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Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society (1996)

Chapter: B COMMON APPROACHES TO DELIBERATION AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

« Previous: A SIX CASES IN RISK ANALYSES AND CHARACTERIZATION
Suggested Citation:"B COMMON APPROACHES TO DELIBERATION AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION." National Research Council. 1996. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5138.
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Page 199
Suggested Citation:"B COMMON APPROACHES TO DELIBERATION AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION." National Research Council. 1996. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5138.
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Page 200
Suggested Citation:"B COMMON APPROACHES TO DELIBERATION AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION." National Research Council. 1996. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5138.
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Page 201
Suggested Citation:"B COMMON APPROACHES TO DELIBERATION AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION." National Research Council. 1996. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5138.
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Page 202
Suggested Citation:"B COMMON APPROACHES TO DELIBERATION AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION." National Research Council. 1996. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5138.
×
Page 203
Suggested Citation:"B COMMON APPROACHES TO DELIBERATION AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION." National Research Council. 1996. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5138.
×
Page 204
Suggested Citation:"B COMMON APPROACHES TO DELIBERATION AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION." National Research Council. 1996. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5138.
×
Page 205
Suggested Citation:"B COMMON APPROACHES TO DELIBERATION AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION." National Research Council. 1996. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5138.
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Page 206

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APPENDIX B Common Approaches to Deliberation and Public Participation r ~ he literature on public participa- tion identifies numerous techniques that have been used in decision mak- ing about risks. For example, a recent report focusing on remediation of contaminated sites listed 13 major approaches and several dozen more limited approaches (English et al., 1993; for another typology see Renn, Webler, and Wiedemann, 1995~. Some of the techniques are clearly delib- erative in nature, while others collect public input without involving in- terested and affected parties in deliberations among themselves or with public officials. It is important to note that there is no generally agreed typology. Some of the techniques contain common elements, and prac- tices that fall under the same general heading can vary greatly in imple- mentation. The following listing identifies several major types of tech- niques of deliberation and public participation. It includes a range of methods that can be used, notes important considerations related to each, and identifies supplementary sources of information about the methods. Public Hearings Public hearings often are held during development of legislation and sometimes during development of implementing regulations. They are also mandated by a variety of laws (e.g., Superfund). "Public meetings" are similar to public hearings in format, but they are not mandated by law. 199

200 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMOC - TIC SOCIETY Strengths: Public hearings meet legal requirements for participation, are relatively easy to convene, have the potential to reach many interested and affected parties, and may enable these parties uninterrupted time to present their views. Concerns: Public hearings are often pro forma and occur too late for input to be meaningful to an organization. They invite posturing and make it difficult to hold meaningful discussions. Public hearings and meetings are frequently used by organizations to "decide, announce, and defend" their risk characterizations, a mode of iteration that does not lend itself to open-minded exchange. In some instances organizations have overcome these problems by drafting agendas for public meetings in consultation with interested and affected parties, by using neutral facilitators to encourage dialogue, and by using public hearings as merely one element of a larger deliberative process. Public hearings are best for presenting alternative views, infor- mation, and concerns; they are less useful for dealing with power imbal- ances, creating trust, or promoting dialogue. There is rarely a decision or consensus at the end of such meetings, allowing agencies great latitude to ignore any comments, which can create further mistrust. For further information, see Heberlein (1976), Mazmanian and Nienaber (1979), Checkoway (1981), Rosener (1982), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1983), Hadden (1989), and Webler and Renn (1995~. Citizen Advisory Committees and Task Forces Individuals are appointed to advisory committees and task forces by an organization to consider an issue or issues. Task forces tend to be created to consider a specific issue in depth, with the goal of providing recommendations, after which the task force is disbanded. Citizen advi- sory committees have indefinite life spans. Otherwise, the two kinds of groups are about the same. Strengths: Continuously meeting groups can build a common base of information, can discuss complex issues, can build relationships, and can promote better mutual understanding of the concerns of the sponsoring agencies and the group members. Concerns: Who appoints the advisory committee or task force? Do participants represent opinions of organized interest groups or the larger population? Who determines the agenda? Do all the interested and affected parties have time and expertise to participate fully and effec- tively, ~11 We agency take committee recommendations seriously?

