teamwork among stakeholders for the NEP and as hours spent on activi- ties for the WPP. In multiple regressions that controlled for other variables, positive relationships were found between intensiveness and the following dependent variables: perceived effectiveness (an index of 12 ecological and social variables), cooperation, and consensus for the NEP, and perceived effects on watersheds and on human and social capital for the WPP. For the WPP, longer project durations were also positively associated with policy agreement and project implementation. Regression analyses predict- ing policy agreement and project implementation were conducted using the watershed (i.e., the case) as the unit of analysis, whereas all other regres- sions used the individual respondent as the unit of analysis. Moserâs (2005:63-67) study of participants in the various regional as- sessments under the National Assessment of Climate Change found similar results. Individuals with more intense involvement judged the assessment as more legitimate and believed it was âmore likely to build lasting and trust- ing relationships or spawn new collaborationsâ and to produce broader environmental and social outcomes. Although the regional assessments varied greatly in the intensity of the processes used, the small number of respondents per regional assessment made it impossible to analyze the re- lationships between intensity and the quality of the output by comparing across assessments. Advisory committees are a particularly intense form of public partici- pation. Although some studies have associated advisory committees with successful results (Ashford and Rest, 1999; Bradbury, Branch, and Malone, 2003; Lubell and Leach, 2005), participants from low-income and racial
130 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION minority communities have expressed frustration with advisory committees that they felt diluted their voices (Ashford and Rest, 1999) and a preference for public meetings, in which they saw their concerns as less likely to be muffled by other interested and affected parties, such as businesses. This concern is consistent with our judgment that it is not intensity in itself that matters, but a design that is appropriate to the context, including the nature of the parties and their relationships. Moser (2005) noted another potential negative effect of intensity: that participants in regional climate change as- sessments who were more intensely involved might be more disappointed when the assessments were not completed. Taken together, these studies present evidence of a relatively strong positive association between the intensity of deliberation and the success of public participation efforts. However, it is not clear that this association is evidence for a direct causal effect of intensity on success. Rather, the effects of intensity may be spurious, in the sense that more intensive participatory processes tend to be more successful because they tend to include certain kinds of activities or social interactions that are actually responsible for positive effects. It is important to be clear about whether simply increasing intensity (e.g., adding meetings) can be expected to yield better results, or whether those results instead derive from specific actions taken during the meetings that do occur. In our judgment, the latter is more likely the case. This judgment is difficult to test against evidence. Although researchers on public participation have for some time argued that the rules for and structure of the face-to-face interactions characteristic of public participa- tion settings can be very consequential (Dietz and Pfund, 1988; Renn et al., 1993; Renn, Webler, and Wiedemann, 1995), empirical research on environmental public participation has not given much systematic attention to the details of how the interaction among participants is structured. It has instead focused primarily on the contextual issues reviewed in Chapters 7 and 8 and some of the issues of process management, such as breadth and intensity of participation addressed earlier in this chapter. However, a substantial research literature on small-group interaction and deliberative process, much of it conducted by experimental methods that allow for fairly strong inferences about cause and effect, gives ample evidence for the importance of the interaction process and provides useful insight into what happens in relatively intense interactions that affect the quality and legitimacy of their outputs. First, research from a variety of experimental settings demonstrates that face-to-face communication enhances the probability of cooperation (Dawes et al., 1990; Bornstein, 1992; Sally, 1995; Ostrom, 1998; Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs, 2004). It is well known that individuals are more likely to support decisions made by a group if they feel that the deci- sion-making process was fair. Fairness often implies that all views are given
PRACTICE: ORGANIZING PARTICIPATION 131 reasonable hearing, whether they are held by a majority or a minority of participants. A number of studies have shown that there can be a tendency for groups to converge on majority views (Moscovici and Zavalloni, 1969; Myers and Lamm, 1976; Schkade, Sunstein, and Kahneman, 2000), a re- sult that is likely to bring with it suboptimal-quality decisions, particularly when important information is held by a minority (see, e.g., Gigone and Hastie, 1993, 1997; Wittenbaum, Hubbell, and Zuckerman, 1999; Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs, 2004). However, under well-structured group processes, minority views, rather than being ignored, can cause majority groups to âconsider new alternatives and perspectives,â âseek out new in- formation,â and âempathize with the minorityâs viewpointsâ (Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs, 2004:327). Well-structured interactions can also reduce bias and increase agreement (Gaertner et al., 1999). In their study of will- ingness to pay with and without small group deliberation, Dietz, Stern, and Dan (in press) found no evidence of convergence on the majority opinion but did find that group participation led respondents to take more aspects of the choice into account in assessing their willingness to pay and to be less influenced by their personal perspectives. However, strong communication