APPENDIX B 201 Theoretically, citizen advisory committees and task forces can ad- dress many of the deficiencies of public hearings because of their continu- ity. They usually use consensus-based decision rules, which encourages participants to find common ground or develop novel solutions. If a citizens advisory committee or task force is provided with the informa- tion that members want, access to appropriate agency personnel, or an independent technical adviser as needed, it may be extremely productive. However, unempowered groups (e.g., low income populations) and those with views that diverge too far from those of the organization are often excluded, undermining the legitimacy and credibility of the approach. Managers may consider potential responses of an advisory commit- tee or task force in advance of making routine decisions. However, a manager may also ignore a functional task force or even disband it before it makes recommendations. For further information, see Pierce and Doerksen (1976), Creighton (1980), Anderson (1986), Lynn (1987a), Houghton (1988), Ross and Asso- ciates (1991), Lynn and Busenberg (1995), and Lynn and Kartez (1995~. Alternative Dispute Resolution Various means of informal or alternative dispute resolution have be- come increasingly popular for achieving consensus among government agencies and interested and affected parties (e.g., Crowfoot and Wollendeck, 1990~. Alternative dispute resolution may take the form of mediation, which seeks to bring agencies and the interested and affected parties together to reach consensus through a facilitated process. Media- tions have occurred on a range of risk-related issues and have involved local, state, and federal agencies. Mediation usually requires the involve- ment of the spectrum of interested and affected parties for any agreement to be implemented without determined opposition. Unless the parties feel they have affected the decision, it is not likely to be satisfactory to them. For research on mediation, see Kressel and Pruitt (1985), Susskind and Ozawa (1985), gingham (1986), Cormick (1987), Dryzek and Hunter (1987), Susskind and Cruikshank (1987), Stephenson and Pops (1989), and Baughman (1995~. Policy dialogues are a form of alternative dispute resolution that can involve agencies and interested and affected parties in discussion of con- troversial issues. These dialogues seek to develop better understanding of differences among parties and may not be geared to the development of formal agreements. Instead, the dialogue may build common ground that may then serve as a foundation for policy development, regulation, or further interactions among the parties. For further information, see gingham (1986) and Gray (1989~.

202 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMO C~TIC SOCIETY In contrast, the goal of negotiated settlements is to reach formal agree- ments. For example, regulatory negotiation can take place during the development of legislation or implementing regulations. In regulatory negotiation, representatives of interested and affected parties work con- sensually with government regulatory bodies to draft a proposed rule. Once completed, the rule is formally proposed by the agency (if it is a federal agency, in the Federal Register) and subjected to the normal process of public comment and review. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has frequently used regulatory negotiation to draft com- plex and highly technical rules, especially when there is a clear need for a rule but insufficient data to support the customary EPA rule-making process. The purpose of regulatory negotiation is to reduce legal chal- lenges to new rules by involving would-be adversaries directly in the rule-making process and by producing a draft rule that meets legal re- quirements and is acceptable to a wide array of interested and affected parties. Participants are selected in a regulatory negotiation because they rep- resent major and important interest groups and sometimes also because they have relevant scientific expertise. Expertise is necessary because regulations are highly technical, and negotiators need to be well versed in the scientific literature, theories, methods, and data. At the same time, participants must negotiate on issues in which there are gaps in theory or in data or on issues that involve tradeoffs that cannot be resolved with scientific means, such as between different kinds of adverse outcomes. Thus, participants also need skills of persuasion, argumentation, and ne- gotiation. For further information on regulatory negotiation, see Harter (1982), Susskind and McMahon (1985), Wald (1985), Perritt (1986), Funk (1987), Fiorino (1988, 1991, 1995), Rushefsky (1991), Kelman (1992), and Hadden (1995~. Strengths: Alternative dispute resolution can deal with complex is- sues, strongly held beliefs, polarized opinion, conflicting values, and tech- nical concerns. Concerns: Will parties accept alternative dispute resolution rather than litigation, direct action, or delay? Are the right parties at the table? Is the playing field level? Is there sufficient commitment to the process? Policy makers, who may have been part of a mediation or negotia- tion, can act more easily afterwards, and litigation is reported to be less likely (Susskind and Cruikshank, 1987~. However, alternative dispute resolution may exacerbate power imbalances and increase conflict if it obscures the needs of those who were not part of the mediation or nego

APPENDIX B 203 tiation. It may also be successful from a process perspective, for example, by reaching an agreement, but ignore critical analytic issues, possibly resulting in an agreement on an unwise option. Citizens' Juries and Citizens' Panels Citizens' juries rely on a randomly selected pool of citizens to evalu- ate policy alternatives. Typically, citizens juries are asked to express a preference among three or four policy options. Staff from, or selected by, an organization set the charge and usually impose the principle of major- ity vote as the means used to resolve conflicts. Majority vote does not guarantee the integrity of minority interest positions in the discourse. An oversight committee may be created to set the agenda, the rules for dis- course, and oversee the process, but the membership of the oversight committee is limited to those selected through random sampling proce- dures. Strengths: Citizens juries represent interested and affected parties' knowledge, positions, and perspectives, largely by virtue of the random sample. Competence in citizens' juries is encouraged by face-to-face me- diated discussions in which everyone has an equal opportunity to make statements, challenge others' statements, and express opinions. Citizens' juries consider and often welcome and respect anecdotal evidence; they may also use peer review of technical information packages. Concerns: The citizens' jury approach does not necessarily promote critical inquiry into the factual issues or use a systematic method to reach the best possible understandings about facts and states of affairs. Crosby (1995) recognizes a need to change this, but notes the issue of cost. Participants in citizens' juries are free to ask their own questions to "witnesses" who come before the jury, thus collecting knowledge they deem relevant and verifying understandings. The format of the discourse also promotes normative inquiry and debate among the jurists. However, systematic methods to arrive at shared preferences about the available normative choices are not normally used. Citizens' juries do not usually structure values in any formal way, make impact assessment profiles on the value dimensions, or evaluate the consistency of the outcome with established norms and laws. These more structured techniques could, however, be combined with the citizen jury approach (e.g., Renn et al., 1991, 1993~; for more information, see Crosby, Kelly, and Shaeffer (1986), Crosby (1995), Armour (1995~. Citizens' panels are similar to citizens' juries, except that they tend to be given a freer hand in identifying the options to be considered, rather

204 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY than deliberating on a given set of options. This approach has been devel- oped in Europe (Dienel, 1989; Renn et al., 1993; Dienel and Renn, 1995), but some applications in the United States adopt its essential elements (e.g., Stewart, Dennis, and Ely, 1984; Kathlene and Martin, 1991~. The success of both citizens' panels and citizens' juries relies heavily on a clear mandate from the legal decision-making organization to seriously con- sider implementing the recommendations of the panel or jury; the in- volvement of randomly selected citizens; and legitimacy of the randomly selected citizens in the eyes of stakeholders and other citizens. It may be suspected that citizens in juries would be too shy to ask critical questions of experts, regulatory officials, and interest group representatives. After all, these are the people who usually make the decisions. But experience shows that citizens can fulfill very well the task of "value consultants" (Crosby et al, 1986; Kathlene and Martin, 1991~. They read background material, seek out needed information, and consider the subject matter very seriously. For additional information, see Crosby, Kelly, and Schaeffer (1986), Jefferson Center (1988), Crosby (1995), and Armour (1995~. Surveys Randomly selected citizens complete one or more surveys about an issue (Milbrath, 1981~. Strengths: The method is dispassionate, it can elicit opinions from many people, and no specialized knowledge is needed to participate. Concerns: Are responses shaped by questions? Do questions over- simplify the choices? Do agencies use surveys to avoid dealing with people, values, etc? Who interprets the responses? Surveys elicit public comment, but not deliberation among the participants. Surveys can help organizations understand perceptions, knowledge, and demographic variations in people's views, and they can provide pub- lic input about options. However, the organization shapes the questions, rarely publicizes the results, and makes decisions without interacting fur- ther with those surveyed. Thus, the approach may exacerbate distrust. Depending on sampling, surveys can obscure or highlight needs of spe- cial populations. Survey results may influence decisions (e.g., avoiding a policy that will anger many, justifying a policy that suits the "silent ma- jority," or crafting alternative options based on survey input). However, as one study showed, officials can easily ignore the results (Milbrath, 1981~.