within groups and cooperation can also degrade communication and cooperation across different interact- ing groups (Bornstein, 1992; Insko et al., 1993; Mendelberg, 2002). This research suggests that although enhanced communication and cooperation within a group engaged in deliberation is a benefit of the process, it holds the potential for alienating those actively participating from the larger groups they represent, with a resulting loss of transparency and trust in the process by the larger community. A number of studies emphasize the importance of different âlanguagesâ that are deployed by various groups in deliberation (see Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs, 2004, and Mendelberg, 2002, for discussions of this research). Public participation in environmental assessment and decision making inevitably involves multiple such languages, including those of tech- nical experts, such as scientists and lawyers; experts on what is politically and organizationally feasible, such as agency officials and politicians; and interested and affected parties, who bring knowledge of both local context and the concerns of their communities (e.g., Dietz, 1987). There are likely to be substantial differences in languages within each of these three types of participants as well. It is thus crucial to have a process of interaction struc- tured so that language barriers to mutual understanding can be overcome. In particular, it is important that domains of expertise be acknowledged but also delimited, so that expertise in one area (e.g., scientific expertise about the dynamics of an ecosystem) does not become conflated with expertise in
132 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION another (e.g., expertise on what is important to members of the local com- munity) (Mendelberg, 2002). A recent review of the literature on public deliberation (Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs, 2004:336) concludes that âalthough the research sum- marized in this essay demonstrates numerous positive benefits of delibera- tion, it also suggests that deliberation, under less optimal circumstances, can be ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst.â We echo those findings. A number of specific procedures for conducting face-to-face delib- erations have been proposed, which may provide useful guidance. However, because of the great variety of settings and the potential for surprises in dynamic social processes, we think it is more important to identify and focus on principles of good process, such as those enumerated at the begin- ning of this chapter, than to closely follow any set procedure. We emphasize that the processes and methods used in the face-to-face interaction at the heart of a typical participation process must be tailored to the context, as discussed in Chapters 7 and 8. INFLUENCE As discussed in Chapter 2, the power to make public policy decisions about the environment is typically vested by legislatures in government agencies. Thus, the formal power and influence of the public on these deci- sions lies in the ability to elect legislators and chief executives, to contest administrative decisions in courts or in established appeal procedures, and to influence decisions in administrative procedures established by law. However, agencies also have considerable discretion to go beyond the letter of the law and open themselves to input and influence from interested and affected parties in many ways, both in assessing environmental conditions and in dealing with them. From the perspective of public administration, this is the import of the kinds of public participation mechanisms examined in this volume. Such mechanisms can vary considerably in the degree to which they provide for public influence. This section examines evidence on how the extent to which public participation processes invite or allow such influence affects their results. Public participation processes yield better results when they are trans- parent to those involved and to those observing them. Transparency in- cludes an understanding of the purpose and objectives of the assessment or decision process and of the legal and administrative authorities, require- ments, and constraints governing it and public participation in it. Transpar- ent processes typically include ongoing communication about the process and public access to information about the process and about informational and other inputs to it. Transparency is necessary for the possibility of public influence, and
PRACTICE: ORGANIZING PARTICIPATION 133 most research indicates that it is essential to effective participatory pro- cesses. Transparency does not necessarilty require that every meeting and activity be open to the public. There are valid reasons for having some nonpublic activities within a broadly transparent process (see Chambers, 2005). However, when an agency is perceived as having a history of secrecy and decision making âbehind closed doors,â it can be particularly difficult for the public to accept a process that is not fully open (Bradbury, 2005:9). In such instances, a process that provides open access to information in a way that is appropriate for the participants can help in overcoming mistrust (Bradbury, 2005). The benefits of transparency have been documented from the earliest through the final stages of public participation processes. Sev- eral studies found that transparency in the process of selecting participants partly determines the credibility and legitimacy of the overall program (National Research Council, 1996, 2007a; Watson, Bulkeley, and Hudson, 2004). At least one study noted that it can be helpful to ask participants to publicly state their biases at the outset of the process (National Research Council, 2007a). In the later stages of a decision process, some studies have suggested that transparent and extensive reviews can help to increase cred- ibility, partly by expanding the number of involved stakeholders (Edwards and Schneider, 2001; Watson, Bulkeley, and Hudson, 2004; Goldschmidt and Renn, 2006; National Research Council, 2007a). A substantial literature shows that given an open process and access to scientific information, the public can develop sound understandings of many aspects of enviornmental science and thereby increase their capacity to participate in future decisions (Brown