APPENDIX B Focus Groups 205 Focus groups, or more precisely, focused group discussions, are used extensively by marketing firms and increasingly by government agencies and other organizations. They typically include 6-10 members selected more or less at random. The groups are usually homogenous, consisting of members recruited from targeted populations to deal with a specific, usually nontechnical subject (e.g., homeowners' view about radon). The groups, which are led by a facilitator who asks set questions, discuss but do not decide or recommend. The discussions are used to understand outside views, appreciate potential reactions to policies, or pretest written materials. Focus groups are used increasingly, in part because they are low-cost, no-risk means of eliciting opinion. The results of the discus- sions may not be made public, and the organization retains all decision- making power. In this respect focus groups share many of the strengths, limitations, and applications of surveys. Interactive Technology-based Approaches A number of technology-assisted methods of deliberation have been developed; they have not been widely used in government, with the pos- sible exception of the Army Corps of Engineers. One example is com- puter-generated models, which can simulate the results of policy options. Participants can manipulate models to help generate or consider policy alternatives. Another example is computer-assisted meetings, in which each participant has a device to send input to a central computer. A moderator can then ask questions throughout the discussion, and the participants can vote. The votes can be immediately tallied and displayed. Combinations of Deliberative Methods Public participation programs may use different deliberative meth- ods at different stages of the process or with different audiences. For example, to develop water quality regulations, the New Jersey Depart- ment of Environmental Protection promoted a multifaceted deliberative process, solicited input on process as well as substance, developed a task force of interest groups, held informal meetings with various stakeholder groups, distributed a survey to 500 people for consideration of various thorny issues, and ultimately held mandated public hearings on the pro- posed regulations (Chess, 1989~. The regulations were received posi- tively. Renn and his colleagues (Renn et al., 1993) have developed a three- step model that has reportedly worked well in Europe. This approach

206 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMO CRITIC SOCIETY involves interest groups in generating a "value-tree analysis" that identi- fies their concerns and allows each group to weigh those concerns. Ex- perts then participate in a modified Delphi process in which they make judgments about how each of the options will affect the outcomes of concern to the interest groups. Finally, a citizen panel (usually selected at random) develops a report and a set of recommendations for action, based on a deliberative process in which it considers the results of the Delphi process, presentations by experts, further fact finding, and the views of the panel members.

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Understanding Risk addresses a central dilemma of risk decisionmaking in a democracy: detailed scientific and technical information is essential for making decisions, but the people who make and live with those decisions are not scientists. The key task of risk characterization is to provide needed and appropriate information to decisionmakers and the public. This important new volume illustrates that making risks understandable to the public involves much more than translating scientific knowledge. The volume also draws conclusions about what society should expect from risk characterization and offers clear guidelines and principles for informing the wide variety of risk decisions that face our increasingly technological society. Understanding Risk

  • Frames fundamental questions about what risk characterization means.
  • Reviews traditional definitions and explores new conceptual and practical approaches.
  • Explores how risk characterization should inform decisionmakers and the public.
  • Looks at risk characterization in the context of the entire decisionmaking process. Understanding Risk discusses how risk characterization has fallen short in many recent controversial decisions. Throughout the text, examples and case studies--such as planning for the long-term ecological health of the Everglades or deciding on the operation of a waste incinerator--bring key concepts to life. Understanding Risk will be important to anyone involved in risk issues: federal, state, and local policymakers and regulators; risk managers; scientists; industrialists; researchers; and concerned individuals.
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