and Mikkelsen, 1990; Kinney et al., 2002; McCormick et al., 2004; McCormick, 2006, 2007a,b). For exam- ple, Brown and colleagues (Brown et al., 2004, 2006; McCormick, Brown, and Zavestoski, 2004; McCormick et al., 2004; Zavestoski, McCormick, and Brown, 2004) examined health movements and found that these move- ments, which are usually disease specific, are quite effective at forming liaisons with health researchers and identifying inadequacies in research on the diseases that are their focus. In particular, these movements have emphasized the need to examine environmental causes of disease. McCormick (2006, 2007b), in a case study of popular resistance to dam construction in Brazil, shows how citizen activists, working with scientists, produced new scientific conceptualizations of the issues to be addressed in considering the dams. In at least one North American case, stakeholder mediation over plans to dam a river generated a broader slate of options, including not only flood control, but also more general economic, land use, and conservation planning for the affected area (Cormick, 1980). Another stakeholder group, advising the U.S. Department of Energy on remediation of a nuclear weapons facility was credited by the agency for a cost savings of more than $2 billion (Applegate and Dycus, 1998; Beierle and Cayford,
134 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION 2002). The ability of citizens to produce such pertinent and effective recom- mendations requires that they acquire pragmatic understandings of agency goals, capabilities, and constraints. One practice that has been advocated on grounds of transparency is that of establishing fixed rules of process and decision making. The evidence on the effects of this approach is mixed: Leach (2005) found that seven studies of public participation in the Forest Service concluded that clear fixed rules contributed to success, while two studies favored flexible or informal processes. We note, however, that it is possible to achieve transpar- ency and to have a process open to public influence with process rules that are relatively stable or that change substantially over time. The keys are the nature and extent of public influence in setting or changing the process rules and the openness of information about rule-setting and changing. Some types of participatory process cannot be open to all who are interested, simply for practical reasons. When participation must be lim- ited to representatives of various groups and points of view, transparency regarding who is selected and how they are selected is especially important (National Research Council, 2007a). And as noted above, a peer review process may be useful in ensuring that representatives are in fact represent- ing the views of the groups from which they were selected. Participatory processes have better results when all parties commit to act in good faith and maintain communications with each other and those they represent. Good-faith communication is partly a matter of attitudes, but it also involves behavior (e.g., responding appropriately to input from others) and creating and maintaining mechanisms for communication to and from decision makers, scientists, interested and affected parties, and the public. It involves, for the responsible agency and the interested and affected parties, keeping the other parties informed of progress and report- ing on actions taken or other changes that may affect the process and the reasons why such changes occurrred. A negotiated consensus on rules for communication, deliberation, and decision making, before the substantive issues are discussed, creates a basis for good-faith communication because with agreed-on procedural rules, it is easier for the moderator to enforce these rules and to ensure fair play among all participants. Especially when an agency has problems of public trust, demonstrations of good-faith com- munication through action and the maintenance of mechanisms provides an avenue for public influence and an indication to interested and affected parties that influence is possible. Good-faith communication on the part of all parties is important for an open and transparent process and, obviously, for maintaining trust among parties. Research on group processes suggests that perception of outcomes can be influenced by how participants treat each other (e.g., Leventhal, 1980; Tyler and Lynd, 1992). Bradbury (2005) reported several specific
PRACTICE: ORGANIZING PARTICIPATION 135 examples in which DOE took special steps to ensure open, clear commu- nication among parties that contributed substantially to the success of its processes. She also noted that the agencyâs clear and ongoing demonstration of a commitment to take public inputs seriously was helpful in overcom- ing mistrust. Leach (2005) found that both professional facilitation and the training of participants in communications skills enhanced the chances of success. Although facilitation and training do not preclude disingenous communications, they can reduce misunderstandings. CONCLUSION The evidence supports four principles of good practice for organiz- ing public participation processes: inclusiveness, collaborative problem formulation and process design, transparency of process, and good-faith communication. As with the management principles described in Chapter 4, it is not always easy to implement these principles, and some contexts can make it especially difficult to implement certain principles. In difficult situations, success depends on identifying the likely difficulties and finding ways to address them. We return to these issues in Chapters 7 and 8. Note 1This summary of public participation formats is limited to those in which government agencies might choose to become directly involved. As discussed in Chapter 1, other modes of public participation may be initi- ated outside the auspices of government agencies. They include voting in elections, citizen ballot initiatives, citizen referendums, New Englandâstyle town meetings, lobbying of legislatures and executive offices, formal and informal debates and deliberations, public information campaigns, public demonstrations, civil disobedience, lawsuits, and other activities. These extra-agency activities may proceed on timelines that either support or interfere with agency-led forms of public participation.